In 1985, Michael B. Lehrer, FAIA, established Lehrer Architects (LA) as a sole proprietorship in his hometown of Los Feliz, Los Angeles expertise in project design, management, master planning, and collaboration with social and community groups in Los Angeles and abroad. As a result, the company, and their activities are all deeply anchored in the numerous towns and neighbourhoods. Lehrer Architects’ design philosophy is based on strong respect and love for the community, as well as an unshakable commitment to its advancement.

Michael Lehrer has created a unique link between an architect’s communal duty and that of a leader who uses design to increase space and standard of living. Whether projects are residential, commercial, institutional, public, or private, the firm’s approach focuses on the creation of home and community – from the individual to the family to the neighbourhood to the city – building spaces that sanctify life’s rituals. As an established team of energetic and socially concerned professionals, Lehrer Architects have achieved multiple awards. Below are 15 iconic awards-winning projects by Lehrer Architects.

1. MLA Studio Office

By constructing an innovative design office inside a historic factory building, which respects design and manufacturing. It uses daylight, airflow, and modest/magnificent industry structure, space, and site to highlight the inherent raw beauty of this fundamental “manufacturing” typology and its revolutionary transparent building-within-a-building.

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Interior of MLA Studio_© Lehrer Architects

It is a centre of interaction and gathering: employees, tourists, neighbours, and citizens, bordered on the west by train lines that run along to the east of a LA river valley Downtown. The enclosing mass is a 27,000 sq. ft steel-framed and clad manufacturing structure that is 60 years old.

Structure and raw space

This industrial structure is unpolished. Its real and unrestrained structure is crucial to its feeling of location and purpose. The structural engineer and architects were able to use an existing large heavy steel beam in the middle of the old double gable roof to support the new lightweight construction stud rafters at the inside gabled roof’s apex.  The new inside roof is a riff on the previous roof, visually engaging them and enhancing their natural beauty.

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Exploded view of MLA Studio_© Lehrer Architects

The solution is a lightweight polygonal-sheathed steel raftered roof, its transparency mimics the industrial ceiling above it. It’s both light and strong. The ceiling now permits enough light to fulfil daylighting requirements without artificial light after opening 21 8’x 8′ skylights in the industrial roof which had been sealed for over 40 years. The light from Studio illuminates the entire factory ceiling at night.

2. La Kretz Garden Pavilion, UCLA

The original phase of this project’s purpose was to construct a bold and highly visible primary entry to the botanical garden while also addressing key access to the university campus’s periphery condition. To completely incorporate the botanical garden’s edge into the university, the new procession connects the botanical garden entering the promenade with the nearby streets. This highlights the garden’s role as a cultural asset as well as an educational laboratory.

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La Kretz Garden Pavilion_© Lehrer Architects

The provision of a completely accessible walkway to a rebuilt low-level garden promenade along an underlying steep gradient was a key architectural issue. A guardrail system lining the expanded accessible route is made lively by a simple geometric play with perforated bent metal panels which reflect light and shadows while allowing vistas in and out of the garden. Future phases of the project will feature a lively educational center providing the university and the public, with a campus amenity that contributes to the community’s quality of life, and a garden support system.

3. The Water Reclamation Facility in Glendale, Los Angeles

Lehrer Architects was assigned with building a water restoration facility that would serve thousands of civilians across Glendale and Los Angeles. The project’s position is to enhance and revitalize the LA River provided the limitless possibility. The team also designed a memorial to the river and water, in addition to building a state of an art laboratory and control rooms that provide us with our most valuable resource, drinkable water. The swooping roof reflects the iconic river, stretching out towards the river, which is undergoing an exciting restoration project. 

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_View of the water reclamation facility at Glendale_© Lehrer Architects

The visual ties to these neighbours, as well as its vistas, bind it to the natural and urban environment, calling it home. Lehrer Architects proposed that the client, the Los Angeles Department of Sanitation, embrace water education as an extra purpose in conjunction with these river linkages. A large number of students & water experts will gather under an assembly pavilion with a majestic staircase to gain knowledge about this vital part of our society. Additional plazas are created at angles that mirror the riverbanks by the topographic land area with huge staircases. 

4. SSG Compton – East Rancho Apartments

This new 3,200-square-foot duplex residence South of Los Angeles will host a rotating group of ten formerly homeless teenagers. The design team intended to provide bright, accessible, and highly optimistic good design for a community whose future is vibrant and boundless, keeping in mind the client’s focus on “at-promise” (rather than “at-risk”) youngsters and constantly conscious of the local setting.

