Ronald A. Altoon

Partner, Altoon + Porter Architects

Los Angeles

Specialty: Shopping centers

Notable project: Conversion of Bullocks Wilshire into a law library

Ronald Altoon, the 1998 president of the American Institute of Architects, is an internationally noted designer of that most modern of architectural inventions: the shopping center.

But he's also highly regarded for his work in the preservation and reuse of L.A,'s historic buildings, which he likes to think of as "shells for future hermit crabs to live in."

"The challenge is to see new life brought to that shell by another organism," Altoon said. In other words, find new uses for a building whose former purpose might now be irrelevant. Admirers say that Altoon has met the challenge, with just one example being his work on Engine Company No. 28 downtown, once slated for demolition, which he converted from a fire station to a popular restaurant and office building.

More recently, he was behind the transformation of the landmark Bullocks Wilshire building into Southwestern University's law library, complete with faithful reproductions of pre-Columbian, Louis XIVth, and modern interior motifs. The former lingerie department now houses the library's collection on international law.

Altoon's current project is Kaleidoscope, a $30 million shopping center in Mission Viejo. Set to open in July, it will inject a bit of urban whimsy into southern Orange County's often repetitive, mission-style architecture. The mall creates a kaleidoscope effect through multicolored fabric panels on the exterior that radiate from the center of the structure.

Altoon's firm is busy overseas. It recently completed a 7.7 million-square-foot, mixed-used project in Jakarta, Indonesia and projects are underway in Honk Kong, Singapore, and Melbourne, Australia. In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the firm is designing a mall unlike any other: Men will be entirely banned from one floor, so that women can shop veil-free.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.