Five years after starting an office in San Francisco during the design of Apple Park, Foster + Partners has expanded its California footprint south to Los Angeles. In April, the U.K. headquartered firm quietly opened an outpost on Ocean Front Walk a few blocks south of Rose Avenue in Venice. Housed in a new multiuse development, the studio—which is on track to host 12 employees, mostly designers, by the end of the year—is an airy double-height loft space with large glass sliders that give access to a rooftop terrace and stunning views of Venice Beach and the Pacific Ocean.
“After Covid, you need a studio that is better than home,” David Summerfield, the Foster senior executive partner who oversees the L.A office from London, told AN. “You need to have human interaction—chance encounters and conversations that can be difficult with digital media. This is a really exciting, fantastic space. It’s a draw.”
“Sand, water, sky, and sun. It’s unbelievable in a way,” added Marc Guberman, the Foster senior partner who leads the office in L.A. “It’s a neutral interior that’s inspiring because of the view. We filled it with our drawings, models, and people. It’s a great workshop space to review projects, meet with clients, and do focused work. There’s also a kitchen, so we can make coffee and lunch. We’re like a family living in a loft house.”
Much smaller than Foster’s San Francisco office, which is 40 people, the L.A. branch enjoys the vibrancy of its Venice Beach locale. The development where it is located has 10 units arrayed around a common but secure courtyard. Many are occupied by other creative businesses. “We work with our doors open,” said Guberman. “You can bump into people from the fashion house next door, or other designers. If we didn’t have that community, we would feel less energy than London or San Francisco.”
Guberman, who started with Foster at the New York office in 2008, moved to California in 2011 for the Apple Park job in Silicon Valley. The office grew from just him to 80 people as the project ramped up. As it completed, the phone started ringing with new California clients asking for projects. “Overnight, a project team became an office,” said Guberman.
Establishing the L.A. office has been a slower, much more deliberate process. “It was a long search,” said Guberman, who has moved his family there from San Francisco. “We worked with a fantastic broker. It helped us get to know the city and figure out what was right for our first step into L.A. It’s not our final step by any means.” The staff currently consists of four people from the San Francisco office, four from London, and four new local hires. Branded as Foster California in tandem with San Francisco, the office shares resources with that location and London.
The move into L.A. is about more than just luring staffers back into the office post-COVID with ocean views. Foster also has been winning a considerable amount of work in the City of Angels, including the master plan for One Beverly Hills. Designed in collaboration with RIOS, the project is transforming a collection of properties around the Iconic Beverly Hilton and Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills into a mixed-use urban resort and botanical garden.
“We made a strategic decision that Foster California would be 90 percent focused on California,” said Guberman. “We live in the communities we’re building in. It’s a new way for a global practice to work.”
“The other 10 percent,” he continued, “is off earth, with NASA.”
Foster’s NASA work includes lunar and Mars habitats. “There are three things they’re focused on,” said Guberman, “infrastructure, habitats, and outfitting. That includes everything from furniture and tools, to where you sleep. We also have a project with NASA that’s focused on in-situ resource utilization, or shipping the least amount of things and people to the moon and using the materials you find there. It’s a mix of material science, material optimization, and 3D printing with robots.”
This sort of far out, future-making work is what drew Foster to California in the first place, and it seems it’s what will keep the firm there for the long term. “In California there’s the climate, but also the clients,” said Summerfield. “There’s a great spirit in California, an innovative, pioneering spirit. In one sense, it’s California’s ethos as a state. It lives and breathes that and we feel aligned with it.”