A Small-Scale Approach

The team provided infill lots of foreclosed or abandoned properties which optimizes the quantity of buildable new units on the property. The team was successful in finding room for the most people feasible while prioritizing design quality by negotiating the complicated and often contradicting regulatory requirements in Los Angeles.

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Site plan of East Rancho Apartments_© Lehrer Architects

Personal, communal, and collective

Providing a secure place for teens who have been homeless. Continuity of experience in safe, private settings; two – bedrooms sharing a bath; five bedrooms having a living space; ten teenagers sharing a beautiful plot. Balconies with the lengthy space, stretch the project across the community. Both inside and out, the structure and its broad spread roof trellises collect and provide natural light. Their brightness throughout the day (and illumination at night) enriches the tenants’ daily lives with illumination and joy. Affordable housing is virtually tough to develop in Los Angeles because of severe budgetary and code constraints, and design concept is rarely considered. 

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East Rancho Apartments_© Lehrer Architects

The East Rancho Apartments bring beauty, integrity, and design to the formerly homeless teen population by creating a creative and flexible team of design professionals, building contractors, builders, financiers, and service providers. The firm was able to build with local needs in mind since they were engaged with the neighbourhood from the beginning. From the groundbreaking through the dedication ceremony, the team went above and beyond the minimum outreach standards to build a project that the entire community can always be proud of. Providing a secure haven for teens who have been homeless. 

5. Clinica Romero

This project involves transforming a dark, old, and weary 10,000 sq. ft. non-profit facility into a bright and lively space that is interconnected to the exterior and proudly serves its immigrant population through interior tenant upgrades. The architects entirely re-imagined movement through the structure, stressing openness and connection to the out-of-doors and external light, despite a small budget, the client, and prior ill-fated rehabilitation attempts. The newly cut inside roadways have bold graphics that help with navigation. With the Symbolism of the freshly sainted St. Romero, the architecture celebrates the clinic’s namesake.

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Clinica Romero_© Lehrer Architects

A most important contribution to the community. The non-profit clinic primarily serves a Central American immigrant community that is underserved. The clinic also has numerous extensively programmed communal rooms in addition to providing healthcare. It is a fresh source of pride for the Angeleno community. Light and colour unite a previously fragmented structure with an existing programme that had been sliced into confusing regions. From health-care practitioners to the sick, this design provides consistency and familiarity to all users.

6. Architecture and Design Institute

The Architecture & Design Institute (A+DI) offers a multi-year curriculum that teaches students about design concepts and how to apply them to commercial and residential models. A+DI is a Milken-exclusive curriculum that immerses students in real knowledge that can be applied to a variety of fields, including design degree programmes.

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Architecture and Design Institute_© Lehrer Architects

The tenant enhancement doubles the size of the A+DI to around 4,000 square feet, more than doubling the area formerly allocated to the architectural programme and allowing the individual disciplines to specialize while keeping a versatile open floor layout. Further breakout and collaboration rooms are provided through operable glass walls that connect studio spaces to outside terraces and plazas. All of the studios have enough natural light, which is essential for creative work. The new and improved A+DI will give Milken a cutting-edge creative programme, bolstering the school’s arts and sciences curriculum.

7. Guerin Family Institute for Advanced Sciences

Guerin Family Institute (GFI) offers a high-tech laboratory that transforms a gloomy set of classrooms into an open facility that embraces Milken Community School values of curiosity, discovery, experience, and mastery. GFI features Robotic, Electronic parts, and MIT Fabrication Lab® to supplement the school’s science curriculum and bring critical thinking to the core of the kids’ learning. The GFI offers the most advanced fabrication and manufacturing equipment of any institution of its kind, with an assortment of high-tech fabrication & manufacturing equipment.

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The Guerin Family Institute for advanced sciences_© Lehrer Architects

As technology evolves and changes to the times, the space’s remarkable flexibility provides for unlimited combinations and the potential enabling new equipment to substitute for old. The space is a living, developing thing that is formed every day by the professors and students who utilize and create in it.

The resulting Institute is approximately 3,600 square feet of cutting-edge Advanced Sciences facilities, with natural sunlight pouring in through dispersed glass skylights, spacious views of Sepulveda Canyon, and ceiling-mounted glass doors, this institution will nurture not only students’ minds but also their spirits.

