We had the good fortune of connecting with Anand Devarajan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Anand, what are you inspired by?
I’m always inspired by creativity, particularly by others in other disciplines. When I’m stuck in any way, I always go back to art and sculpture–from antiquity to the contemporary. It never ceases to humble me how others have solved a certain visual or conceptual problem; particularly after you study it, you see the thoughtfulness depth and complexity in the solution. It makes me say to myself ” I wish I would have thought of that!” and that gives me a surge of energy to approach our work with new focus. More recently, I find inspiration where I see parallels in our work with other disciplines. That can range from listening to music and hearing a composition which is doing audibly what we are trying to do spatially. Or before COVID hit, going to one of my favorite Japanese restaurants where you can see how master chef Shunji crafted the omakase in such a way that take into the availability of ingredients, layering of flavors, sequence of courses, and even the outside weather.
What should our readers know about your business?
I started our architecture firm at the end of 2018 to pursue my own design vision and work. Although there are many talented young firms out there, I feel what sets us apart is our process. Designing a building for someone or for a group is all about creating relationships and seeing where they take you. The process can take years from design through construction with many obstacles along the way–and the relationship/trust is key to the process moving forward successfully. We use the early stages of the design process as means to help build that trust. Not only are we finding out about the functional requirements for the project, we are understanding more about the client, their values, passions, and personal struggles. We pride ourselves on being good listeners and use the design process to pose a lot of questions. This allows us to craft the design specifically for them without a preconceived image of what it should be–focussing on qualitative rather than quantitative aspects. We are not the type of firm where you can point to an image and say I want that go make it. Rather we want to collaborate with clients who want to go on a journey to find something neither of us could have envisioned from the start. Even though I have been practicing architecture for over 20 years on many international recognized projects, our company and our identity is new. As with most new small ventures, we are not a known quantity and the biggest challenge is inertia. It doesn’t help that I am not a publicity hound and my real love is pushing our work forward , not the marketing and project management aspects of the business. But with any new endeavor, we all need to adapt and figure out our path forward–even if it requires doing things outside of our comfort zones and in a way we are not used to. COVID, like for many others, has been a big challenge for our business. Many of our clients come from existing personal relationships, but impromptu interactions at a party or meeting someone for drinks is not our world today. Additionally, a key aspect to our design process is the team collaboratively working on large physical models in our studio. Again we have needed to change our work methodology to ensure staff and client safety moving forward. I never expected this endeavor to be easy, and the obstacles we face are rarely the ones we expect, no matter how many permutations you run in your head. Ultimately, what has gotten us through is advice/support from my family and friends, systematically address each challenge as you encounter them, and staying invigorated and passionate about the work we love to do.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I am from Indiana, and significant other is from Bulgaria, so we do have friends visiting regularly and most of our friends all have very different interests. I would cater the cuisine and events specifically to those interests but here are a couple of my favorites. First, I would probably organize our day trips by neighborhood alternating active/event days and chill/relaxing days. Day 1: I would keep it relaxing and stay around our neighborhood, Mar Vista–hitting the local establishments like the Mar Vista or Rustic Kitchen for a casual lunch or dinner. We can end up with drinks in backyard around a fire. Day 2: A trip downtown. Jump on the Expo Line and check out the museums, concert hall, have lunch at Grand Central Market. Go to a Kings game at staples, and afterward hitting a bar downtown for a final nitecap. Day 3 Head out east again, visit my sister in Highland park. Grabbing brunch around her neighborhood (she’s always attuned to new an interesting places) have a few late afternoon drinks and end up on the deck at her house for dinner and the sunset. Day 4 Daytrip up the coast- North. Take the PCH to Santa Barbara or even Los Olivos. The curvy roads are fun and clears my mind. Grabbing a late brunch at our destination and afterwords stopping by a winery for a tasting. On the drive back, pausing at some overlook spots or taking a quick nap on a beach. Approaching Santa Monica Pier after dusk always feels like a gateway back into LA. Day 5 Stay close around our neighborhood- Check out Venice or Santa Monica. Keep it relaxing. Hang out at a bar like the Other room most of the day. Maybe order some pizza delivered from Abbot’s to the bar. Good for making friends and starting conversations–one of my best friends met his wife that way! (shout out to Tensho and Emily!) Day 6 Daytrip- South- Take the coast south, through Manhattan Beach, Redondo etc. End up in Palos Verdes overlooking the ocean. Have lunch in Long Beach at a little greek place and roam around there for a bit and find a spot on the beach somewhere. On the way back up, stop off in South Gate- Hollydale Park and check out the LA River channel. The scale of the channel is humbling and always levels me. On the way back, stop in Bell for dinner at La Casita Mexican for some amazing mole. Day 7 Finale!- Chill out the house most of the day. Make a simple brunch, chill outside for a bit and prepare for one final meal of the trip..and to ruin sushi for my friends for the rest of their life. Go to Shunji for an Omakase Dinner. Sharing lots of sake and beer with the chefs and exceptionally crafted Japanese cuisine experience, which will make it hard for you to eat regular sushi again. The complexity and explosion of flavors usually incite some crazy dreams that night!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would like to shoutout Frank Gehry and all my friends and colleagues over the years at Frank’s office. I don’t think I would be the architect I am today if Frank and I hadn’t cross paths 21 years ago. Collaborating with him for all those years opened my mind up to whole new world of possibilities. I was fortunate to work with some of the most talented and exceptional people I have ever met, and forced me to learn how to extract the best out of myself. I learned how to think big but be thoughtful, be practical but not mundane, and always open to change–for redoing something is always an opportunity to make it better.
Linkedin: Anand Devarajan
Mathew Schulert- See specific photo Ericka Kruetz- See specific photo remainder of the photos- Anand Devarajan Architecture