2021 AIACA Firm Award: A Year of Achievement

LPA Receives AIA California’s Top Honor for Architecture Firm

Firm Award recognizes LPA’s history of distinguished architecture, industry-leading work on energy performance and effect on the profession.

The American Institute of Architects California has named LPA Design Studios the recipient of the 2021 Firm Award, the organization’s highest annual honor for an architectural firm.

The Firm Award, which is typically presented to one firm a year, recognizes studios that have “consistently produced distinguished architecture for a period of at least 10 years.” Candidates are reviewed on their firm culture, influence on the community and role in the design industry.

An integrated design firm with six studios in California and Texas, LPA was cited for its industry-leading work on building performance; its transformative designs for education, commercial and civic projects; and the firm’s unique culture. As an integrated, multi-discipline firm with architects, engineers, landscape architects and interiors designers working together, LPA operates fundamentally differently than most architecture firms.

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Throughout its history, LPA has taken a leadership role in promoting energy efficiency and sustainability, setting several national benchmarks. For consecutive years, LPA has been the largest firm in the country to meet the AIA 2030 Commitment target for energy reduction in projects.

“They were tackling environmental issues before climate action was even a term,” one juror commented. “To call them strong in the sustainability category would be an understatement.”

`The Firm Award is the latest in a series of accolades for LPA, including a 2020 national COTE Top Ten Plus, the most prestigious industry honor for sustainable design, for the Environmental Nature Center and Preschool in Newport Beach, California. Last year the firm also was recognized with an Award of Excellence from the AIA’s Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE), the industry’s top education award, for the expansion of the Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School, a private K-12 school in Irvine, California.

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Tarbut V'Torah Community Day School

“The work this firm performs inspires me on a daily basis,” says CEO Wendy Rogers, who took over the chief executive role in 2017 after 30 years with the firm, starting as an intern. “The Firm Award represents the years of dedication and commitment of everyone in the firm to work together to design projects that work better for people.”

LPA was founded in 1965, but the firm started a new era with new ownership and new leadership in 1997. Since then, the firm has earned 266 national, state and local AIA design awards and created a model for a collaborative design studio focused on a research-driven design process and the larger role of an architect in working with communities to create better performing buildings.

“We’ve created a firm that breaks down the barriers between disciplines, drawing upon the expertise of the different teams to find the best answers for our clients,” says LPA president Dan Heinfeld, who joined the firm in 1976. “The results illustrate that a better process produces better results.”

The firm’s success also reflects a culture that emphasizes diversity, education and promoting young talent. The modern LPA is an inclusive firm that supports the growth of young talent. Forty-six percent of the staff are women; 41 percent are racially or ethnically diverse. Fifty percent of the staff have been at LPA for more than 10 years; many more than 25 years.

“They were tackling environmental issues before climate action was even a term,” one juror commented. “To call them strong in the sustainability category would be an understatement.”

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Environmental Nature Center Preschool

“At every level we’ve eliminated the traditional hierarchy to encourage collaboration and the flow of ideas.” Rogers says. “Every voice is heard. The focus is always on the ‘we’ not the ‘me.’”

The AIA California jury noted that the firm “walks the walk” in terms of creating a collaborative culture.

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“It is obvious this firm invests in its employees by the growth opportunities they provide,” one juror noted. “To also invest so much into education and research in general is commendable. It’s not just about the brick and mortar for this firm, no matter how large they become.”

The AIA California is the largest AIA state organization in the country with more than 11,000 members representing 5,000 firms. Since 1984, 39 firms have been honored with the Firm Award. The Board of Directors, the governing body with representatives of all 22 chapters in the state, votes and ratifies those selected for the Firm Award.