The architects changing LA’s landscape in 2018

The Real Deal

January 22, 2018

Eye-catching projects that are irresistibly Instagrammable are the name of the game for Los Angeles’ top architects. The top-tier designers are enjoying a healthy period in terms of production and revenue, thanks in large part to ever more creative proposals offering stunning views and amenities that increase property values for clients.

To rank the architecture firms in the city of Los Angeles, The Real Dealanalyzed city construction permits for retail, office and multifamily space that were issued between December 2016 and November 2017. TRD ranked the firms by the value of all their projects as listed on master new-construction permits issued in that time frame. Valuations are estimated by the Los Angeles Department of Building & Safety or the contractor in accordance with the minimum requirements set by the Los Angeles Building Code, which may be less than the final cost of construction. For phased construction, only permits issued within the time frame of the ranking were counted.

In response to the relentless demand for residential space in L.A., dense mixed-use plans were among the largest and most expensive projects permitted in 2017, TRD’s research found. The projects included hundreds of luxury or midmarket residential units, plenty of room for commercial use — including retail — and destination-setting amenities.

Los Angeles Top 20 Architecture Firms

Architects from the firms on the list said that collaboration between companies is becoming more popular than ever, and that the firms selected to design the most valuable projects are often those equipped to offer a suite of services beyond architecture expertise.

Another trend is an uptick in larger developments in the more suburban areas outside Downtown L.A. as the boom prices some projects out of the immediate vicinity. Architects including David Hart of Steinberg Hart, whose firm ranked sixth in TRD’s findings, anticipate more of that in 2018. However, the architect expects a surge in smaller 120- to 180-unit hotels and condominiums in DTLA. “We’re seeing a lot more local landowners and investors teaming with other people to get those deals done,” Hart said. He is also carefully watching as Metro expands and moves west, and said they will likely “follow the rails.”

In the year ahead, firms will also continue to react to local housing shortages, architects said. A clear majority of the projects that put firms in the top 10 of TRD’s rankings were tall, dense mixed-use structures.

Tom Greer, a principal at Togawa Smith Martin Residential, which ranked third on TRD’s list, said he expects continued emphasis on addressing the city’s residential problems, including projects that provide sophisticated solutions for the increasing aging population.

“Affordable housing projects — which is one of our specialties — I expect that will continue to grow because there is such a need for it,” he said.

Below, TRD tracks what pricey projects received permits in 2017 and what’s in the hopper in 2018 for L.A.’s top architecture firms.


KTGY Architecture + Planning was founded 25 years ago and has offices in Chicago, Denver, Irvine, Los Angeles, Oakland and Pune, India.

The firm’s biggest design permitted in 2017 includes two six-story mixed-use buildings at 19525 and 19353 West Nordhoff Street with 429 units and restaurant and retail space. The project is projected to be worth $96 million and will adds 804,841 square feet of space to the Northridge neighborhood.

Crews also broke ground last year on KTGY’s seven-story mixed-use building in Koreatown at 3980 West Wilshire Boulevard, which will feature 228 residential units and 14,000 square feet of commercial space. The project as designed is valued at approximately $41.8 million and will include 352,000 square feet of space. Developer Jamison Realty plans to include “resort-style amenities” including a rooftop deck, fitness center and swimming pool.

“With a sleek profile and curved roofline, the building consciously plays with the Art Deco legacy of Wilshire Boulevard,” said Keith McCloskey, executive director of design at KTGY. “It creates a stylish impression at the westerly gateway to Koreatown, where its curved face addresses the curved corner of Wilshire and Wilton Place.”

The groundbreaking was in June 2017, and it is expected to be complete by the end of 2019.

Jamison and KTGY have also teamed up for a similar 226-unit apartment building at 3060 West Olympic Boulevard in the same neighborhood. It was completed in 2017.