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Frederick Fisher (MArch '75), Founding Partner of Frederick Fisher and Partners
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Frederick Fisher and Partners earns AIA California's 2024 Firm Award

Apr 3, 2024

AIA California has granted its 2024 Firm Award to Frederick Fisher (MArch '75) and his eponymous LA-based office, Frederick Fisher and Partners. One of AIA California’s most prestigious awards for individuals and firms, the Firm Award is given to those who have "consistently produced distinguished architecture for a period of at least 10 years."

Fisher founded Frederick Fisher and Partners, or FF&P, in 1981 in Los Angeles; FF&P now has an office in New York as well, with projects around the world.

Recent FF&P work includes a commons expansion at the Natural History Museum of LA County in Los Angeles, set to open in Fall 2024, and the City of Santa Monica's City Hall East Building, completed in 2020.

FF&P's City Hall East Building exceeds Santa Monica’s current sustainability standards and has set international records as the first municipal structure to receive Living Building Challenge Certification as a Net Zero Water and Net Zero Energy building.

"To Frederick Fisher and Partners, architecture has a role in resolving the complexities of culture, and not necessarily dramatizing them," observed Christopher Hawthorne, Chief Design Officer of the City of Los Angeles, in describing FF&P's the Institute for the Liberal Arts at Vassar College.

Renderings of Vassar College’s Heartwood Inn and Salt Line Restaurant [pictured above] are all part of FF&P’s recent work on Vassar’s Institute for the Liberal Arts

"Frederick Fisher and Partners has completed a select, but distinctive body of work," writes the AIA California Board of Directors in presenting the Firm Award to FF&P. AIA California adds, "Frederick Fisher and Partners has produced distinguished architecture for decades—design that embodies a distinctly Californian sensibility—connection to light and nature, embrace of creativity and innovation, emphasis on wellness and health, and a pervasive sense of delight."

FF&P's Colby College Museum of Art. "Our collaboration with Colby College dates back over twenty years," FF&P writes, "and mutual trust allowed for risk-taking with the Alford-Lunder Family Pavilion."

AIA California also recognized FF&P for its commitment to mentoring younger staffers, as evidenced by the group of 'NextGen' partners that are now actively involved in taking the firm's day-to-day operations into a new era.

"Our holistic practice and design philosophy is focused on four pillars: process, context, function, and aesthetics," reads FF&P's official description. "Frederick Fisher and Partners mission is simple: improve life through architecture."

"One of the glories of architecture is how big it is and how many things it touches" [Frederick Fisher in the LA Times, 2018]

Team meeting at FF&P's New York office

Fisher graduated from UCLA AUD in 1975 after earning a bachelor's degree in art and art history from Oberlin College. In a 2018 Los Angeles Times feature, he described being inspired by a Frank Gehry lecture on the Ron Davis studio in Malibu, and decided to apply for a job at Gehry's office, only to be told they had no work available. "The next day," Fisher recalled, "Gehry called back to say his marketing person had quit and he needed someone right away to fill in." Fisher designed at Gehry's office from 1978 to 1980.

"It was a great way to learn, and I graduated to model-making and design," Fisher told the LA Times. "He had a habit of giving young people responsibility, having them work from a little sketch."

One of his final projects at Gehry's office was a house in Venice, the Caplin House, that Fisher describes as "loaded with every idea I’d had in architecture school."

Frederick Fisher, Caplin House, a model of street facade, Venice, California, 1978

In addition to teaching at UCLA AUD, SCI-Arc, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of North Carolina, and Harvard University, Fisher has chaired the Environmental Design Department at Otis College of Art, where he currently serves on the Board of Governors. He is also a member of the Board of Councilors at USC School of Architecture and the Board of Visitors at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, as well as governing boards for the Ojai Music Festival and Lawrence University.

Among other honors, Fisher received the 2013 Gold Medal from the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, where he combined his passions for art and architecture in the exploration of museum meaning and design. As Fisher observed in the LA Times in 2018, "One of the glories of architecture is how big it is and how many things it touches."

"If you make something that brings people pleasure and fulfillment," Fisher writes in his professional bio, "then you’ve done your job as an architect."

This year's AIA California awards included another UCLA AUD shoutout: Professor Emeritus Thom Mayne, who earned the 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award. Check out the full announcement via AIA California.

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