The first high-rise in Los Angeles was the Braly building. At just 13 stories and 151 feet, it kicked off Southern California’s race to the sky. New towers are grazing downtown L.A.’s skyline at 1,000 feet. Not all of the city’s big builds are going vertical. Multi-billion dollar stadiums and entertainment districts are currently underway. The reputable architects behind the biggest and most expensive of those projects are ranked below.
AC Martin Partners
Christopher C. Martin, FAIA
AIA Design Merit Award, California Preservation Design Award
444 S Flower St Suite 1200 Los Angeles CA 90071
About A.C. Martin Partners
A.C. Martin Partners has left a significant mark on southern California, with civic projects like the Los Angeles City Hall and the Ventura County Courthouse; and commercial builds, such as City National Plaza, Citigroup Plaza, and the Million Dollar Theater. A.C. Martin Partners has also designed known L.A. cultural institutions, such as the St. Vincent’s Catholic Church.
The firm’s beginnings trace back to 1906 when Albert C. Martin established his practice in Los Angeles. Since the company’s beginning, L.A.’s population has grown from $100K to $13M, and A.C. Martin Partners has evolved with the city’s changing needs for infrastructure, housing, and commerce. The firm now thrives under Christopher C. Martin, FAIA, the third-generation CEO and Chairman. The firm’s contract for Phase 2 of 1120 South Grand Avenue, South Park development was an ENR California Top Start, with a value of $375M.
With a price tag of over $1B, The Wilshire Grand Center is the tallest building West of the Mississippi. The tower rises 1,100 feet above the site of the 1952 Wilshire Grand Hotel, including a 294-foot spire that sits atop the mixed-use high-rise. Advanced lighting systems and cutting-edge climate control technology reduce the building’s energy consumption. The iconic high-rise earned the 2014 American Architecture Award from Chicago Athenaeum and a 2013 Award of Excellence from the Los Angeles Business Council. A.C. Martin drew the designs for the Hall of Justice Repair and Reuse project. The 1925 building closed in 1994 due to damage from the Northridge earthquake. The team refurbished granite and marble surfaces, restored a courtroom and library, gutting the rest of the building. The successful preservation garnered LEED Gold status, the 2015 Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Historic Preservation from the California Preservation Foundation, and the Design-Build Institute of America 2015 National Design-Build Project/Team Award.
Frederick W. Werner, DBIA, ASCE
DBIA National Award of Merit, AIA Los Angeles Merit Award, ENR #1 Global Design Firm
1999 Avenue of the Stars #2600 Los Angeles CA 90067
AECOM is an international firm that offers design services, as well as engineering, consulting, and construction. An ENR #1 Global Design Firm, the company has over 80,000 employees and operates in more than 150 countries. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the Fortune 500 company earned $20.2 billion in 2019 and has consistently ranked among Architectural Record’s Top 300 Architecture Firms in the United States.
Ashland Oil & Refining Company was a successful operation for decades before Warren Brothers acquired the company in 1966 and expanded into construction and construction materials. Since its founding, AECOM has designed a slew of iconic projects worldwide, including the venues for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi, and the Halley VI Research Station in Antarctica. The Los Angeles design studio has garnered recognition from the Spark Design & Architecture Awards, AIA|LA, and Environmental Business Journal (EBJ).
AECOM designed the award-winning Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Headquarters. The design incorporates security features in such a way that it connects the structure physically and figuratively to the community. The required setbacks from the street made room for a plaza, which features a public art program to draw pedestrians through space. The design won numerous awards, including the Architectural Foundation of Los Angeles 2010 Design Green Merit Award. The building is LEED Gold certified, due to its use of recycled content building materials, water-efficient plumbing fixtures, and other ecologically-friendly design choices. The Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach sits on six acres and currently houses 31 courtrooms. The building earned Excellence in Design and the Civic Buildings, National Award of Merit from Design-Build Institute of America, and Best Project, Government/Public Buildings, from ENR California, 2014. Los Angeles World Airports tapped AECOM to lead the extensive modernization of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The modernization will take place in phases while the airport is still operational and will include the relocation of the South runway, the expansion of Bradley International Terminal, and a renovated arrival plaza with more light and space for weary travelers.
Scott P. Kelsey, FAIA
AIA California Council Firm of the Year, ENR California Best Education Project Awards, Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Awards
5055 Wilshire Boulevard Los Angeles CA 90036
About CO Architects
CO Architects is a nationally and internationally recognized design firm with over 30 years of experience designing for higher education, healthcare, and technology clients. The firm’s work has earned awards across multiple sectors and some of the most highly regarded awards in architecture, such as AIA California’s 2014 Firm of the Year and ENR California’s 2019 Design Firm of the Year.
