Ted Tokio Tanaka
Principal, Ted Tokio Tanaka Architects
Marina del Rey
Specalities: Residential, public works
For Ted Tokio Tanaka, less is more. In a portfolio that includes numerous local homes, art galleries, restaurants, publicly funded buildings and commercial offices, Tanaka eschews the grandiose gesture for a stripped-down simplicity.
Call him a minimalist modernist who prefers to work with concrete and glass and whose designs are infused with Eastern influences. The smooth black concrete living room floor of the home he designed for himself in Venice, for example, evokes images of the polished black stones in a Japanese rock garden.
Tanaka’s philosophy extends through his design studio. Although he has been practicing in Los Angeles for 24 years, he has limited the size of his firm to 15 architects.
“From the beginning I always wanted to be an architect. I didn’t want to become a businessman,” explained Tanaka. “I kept the office small and do all the design work so the product is very consistent.”
Tanaka has been successful on many fronts, including a $35 million project for the L.A. Housing Authority just east of the L.A. River, the station area master plan for the Little Tokyo/Arts District Metro Rail station, and numerous facilities for County-USC Medical Center.
Tanaka emigrated to the United States from Japan in 1958 and attended Arizona State University. After college, he was hired as a designer for Gruen Associates in Los Angeles. Following stints with other firms, he opened his own studio in Venice in 1974 and established Ted Tokio Tanaka Architects in 1981.
Most recently, Los Angeles International Airport officials have asked him to prepare a plan for beautifying existing buildings at LAX. The project has not yet been approved, but Tanaka is already looking forward to it.
“This is one of the most meaningful projects for me because it’s a facility that everyone I know will use,” Tanaka said, adding in a characteristically understated fashion: “It needs a lot of help.”