Women in Architecture Committee 2018
PHOTO: La Moraleja Villa. XTEN. Detail of Photo by Miguel de Guzman

Jenna Knudsen, AIA, LEED AP BD+C – Principal, CO Architects

As a principal and senior project manager, Jenna has dedicated her career in pursuit of new and better ways for architects, engineers, owners and contractors to work together to achieve continual process improvement and innovative design solutions. Her experience and leadership on award winning projects has placed her at the leading edge of digital technologies and integrated project delivery, for which she has spoken extensively and received national recognition. Within CO Architects, Jenna leads the Women of CO (WoCO) initiative that champions the professional development of, and leadership opportunities for, the firm’s female employees. In addition, Jenna leads firm wide hiring and staffing initiatives. She has practiced architecture for 18 years, 16 with CO Architects.

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Melanie Freeland, AIA – Senior Associate, Rios Clementi Hale Studios

Melanie is a licensed Architect, LEED BD+C certified, and was recently named AIACC Young Architect of 2017. Her portfolio includes over a dozen built projects in the US and overseas in a variety of scales and program types.

Melanie brings an infectious enthusiasm for creativity and diligent work ethic to the profession. She is a founding member of The Breakfast Club, a gender equity initiative started at Gensler LA now extended to offices around the world. She routinely speaks at women empowerment events including Lady Boss at the Ace Hotel and is Co-Chair of the WiA AIA|LA. She has co-authored a piece for the AIA/LA newsletter, Architecture and Civic Engagement, A Call to Action. In 2016, she was elected to the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council to represent the community of 60k plus residents.

Outside of the office, you might find her exploring the city on two wheels with her husband and young son.

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Vice Chair
Lani Lee, AIA

In her role as Architect in SOM’s Los Angeles office, Lani Lee serves as the client liaison for the project team. Her primary responsibilities include the coordination of services for the project – as well as daily communications between the team, consultants, and clients.  Lani brings to life institutional projects that emphasize sustainability and maintain a positive impact on the environment. Her work extends across a broad scope of project types including: large institutes of higher learning, affordable housing, performance spaces, mixed-use urban structures and the restoration of historic buildings. During her two decades of professional experience, Lani has designed school buildings, classrooms, and laboratories where those who learn and teach can flourish.

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Vice Chair
Annette Wu, AIA


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Pooja Bhagat, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Principal, poojabhagat architects+planners

Pooja is an architect with over 17 years of experience in large scale projects of civic importance. Her focus on multi-family and affordable housing development projects include the Ocean Avenue South mixed use housing in Santa Monica for which she managed the design of multiple buildings including the Waverly and Seychelles housing on Ocean Avenue. In addition, she coordinated the overall master plan process involving a complex client team and multiple consultant groups. She strives towards creating innovative design which contributes positively to the urban fabric, engages the community and promotes pride in those who occupy it.

Environmentally sustainable design is at the core of Pooja’s design sense. She believes in humanistic design principals and brings strong management and organizational skills to her practice. Prior to starting her own practice Pooja Bhagat Architects & Planners, Pooja served as the City Architect for the City of Santa Monica and as Senior Associate at Moore Ruble Yudell Architects and Planners for 14 years where she successfully led large complex projects such as the health care campus master plan for Providence Saint John’s Hospital in Santa Monica.

Pooja is Chair of the Women in Architecture Committee of the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles Chapter and was responsible for co-organizing the Powerful conference held in Los Angeles in October 2016 and 2017. She is an annual guest critic at the University of California, Luskin School of Public Affairs. Pooja received her Bachelor in Architecture degree from Sushant School of Art and Architecture, Gurgaon, India and her Master of Architecture degree from SCI-Arc.  She is a registered architect in the State of California and a L.E.E.D. accredited professional in building design and construction. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children.

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PHOTO: Banner: La Moraleja Villa. XTEN. Detail of Photo by Miguel de Guzman