In 1986, Jack MacAllister and David Rinehart founded Anshen + Allen’s regional LA office. Carving out its own niche in the industry, the office became an autonomous firm in 2005 and was rechristened CO Architects. The prefix “co-” emphasizes the firm’s collaborative approach to design, within the company and in working with clients. CO Architects’ emphasis on sustainable practices and the use of technological advancements in Building Information Modeling (BIM) set them apart from competitors from the start, earning recognition from The Chicago Athenaeum, the national AIA, and World Architecture News.
As the first building designed under Loyola Marymount University (LMU)’s Campus Master Plan, the $110M Life Sciences Building sets the pace for modern, sustainable design at the university. The integration of three project objectives—“interdisciplinary collaboration,” “science on display,” and “sustainability”—informed the design process to produce a building that acts as a daily teaching tool. Its innovative design—with a play of transparency and solid, and tension between orthogonal and sinuous lines—establishes a new architectural standard for the campus. Faculty offices and laboratories are based on research focus rather than department. As a result, the building’s layout—including interior and exterior interaction spaces—invites casual conversation about research and projects that are less likely in a traditional layout. With its large courtyard, accessible green roof, state-of-the-art auditorium, and communal spaces, the Life Sciences Building will become a new hub for all on the West Los Angeles campus.
M. Arthur Gensler Jr., FAIA, FIIDA, RIBA, and Douglas C. Gensler, AIA, NCARB
Center for Active Design Excellence Award, AIA Institute Honor Award for Architecture, AIA Associate Award
500 S Figueroa St Los Angeles CA 90071
A global design firm with over 5,000 employees, ENR has named Gensler a #1 Global Design Firm in the Architecture sector, and Architectural Record has ranked them #1 among the top 300 architecture firms. The firm has designed notable structures around the world, including Shanghai Tower, and their 2016 worldwide revenue surpassed $1B.
Art and Drue Gensler, with partner James Follett, founded the firm in San Francisco in 1965. In 1976, Gensler put down roots in Los Angeles and growth boomed. The company’s original focus on corporate interiors has evolved over the last 50 years to include large-scale commercial developments, civic projects, and entertainment facilities. Their client roster now includes 40 Fortune 500 companies, including the top 10 U.S. technology companies to make the list. In 2016, their Century Plaza interior redevelopment contract was ENR California #2 Start. In the same year, the Design Futures Council awarded founder Art Gensler for a Lifetime of Achievement in architecture.
Gensler’s design for the $400M building at 2000 Avenue of the Stars nods at the iconic Century Plaza Towers, while forging its own place in the image of Los Angeles. The mixed-use structure in Century City contains cafês and restaurants, retail shops, and 750,000 square feet of office space, alongside Centerpiece Park. The redesign of the original 30-year-old facility is one of the most sustainable structures in Los Angeles. The $1B Metropolis development called for a series of mixed-use towers in downtown L.A. The first phase of the project consists of three luxury residential towers and a boutique hotel, with one more residential tower to follow. The final residential tower is the tallest west of the Mississippi. The project at 1600 S Figueroa will rise 52 stories above downtown and sits at the southern boundary of the neighborhood and is appropriately designed to resemble a gateway. At the 19th floor, the building diverges into two prongs separated by a vertical opening, each housing residential units. The towers meet again at adjoining terrace decks at the top few stories of the building.
Pasqual Gutierrez, AIA
#1 ENR California Healthcare and Education Design Firm
633 W 5th St 3rd Floor Los Angeles CA 90071
About HMC Architects
Over the last 75 years, HMC Architects has completed thousands of projects in civic architecture, healthcare, and education. They have placed annually on ENR’s Top 500 Design Firms, ENR California Top Design Firms, and Architectural Record Top 200 Architecture Firms. The firm ranked #1 in ENR California Healthcare and Education Design Firm lists by market.
Jay Dewey Harnish founded the company in 1940 with partners Mel Morgan and Jack Causey joining in 1952 and 1955, respectively. What began as a small design office in Ontario, California, has grown into a 300-person firm with nine regional offices. The company has developed a reputation as a thought leader in healthcare design and civic planning. HMC Architects is also committed to community involvement, via disaster relief programs, scholarships, and volunteerism.
