Steven Ehrlich

Principal, Steven Ehrlich Architects

Culver City

Specialty: Commercial, public works

Notable project: Sony Music Entertainment complex

Shortly after graduating from architecture school, Steven Ehrlich went to Africa for a stint in the Peace Corps. That experience has influenced his work ever since. The native New Yorker was transfixed by the indigenous architecture of Northern Africa.

Today, Ehrlich describes himself as an "anthropological architect." Throughout his portfolio he has tried to infuse his projects with the influences of the people he happens to be working with. Though most of his projects adhere to the modernist tradition of "form follows function," his designs actually vary widely. "We try to discover what the building wants to be, and not start with a canned approach," Ehrlich said.

For example, what looks like a ship's hull jutting out to the sidewalk of the Robertson Branch Library, on Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles, actually serves as the library's central axis and atrium. And an Aztec-inspired mural in brick that adorns the Shatto Recreation Center near downtown Los Angeles thwarts local graffiti artists from making their mark on the community center.

Such playful solutions to clients' needs have earned Ehrlich and his partner Nick Seierup a coterie of design awards, including three coveted National Honor Awards from the American Institute of Architects last year. The last firm to accomplish such a triple play was I.M. Pei in 1974.

Ehrlich's 15-member studio designs a wide variety of projects, from residences to large corporate campuses, such as the three-building Sony Music Entertainment complex in Santa Monica, and the DreamWorks SKG Animation Studios in Glendale.

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