8. Water+Life Museum and campus

Diamond Valley Lake (DVL), North America’s biggest man-made water storage lake, inspired the creation of the Water and Life Museums, located near Hemet in the semi- dry South Californian desert, which is an important element of the state’s water system. The lake produces enough water for six months. Between two mountain ranges, Diamond Valley existed. Diamond Valley Lake is surrounded by constructing two 300-foot-high dams across the valley’s open ends. The East Dam stretches for 2.5 kilometres. The dam was constructed using rock quarried from these mountains. The Museums are located near the DVL East Dam’s base. These dams represent the greatest earthmoving endeavour in American history.

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The Water + Life Museums & Campus_© Lehrer Architects

Life = Water

There is no life without water. Among both Hoover Dam as well as Los Angeles, the Museums are about halfway. They are inspired by Gordon Kaufman’s prestigious architecture, Parker Reservoir, its pump buildings, with the serial turbine and equipment that provide us with water. As an environmental showpiece, the design strives to put elegance and sustainability, an indivisible couplet at the forefront of its mission.

9. Community Center of Potrero Heights

By architecturally exploiting the Park and outdoors, transform a modest building programme into an iconic and joyful public space. A building inside a smaller park can detract from the park’s value. To greatly increase the Park as a vital municipal venue for parade, gathering, recreation, celebration, and communitarian identity, use the valuable Park area for the new building. The project is intended to be a public park pavilion that benefits the surrounding community, including neighbours, the area, the city, and the local school.

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Potrero heights, Community Center_© Lehrer Architects

Large apertures and transparency adapt to the terrain, elegantly integrating the sculpted topography to the inside. This maximizes visual security for both the structure and the Park by framing major views of the environment too, within, and from the building. The inner assembly room is transformed into a covered indoor/outdoor space by seven big glass garage doors. 2 long red and white panels give the inside and outdoor area a lot of flexibility, acoustic attenuation, and visual drama.

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Ambience of Community Centre_© Lehrer Architects

For simple access, equalized cut and fills, and to preserve as much parks landscape as feasible, the building is oriented toward the parking lot and street. The structure serves as the Park’s main entrance. The enclosed patio and ramp on the west side provide pedestrians and maintenance vehicle access. By splitting the long garden wall to the east, the original stairs were incorporated into the new design. The big roof, which is properly slanted for future photovoltaic installations and mimics the existing topography, provides adequate shade for inner and external areas, reduces its aesthetic impact from the street, and offers adequate shade for interiors and exteriors.

10. Cal Tech Keck Institute for Space Studies

For institutional conferences and the Governing board, a new home was needed to define a feeling of location, performance, and goal for an educational think tank

An existing Mission-style structure is stabilized and restored to its original condition, then repurposed as offices and meeting spaces. The new Modernist structure’s scale and proportions respect the previous structure’s scale and other neighbouring structures’ syntax. Hyper-functionality, ample natural light, with the option to control/block it. The strong visual, spatial, and physical connection to campus, feeling of place and being in the middle of a classic Southern California premium campus.

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View of Cal tech Keck Institute_© Lehrer Architects

With ample, strategic storage and convenient indoor/outdoor workability, the location may easily and quickly interchange. With identical paving stones and suitable size, the new structure’s loggia serves as a transitional feature connecting the old structure and external environment to the new inside facilities. A further transitional and compositional feature, the garden wall (north side), serves as built-in bench seating. Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors open up the foyer and work area. White boards with an angle are showered in natural light.

11. Jerry’s Place-Camp Shalom

Throughout its 55-year lifespan, this dilapidated structure has serviced thousands of campers. For more than half a century, it has been cut off from its surroundings, thus isolating itself from nature. With a restricted budget and the near likelihood that new construction would trigger major environmental laws, it was determined to try to rescue this underperforming, unimpressive structure. Utilize an exceptional location, an oak-filled riparian river floor has traditionally been separated from the interior, restricting major access, vistas, and natural light—by opening the structure up radically and simply, both laterally to the landscape and upwardly to the sky and tree tops.

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Daylight falling into the building_© Lehrer Architects

Take a dank, old throwaway structure placed in a delicate riparian area, apply a small budget, save it, allow nature air, view, space, and light in, and turn it into the campus centre. Small windows are replaced with large French doors. A massive new platform with seating edges that meet grade and can accommodate big gatherings or a large number of small groups. Recycled linoleum flooring with wall/ceiling plywood covering -Grand skylight lighting and articulating several new rooms. To provide exceptionally energy efficient comfort, new swamp coolers are combined with huge fresh air from new apertures. This project is about significantly transforming and ennobling an undistinguished ancient structure into a high-performing centrepiece of a valuable 180-acre camp setting in the Malibu hills utilizing incredibly concise gestures.