HMC Architects will partner with Populous to lead the design team for the $350M renovation of the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC). It’s one of the largest convention centers in the country at 720,000 square feet. Plans for the renovation include joining the south and west structures with a canopy over Pico Boulevard and creating public park spaces for residents. The convention center will also feature an outdoor ballroom and flexible meeting spaces, positioning the LACC as the west coast convention destination. In South Los Angeles, HMC Architects has revived a neighborhood asset. The original Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital shuttered in 2007 and the firm leveraged a $285M budget to design an economical replacement that doesn’t cut corners on function and aesthetics. Patients and staff will appreciate that the new design allows for much more natural light to flood the hospital. Terrazzo floors and granite surfaces replace typical institutional finishes. The fresh design earned the Los Angeles Business Council’s Award for Excellence in the Healthcare Architecture Category.
Scott Hunter, FAIA, LEED AP
Los Angeles Business Journal Commercial Real Estate Gold Award, DBIA National Award of Merit, AIA Citation Award
10880 Wilshire Blvd Suite 1850 Los Angeles CA 90024
About HKS, Inc.
The HKS, Inc. Los Angeles office had the ENR California Top Start of 2016, with the $2.6B Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park contract. That project came into consideration when BD World Architecture named the company #2 global sports design firm. The firm has also ranked among ENR Top Design Firms in California and nationally, with over $65M in regional revenue. In total, HKS, Inc. has accumulated over 650 design awards, including honors from AIA and Los Angeles Business Council.
Now led by Director Scott Hunter, the Los Angeles office opened in 1987 and is one of 24 offices globally. Building Design+Construction named it the third-largest architectural firm in the country. Modern Healthcare has ranked the firm #1 in healthcare architecture revenue for 16 consecutive years.
HKS Architects designed the Zev Yaroslavsky Family Support Center, a 216,000 square-foot multi-agency campus for L.A. County services. The taxpayer-funded building is visually pleasing, but not ostentatious, with an emphasis on stress-reducing elements. The ground level has space for around 1,000 daily caseworker appointments. The campus’ LEED NC Gold Features include a green wall, a below-floor air distribution system, and dedicated bicycle storage. The project earned the 2016 Best Project, Southern California – Government/Public Buildings from Engineering News-Record California, and the Design-Build Institute of America 2016 National Award of Excellence for Commercial Office Buildings. In late 2016, construction began on HKS Architects’ plans for Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park. The recently named SoFi Stadium is the most expensive NFL stadium to be built and will host the Super Bowl LV in 2022 and will co-host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2028 Summer Olympics with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The nearly 3 million-square-foot venue in Inglewood is set to in the summer of 2020 and will serve as home to the L.A. Rams and the L.A. Chargers. Designs for the arena feature a curving roof of perforated metal and a transparent membrane that will always evoke an open-air setting.
In 1955, George Hellmuth, Gyo Obata, and George Kassabaum came together to establish their architectural firm in St. Louis. Decades later, HOK has become a global design, architecture, engineering, and planning firm with over 1,600 people collaborating across a network of 24 offices on three continents. It has over a hundred design awards to its name and is credited for milestone projects such as the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Georgia and the new Terminal B of LaGuardia Airport in New York.
HOK has ranked on the national lists of Architectural Record and ENR for architecture-engineering and green building. As of 2018, it is the largest U.S.-based architecture-engineering firm.
Strategically located in Anaheim’s Platinum Triangle, the awe-inspiring design of Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC) fits perfectly among Southern California’s notable structures such as the Angel Stadium, Honda Center, Disneyland, and Anaheim Convention Center. The flexible, futuristic terminal for rail, bus, and auto passengers is characterized by its LEED NC Platinum parabolic design of diamond-shaped steel arches infilled with translucent ETFE. The ARTIC’s unique architecture and striking form have made it one of the most photographed spaces in Anaheim as well as a popular set location for TV and film. It has earned numerous awards such as an AIA Orange County Honor Award – Commercial Built, AIA Los Angeles Design Award, and a USGBC Los Angeles Sustainable Innovation Award. Inspired by the neighborhoods of Downtown Los Angeles, HOK designed the perfect West Coast home of Convene. A former 1980s office building was transformed into a 20,000-square-foot hospitality-infused meeting, event and workspace. The contemporary and chic industrial environment is further made relaxing by a crisp and clean palette.
MVE + Partners Inc.
Carl McLarand, AIA, NCARB
AIA Design Merit Award
888 S Figueroa St Suite 2170 Los Angeles CA
About MVE + Partners Inc.
