We had the good fortune of connecting with Alice Kimm and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Alice, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Today, the importance of achieving a meaningful work-life balance is being acknowledged everywhere – which is why I selected this question to expand on. As a woman in partnership with my husband, running a design practice, directing a nonprofit organization we co-founded in 2020, and with three kids all still in school, I think about this a lot – not just in the context of my own life and work, but with respect to our kids, our staff (many still in their twenties), and the students we mentor.

The pandemic forced each of us to question why we work and how we work. I can honestly say that I still work as an architect for the same fundamental reason that I became one: I believe that designed spaces can transform people’s lives, uplift and bring them joy, and catalyze creativity. Furthermore, I think that inspiring spaces should be accessible to everyone. So…that is what gives the work I do meaning. In turn, the process behind the work colors how I live my life. Architecture is a way of seeing the world, solving problems creatively, and bringing together seemingly unconnected dots to forge visible and enduring connections. So part of the work-life balance, for me, is recognizing and celebrating the ways in which work and life intersect.

We’re lucky because of the time we live in – technology has given us tools to work more efficiently and we can get a lot done in a fraction of the time we used to be able to do it. This is certainly a change over past decades, and should translate to more time to reflect and engage other activities – helping achieve that work-life balance. This can feed back into the work in a positive way. A few examples: I’m an amateur squash player in a city that doesn’t know squash, and I’m working to introduce squash to more people via outdoor courts, community squash facilities – it’s so exciting to think that maybe we can introduce this great sport into public schools and all across SoCal! We’ve also gotten to work on a house for ourselves, design projects for friends, and start a nonprofit – Open Source Homelessness Initiative – that will accelerate the delivery of buildings and support to our unhoused.

What should our readers know about your business?
We strengthen the communities and clients we serve through the creation of physical environments that communicate identity, and that are accessible and inclusive. We’ve focused on this since we began our practice, and we’ve achieved success because of our ability to listen and to translate our clients’ aspirations into three-dimensional, experiential reality. Our process is highly collaborative and our project teams are diverse, which makes us uniquely suited to respond to complex contexts and programs. We work a lot on schools and public spaces, as well as homes and creative workplaces. It’s a wide range of work, which we enjoy – but the tools with which we approach each project are consistent: Our work is marked by sculptural form, fluidity of space and circulation, transparency, an inventive use of material and color, and the skillful introduction and presence of natural light. It’s how we combine these things that makes our architecture connective, unifying, and accessible, and these qualities of our work are what I’m most proud of.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
LA’s become such an exciting place to eat that each of our activities would be bracketed by delicious meals in every part of town, inspired by cuisines from all across the globe. Korean food in Koreatown (soon tofu over bbq), Szechuan food in San Gabriel Valley, Bavel in the Arts District for a taste of Mediterranean, drinks at home in Silverlake looking out over the Reservoir, Guisado’s for tacos in Boyle Heights, my family’s favorite La Cabanita in Montrose for dinner. We would go visit the Academy Museum and LACMA in midtown; Temporary Contemporary, Broad Museum, and Hauser & Wirth in DTLA (with lunch at Central Market). Would take a driving tour of many of the great single family residential works – from Eames House in Santa Monica to Gamble House in Pasadena – with so much in between. And along the way throw in phenomenal projects by our friends and contemporaries as well as architectural masterworks such as Disney Concert Hall, the Bradbury Building, and more. If my friend is a good walker, a great 135 minute trek will take us from JFAK’s office in Boyle Heights to home in Silverlake – through the Arts District, Little Tokyo, and Echo Park. So much to see and experience along the way.

Then there are the hikes in and around the Griffith Observatory, a bike ride along the LA River starting at the Fletcher gates in Atwater Village and zipping along the edge of Frogtown, and oh yes, a visit to Rolling Greens nursery in Culver City. And to work off the food, my friend (if a true comrade) will come with me to South Pasadena a few times during the week to get in some great exercise playing squash – the best sport on the planet that nobody’s heard of here in LA!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am really grateful to my parents – I can’t imagine a more supportive context growing up. But with respect to work, my husband and partner John Friedman is the person who helped me get to where I am now. For instance, even when it didn’t quite pencil out to have me chair the undergrad architecture program at USC, he supported my personal development. Teaching helped me discover what in architecture is meaningful to me and how I want to pursue it; it helped me find my own voice and create my own platform, which ultimately benefitted our practice too. It hasn’t been easy to raise three children, run an architecture firm, teach, and do the other things that John and I are invested in without the full support of each other. It helps that in John I have not just a best friend and partner, but a role model, mentor, and an artist who inspires me.

Website: jfak.net

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jfakarchitects/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/jfakarchitects

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JFAKarchitects

Other: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alice-kimm https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-friedmanmedium.com, @akimm oshi-la.org

Image Credits
4 photos by Benny Chan, Fotoworks:: Graduate Aerospace Labs, Caltech La Kretz Innovation Campus NAVIG8 Roberts Pavilion, Claremont McKenna College 1 photo by Marcos Garcia: FIL (Feria Internacional del Libro, Guadalajara) 1 rendering by JFAK: Koreatown Gateway Remaining 2 images (LEED Platinum ceremony at LKIC, and Listen In) are snapshots.

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