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Route to success: Why we chased the American dream

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Ben Adams explains how he spotted an opportunity to apply lessons learned from working in dense inner London to Los Angeles

Los Angeles has been lusted after, mocked, ignored, celebrated and rehabilitated in recent years, but is often treated with suspicion or even contempt by Europeans. We looked past that and spotted a business opportunity to work with our UK clients who have a US presence and to reach out to agents, consultants and collaborators with connections on the West Coast.

Senior architect Charlotte Docherty is moving out to run the LA office with associate director Michael Katsibas (a Floridan) shuttling between the UK and US to direct things. We are setting up a company visa to allow future émigrés a simpler path to securing a work visa. Our office is located in Historic Downtown where an influx of creative industries has made a new home in LA for beards to gravitate towards.

LA can sprawl no father; instead it must seek to recycle, reinvent and replace

LA, the most famous city of sprawl, has filled the LA basin to the extent that it can sprawl no farther. Instead it must look inward and seek to recycle, reinvent and replace those buildings which need to be something else. We have been doing this in London since the green belt encircled the city in 1938 and encouraged architects to think differently about scale, density and use. We make buildings with complex sections and mixed uses to create urban areas that are thriving and diverse. Heritage and context frame every architectural project in the UK to some extent and we make architectural responses that respect this. 

LA is different: questions of density and complexity have been subservient to zoning and neighbourhoods defined by their residential character. Recent developments in Downtown show the city starting to invent its own more complex section by reusing buildings and mixing or blurring their use. Newer buildings such as Michael Maltzan’s Star Apartments are tall, dense, complex and most importantly, desirable. 

We are exporting our expertise honed by 15 years of working in central London to a new city that sits at a fulcrum in its history: from an extrovert and expansive beginning to a more intense, urban and uniquely Angelino future. 

Ben Adams is director of Ben Adams Architects

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