With over $30M in regional revenue, MVE+Partners is an ENR California Top Design Firm. The company, which offers not only architecture and planning services, but also graphic design, has completed projects across the U.S., and in China, Egypt, and the U.A.E. In Los Angeles, MVE+Partners had an ENR California 2016 Top Start with the $305M Spring Street Towers development and earned a 2016 AIA Merit Award for their design for the mixed-use Emerald complex.
Founder and Chairman Carl McLarand established MVE+Partners in Orange County in 1974. At the outset, the firm focused on residential projects, but that business has expanded to large-scale commercial and civic developments. The company now has more than 100 employees working out of offices in Los Angeles and Irvine. The firm has garnered more than 300 Gold Nugget Merit and Grand Awards over the last 40-plus years.
The MVE+Partners-designed residential tower at 8500 Burton Way rises eight stories and contains 87 luxury units. Originally designed as a boxy structure, the building now resembles the prow of a ship, with an interior open-air courtyard exposed to daylight by a roof aperture and a cutaway on the upper floors. The $65M development is capturing some of the highest rents in Los Angeles, with a penthouse on the market for $40,000 per month. MVE+Partners designed two mixed-use high-rises — 732 and 755 S. Spring Street — that draw on the aesthetics of the neighborhoods they border. 755 S. Spring Street draws on the classic 1920s elements of the financial buildings in the Historic Core, while 732 S. Spring Street takes more heavily from the Fashion District, with its contemporary weave pattern and floor-to-ceiling window wall facade system. Combined, the towers will offer 628 residential units, including unique, townhome-style units.
Eric Aukee, FAIA, LEED AP
National Planning Excellence Award, Society for College and University Planning Award for Excellence in Architecture
617 W 7th St Suite 1200 Los Angeles CA 90017
Perkins+Will is an interdisciplinary firm that leverages research from its proprietary laboratories to design progressive and efficient plans. Founded in 1935, Perkins+Will began as a small Chicago office run by partners Lawrence B. Perkins and Philip Will, Jr. The firm annually earns hundreds of design awards, and it is an ENR California Top Design Firm, as well as #1 in Higher Education Design, according to Architectural Record.
The Los Angeles office has helmed projects across Southern California and the country, including the San Jose University Student Union and the Johns Hopkins Hospital Children’s Tower, contributing to the firm’s portfolio of nearly 1,000 LEED Certified builds. They are consistently ranked as one of L.A.’s top five design firms, and received the 2015 National Planning Excellence Award.
A fixture on the UCLA campus, the Charles E. Young Research Library, built in the 1960s, was in need of renovation and modernization. Perkins + Will redesigned the first floor and A level. Adjustments to the public areas created a more flexible space with better circulation and room for technology access and socializing, while still making room for the library’s expanded offerings. When Perkins + Will redesigned the LAPD Rampart Station, the architects made careful choices to respect the original 1966 architecture, while still giving it a new image and modern workability. The two-story bunker is now the LAPD Metropolitan Division Facility. The $16M redesign carves into the building exterior to bring daylight into high-traffic areas. With help from its photovoltaic canopy, the building was certified LEED platinum and won the 2017 City of L.A. Green Building Award from the Los Angeles Business Council. The design earned a 2016 Merit Award from AIA Los Angeles and a Citation Award from AIA Academy of Architecture for Justice.
Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM)
Paul Danna, FAIA
AIA Architecture Firm Awards, AIA 25-Year Awards, National Arts Club Gold Medal
333 S Grand Ave Suite 3600 Los Angeles CA
About Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM)
After more than 80 years in operation, SOM has completed over ten thousand projects in 50 countries. Among those projects is the New Long Beach Civic Center, a $520M development that ranked among the top 10 ENR California Starts of 2016. In 2012, SOM launched a Los Angeles-based design studio to handle complex, international projects. The firm currently holds the distinctive honor of being the only one to have twice won the Architecture Firm Award from the national AIA. They’ve also won the AIA 25-Year Award for a record number of six projects and became the first architecture firm to be awarded a National Arts Club Gold Medal.
Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings established their eponymous firm in 1936, with John O. Merrill joining three years later. In one major contribution, SOM created Architecture Engineering Systems, a 1980 predecessor of Business Information Modeling software now used throughout the design industry. The firm designed the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. In total, SOM has earned close to 2,000 awards, more than any other design firm.
