Angela Brooks, FAIA, LEED™ AP
Principal, Brooks + Scarpa, Los Angeles, CA
Sponsored by General Shale
You may have seen the USA Network “Character Approved” video featuring Angela Brooks in her own award-winning green home in Los Angeles. She strolls through the house, dubbed the “Solar Umbrella,” showcasing its shiny energy panels, movable bookshelves, and sun-dappled living spaces.
Sustainable design is a passion for this highly-lauded architectural leader – she was at the forefront of the development of LEED Certification; lectures and writes widely on the subject; has been recognized for her contributions to peer review and policy work in this area; and is a bona-fide green design celebrity, featured in “Women of” and “Top” listings for the industry.
Another passion – and lifelong pursuit – has been making sustainable, “good” design available to everyone.
Fresh out of college, Brooks took a job designing large, costly private homes in Beverly Hills, and was quickly discouraged. Her next job was with a non-profit development company, where she learned development from the ground up … and was inspired in the process.
“We were walking around L.A., finding buildings and developing housing for people who previously couldn’t afford a place to live,” she said. “I had learned that design had become something you only had access to if you had a lot of money. That was something I really reacted against, so for the last 20 years I’ve tried to bring design to other sectors, to people who traditionally can’t afford it, the underserved populations.”
Access to good design should be a basic human right, Brooks said. “People want to live in a place where their spirits are lifted a bit, that is beautifully designed. There is no reason we can’t have good design for everyone.”
Her firm puts this into practice with every project. “It doesn’t matter to us if it’s affordable housing with a small, tight budget or a single family home that comes in at $600 a square foot. Obviously budget matters — another level of quality on the top tier, of course — but basically the principles and the design process is the same,” she explained. Brooks + Scarpa, not incidentally, has won over 50 important design awards in the past decade, including 16 National AIA Awards, 2005 Record Houses, 2003 Record Interiors, 2003 Rudy Bruner Prize, and the 2006 and 2003 AIA COTE “Top Ten Green Building” Award. It was also one of 10 worldwide finalists for the World Habitat Award.
Design. Inspire. Transform.
Brooks will be bringing her good-sustainable-design-is-for-everyone message to her session at the AIA Convention in Nashville, July 30-August 1.
“Architects & Cities” will focus on the role of the architect in improving the urban realm of cities; how architects can provide a high level of design and sustainability to various building types, including affordable housing; on the importance and impact of policy issues in urban design; and the role of the architect and public policy in designing projects with net-zero energy goals. “In California all new residential construction must be net-zero by 2020,” she said. While other states may not have those requirements, Brooks said, “Architects need to know and see what’s coming down the pike.”
While keeping an eye on the future, architects can also learn from the past. For a while, Brooks said modern architecture focused on style and form, regardless of function, region and climate. Citing the architect/academic/critic Kenneth Frampton, she said modernism can be respectful of place. “I think now we are getting back to the thinking that architecture has to be of the place, and we should continue to try to do that,” she said.
Brooks’ reading interests include Architecture Review, because it is “global in scope” and allows her to see what’s happening around the world; and Wired magazine, not an industry publication but one that is “interested in design,” she said. Its coverage of global issues, technology and the future of technology most definitely have an impact on architectural design. “Pretty soon we are not going to be able to separate technology from our living spaces,” she said. “We are starting to see smart homes and intelligent materials that react to the needs of their tenants or the environment, not to mention Google Maps and GPS. Technology is embedded in our lives to where it is now a necessity as opposed to just a luxury.”
Connect with Angela Brooks
Brooks + Scarpa has a Facebook page, used mainly for highlighting ongoing projects and firm news, while its Twitter account is a fun feed that highlights the use of materials. “We use material that’s commonplace or off the shelf in different and innovative ways,” she said, adding they are more cost-effective and at the same time, give people a special awareness of a space because they see something familiar being used in a different way.