12. Katz Family Pavilion for the Athletics and Culture

The distinctive gym/culture/community centre and park/garden centrepiece of the 18-acre religious/educational hill campus is now this new Pavilion and Public Green, which was originally just supposed to accommodate a full-size basketball court. It combines and changes an existing structure and landscape. This hilltop has been gradually filled in with buildings, hardscape, and parking over the last 50 years. The community leaders recognized that their jubilee might be better as they approached it. The architects recreated this once-spectacular location to restore its hilltop splendour. Ideal for Southern California.

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Katz Family Pavilion_© Lehrer Architects

This design has been reinvented as a renovated Pavilion with Commons Park, the campus’s new heart. They saw it as a one-of-a-kind indoor/outdoor/play/create/recreate/celebrate/gathering space; the fundamental notion is that such places must be unavoidable, if not essential, throughout Southern California.

Inside and out, the structure and its massive extended roof collect and manage the sun’s light. Its radiance during the day (and lights at night) brightens and lightens the daily lives of thousands of campus users. The roof is intended to frame the campus as you arrive and to perfectly appropriate those Santa Monica Mountain vistas, linking you to this dramatic and expansive viewshed.

13. Gower Court Mausoleum, Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Gower Mausoleum is a privileged design that serves Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s stated objectives and programming directives: to add and implement crypts into the original park-lawn cemetery in an ageless way that enriches and celebrates the cemetery’s prominent cultural existence in the Hollywood town for the public’s benefit. These objectives will be achieved by constructing an open-air tomb that will act as a beacon for tourists and neighbours.

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Hollywood Forever Cemetery_© Lehrer Architects

Its three stages, including the first, present design, occupy the cemetery’s whole Gower frontage, and as a result, the Los Angeles City Planning Board and the neighbourhood council’s planning committee have unanimously and enthusiastically accepted its design purpose for: “The promotion of open area and parks, as well as the preservation of vistas, natural features, and topography of the community’s mountainous areas for the benefit of both local inhabitants and those from all over the region”. It has been approved for a 5-story building.

14. Spring Street Park

Spring Street Park is meant to respect and respond to the street, as well as the adjoining residential structures with their new large residential windows and balconies, to create a recreational attraction for the entire neighbourhood. As light passes through perforated aluminium bamboo patterns, the aluminium seat backs create continual light play with the sun’s reflection, generating shadows. A striking diagonal (but virtually true east-west) red cement road divides the Park’s longest route, linking a bustling Spring Street to a bustling alley in the future.

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Aerial view of Spring Street Park_© Lehrer Architects

On the sunniest portion of the site, the elliptical vast lawn is utilized concisely as a traditional urban chamber in this modernist concept. An elliptical of vined ecofriendly columns surround it (many are lights). The ellipse is entirely encircled by a recently planted bamboo hedge that will reach a height of 30 feet.

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Site plan of Spring Street Park_© Lehrer Architects

The Park is circumnavigated by a constant narrow paved route ideal for youngsters on bicycles, people with strollers, and leisure visitors. A fountain at the street edge of the great meadow provides visual and auditory interest to the great lawn, which is appreciated from both the streets and the Park. The Park’s entrances are marked with aluminium scrims that repeat the bamboo ellipse.

15. Canyon residence

The owner’s desire to innovate inspired this design. The design of this residence is anchored by a major sculpture studio, workshop, and working vegetable garden. The project location, which is located in a shaded canyon one mile from the beach, has had a significant impact on the building design, as has the client’s wish to maintain fundamental characteristics of the woodland nature.

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Canyon Residence_© Lehrer Architects

The structure is arranged around planes: the horizontal foundation of the garden patio, which stretches the exclusive garden into ground floor living areas, and the vertical baseline spine, which links and organizes the different sections of the architectural programme.

References:

  1. Archello. (n.d.). Lehrer Architects. Retrieved from Archello: https://archello.com/brand/lehrer-architects
  2. Architects, L. (n.d.). Lehrer Architects Projects. Retrieved from Lehrer Architects: https://www.lehrerarchitects.com/
Author

An aspiring urbanist, who is trying to explore herself through architectural writing currently, she believes that the remedy for a healthy planet begins with designing responsive spaces. She is an optimistic, determined and curious person who is always eager to learn and improve her skills.

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