SOM’s design for a new United States Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles blends classic features of the federal architecture with contemporary materials and engineering. Incorporating engineering features to protect against seismic events and blast threats, the structure is comprised of a 630,000 square-foot cube that appears to float, but rests on a limestone pedestal. The building won the Los Angeles Business Council 2017 Grand Prize and Civic Buildings Awards and Project of the Year from the Design-Build Institute of America, Western Pacific Region chapter. The Desmond is an 88,000 square foot brick building, originally intended to be a five-story automobile showroom, and later used as a Desmond’s department store warehouse. The design added a sixth-floor glass pavilion with a terrace deck, and managed to accommodate the additional load and new seismic codes without significant changes to the building’s facade, earning the project the 2017 Award of Merit: Retrofit/Alteration from the Structural Engineers Association of Southern California and Northern California.
Mike Medici, AIA, NCARB
AIA Institutional Architecture Award of Merit, Chicago Athenaeum Green GOOD DESIGN Award awards
550 S Hope St Suite 1950 Los Angeles CA 90071
Architect Magazine ranked SmithGroupJJR among the top 15 in 2016, and it ranked among ENR California’s Top 20 Design Firms in the same year. Based on revenue, SmithGroupJJR ranks on the 2017 ENR list of Top 75 Design Firms in the country and #6 on the Building Design + Construction ranking of largest firms in the U.S. Among their many notable projects is the multi-award winning National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Their southern California projects have garnered recognition from AIA and Los Angeles Business Council.
Architect Sheldon Smith founded SmithGroupJJR in Detroit, MI in 1853 and the company has been setting industry benchmarks ever since. In 1920, the firm designed its first skyscraper, the Buhl Building, a neo-gothic tower. In 2000, the firm designed the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Headquarters, the first LEED Platinum-certified project in the world. The Los Angeles office has designed high profile developments, such as the Roy O. Disney building renovation and the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center Replacement.
SmithGroupJJR designed the award-winning state-of-the-art San Diego Sheriff’s Crime Laboratory. The facility services three key divisions—Crime Laboratory, Major Crimes, and Property & Evidence—and provides forensic science service to more than 30 law enforcement agencies. The ultra-modern design allows for a secure and efficient flow in and out of the building at grade, with separate entrances for criminal evidence, suspects, the general public, and other disparate entities. In 2019, this project earned an award from the AIA-Academy of Architecture for Justice and a Merit Green award from ENR California. SmithGroupJJR designed a new storage facility for a major production house. The Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Film Archive is designed with the highest standards of protective measures, as it is a central repository for invaluable assets. In order to satisfy fire safety codes without introducing a water-based system that could damage the film, SmithGroupJJR designed a “Russian doll” building. An interior box is insulated, watertight, and fitted with a waterless fire suppression system.
About ZGF Architects
ZGF Architects is an architecture, design, and planning firm with a diverse portfolio that reaches across industries, including healthcare and research facilities, academic buildings, mixed-use developments, corporate campuses, museums, transportation facilities, and eco-districts. Established in 1942 in Portland by Norm Zimmer FAIA, Brooks Gunsul FAIA, and Robert Frasca FAIA, the practice now has over 700 professionals working across six offices in the US and Canada.
The firm has ranked among Building Design+Construction’s Top 300 Firms in the US as well as being named the #1 architectural firm in the country by Architect in 2016. It is also a top design firm annually of ENR California and holds the 2018 Design Firm of the Year award. Some of its landmark projects are the California Science Center, the Spruce Goose Hangar of Google, and the LA BioMed’s Research Building.
The Stanford University commissioned ZGF Architects to design its new technologically advanced central energy facility. Located at the heart of its transformational, campus-wide energy system, the $120M Stanford University Central Energy Facility replaces the older natural gas-powered cogeneration plant and campus steam loop with an electricity-powered ‘regeneration’ plant that supplies hot and chilled water to the campus and hospitals. The design plays up its innovative, ultra-efficient technology with vivid colors and dramatic material contrasts. A glass volume housing administrative offices abut a concrete block with generators, chillers, and cooling towers—the whole ensemble topped by a series of photovoltaic sun shades held aloft on metal piers. The AIA honored this energy-efficient project with an Honor Award and an AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects Award. In Los Angeles, ZGF Architects took on the master planning effort of the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Among the structures the firm has designed is the seven-story Marion and John E. Anderson Pavilion, which houses more than 300 beds and provides acute-care pediatric facilities, diagnostic and ancillary services, and a level I emergency department/trauma center. The architecture of the pavilion compliments its neighbor, the Saban Research Institute, and boasts a rich palette of red sandstone, glass, granite, and painted aluminum panels. The Los Angeles Business Council gave the project two Awards of Excellence.