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Thursday, Sep 28, 2023




Staff Reporter

Most top local architectural firms reported improved business in 1996, in what appears to be another sign that the building industry is gradually recovering from recession.

Twenty of the 25 firms on this year’s List of top architectural firms posted higher local billings last year than they had in 1995. Four reported lower earnings, and one firm’s billings were unchanged.

This follows a generally encouraging 1995, during which 15 of the top 25 firms reported better business compared to the previous year.

In fact, six of the top 15 firms on this year’s List experienced 25 percent-plus growth last year relative to 1995.

They are No. 2 Gensler and Associates/Architects in Santa Monica at $21.5 million (up 40 percent to $21.5 million); No. 5 RTKL Associates Inc. in downtown L.A. at $15 million (up 25 percent); No. 13 Nadel Architects Inc. in West L.A. at $12 million (up 49 percent); No. 11 Langdon Wilson Architecture Planning Interiors in downtown L.A. at $9.4 million (up 31 percent); No. 12 Albert C. Martin & Associates downtown at $9.2 million (also up 31 percent); and No. 15 HLW International in West L.A. at $8 million (up 100 percent).

Meanwhile, just two of the top 15 firms posted substantial declines in local billings last year compared to 1995.

They are No. 9 Rochlin Baran & Balbona Inc. in Westwood at $10 million (down 30 percent), and No. 13 BTA Inc. in Westwood at $12.8 million (down 34 percent).

Last year’s No. 9 firm, Long Beach’s Musil Perkowitz Ruth Inc., declined to respond to this year’s survey.

Firms are ranked according to 1996 L.A. County billings.

The List’s perennial No. 1 firm, Wilshire Center-based Daniel Mann Johnson & Mendenhall reported $67 million in local 1996 billings up $2 million from the architectural/engineering giant’s local billings in 1995.

“We’re finally seeing a slight resurgence in our local work hooray and we’ve also had a string of victories in the four Asian countries we targeted two years ago: Korea, The Philipines, Malaysia and Thailand,” said Ray Holdsworth, DMJM’s president.

He added that DMJM expects to sign contracts within the next month in connection with some local “build-to-suit” (custom-designed) office developments he’s not yet at liberty to identify.

As the List’s “current projects” column shows, local commercial and residential development remains at a relative standstill. Demand for architectural services is coming primarily from two sectors.

Firms are heavily involved in entertainment- and hospitality-related projects here and around the globe including workplaces for media companies, entertainment-oriented retail projects and tourist attractions and facilities.

No. 2 MCG Architects in Pasadena, for instance, has been working on the expansion of the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach and the shopping center at the Stratosphere casino resort in Las Vegas.

Likewise, No. 3 Hellmuth Obata & Kassabaum Inc. in Santa Monica is helping design the “E-Zone” entertainment center at Universal City as well as the Legoland theme park in Carlsbad.

And many of L.A.’s top firms continue to rely on public-sector and other “institutional”-type projects such as schools, medical facilities and infrastructure developments.

DMJM has been working on the likes of the Alameda Corridor port-related transportation project, the L.A. Police Department 911 dispatch center and California State University Northridge’s earthquake rebuilding program.

Gensler is handling design work for the Metropolitan Water District and San Diego’s airport authority in addition to media operations such as DreamWorks SKG, Sony Pictures Entertainment and others.

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