Sonny Ward, AIA - President, California Architects Board & Owner/ Principal, June Street Architecture
Sonny Ward, AIA - President, California Architects Board & Owner/ Principal, June Street Architecture


Questions for Sonny Ward, AIAPresident, California Architects Board & Owner/ Principal, June Street Architecture & Member, Advisory Council On Historic Preservation

Personal Background and Core Values:

What initially drew you to the field of architecture, and how has your perspective on design evolved over your career?

My architectural curiosity was sparked by the grand structures I admired during my high school years, from imposing and historic athletic stadiums at South Eastern Conference (SEC) schools to Beaux Arts government buildings. Participating in an overnight design competition, led by Michael Rotundi at Mississippi State University in the early 1990s, where we were given a roll of Visqueen plastic and garden stakes, ignited my passion for architecture. Yet, through my studies at Woodbury and UCLA, and my travels as an adult, my attention shifted to the beauty found in the unassuming corners of life—the serendipitous order within chaos. This shift in perspective might not now always align perfectly with every client’s expectation, but it deeply influences our office culture and how we approach our projects. It’s this blend of grandeur and subtlety that has led me down some pretty interesting paths, including contributing to the work of Jeanine Centuori and the ACE Center at Woodbury University as a teacher and advisor, and early built work on temporary cardboard housing for a feminist retreat in Mississippi. These experiences, along with the blessings of a rewarding practice at June Street Architecture (JSA) and being invited to serve on the California Architects Board and the Federal Agency – Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, have been incredibly humbling. They’ve offered unique opportunities to weave my architectural values with a commitment to serving not only clients but the broader community.

Design Perspective:

Can you describe your design philosophy and how it balances creativity with functionality?

In architecture, as perhaps in life, starting from a place of humility opens a world of learning and growth. JSA thrives on this idea of blending the diverse ideas of our architects and designers with the visions of our clients to create functional, successful, and, hopefully, beautiful projects. I see my role as less about directing this creativity and more about nurturing it—aligning our collective voices with the needs of those we’re designing for. It’s a balancing act, ensuring that the spotlight rightly shines on our clients’ visions, and helping their dreams take form in the most respectful and impactful way.

California Architects Board:

What are your key priorities and goals as the President of the California Architects Board?

As the current President and Board Member of the California Architects Board, my focus remains on consumer protection while fostering an inclusive environment for the next generation of architects. We are proud of our work focusing on ways that the architects in California reflect more of the makeup of our diverse state population. Our advocacy extends beyond state lines, representing California’s unique voice on national stages such as the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), advocating for diversity and inclusion within our profession at every opportunity.

Historic Preservation:

– Given your passion for historic preservation, what do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities for historic preservation and adaptive reuse in the Los Angeles region?
– As a Board member of the ADVISORY COUNCIL ON HISTORIC PRESERVATION, can you share an example of specific initiatives you’re particularly proud of and why?

In the realm of historic preservation, Los Angeles stands as a beacon of how we can honor our past while forging ahead into the future. The city’s rich tapestry of historical sites not only tells the story of its diverse cultural heritage but also anchors our community in a shared identity. Successful preservation efforts have shown that it’s possible to maintain the integrity and character of these spaces, offering residents and visitors alike a tangible connection to the city’s history. This delicate balance between preservation and progress exemplifies the potential for historic sites to coexist with new developments, contributing to the city’s dynamic growth.

However, amidst these successes, we face significant challenges. I currently see the misuse of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Preservation by special interests in affluent neighborhoods emerging as a barrier. These standards, originally intended to guide thoughtful preservation, are sometimes employed to obstruct new housing developments meant to address state-mandated requirements. The situation underscores the need for an equitable approach that respects our heritage while accommodating necessary growth. By leveraging preservation standards as tools for inclusion rather than exclusion, we can find compatible ways to integrate new housing within historic zones, ensuring that the legacy of our past enriches the future of all Los Angeles residents. I’m proud to be having these difficult conversations both in our office and with local and national preservationists and policymakers.

June Street Architecture (JSA):

– As the founder and owner/principal of JSA, what are the most rewarding/challenging aspects of operating an architecture firm in Los Angeles?
– What specific recommendations do you have for how to improve the City of LA’s permitting and entitlement process?
– And do you have a preferred city or public agency that you think is helping architects deliver their projects to successful completion more effectively?

First, I want to acknowledge that our practice, June Street Architecture, located at 8700 Santa Monica Blvd in West Hollywood, CA, is situated on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Tongva (Gabrieliño) and Chumash peoples. We recognize the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge of the Indigenous peoples of this land. We honor with gratitude the land itself and the people who have stewarded it through the generations. This acknowledgment serves as a reminder of our ongoing commitment to learning about and respecting the history, culture, and rights of the Indigenous peoples.

Leading JSA with Corey Miller, I am most fulfilled by creating a supportive and inspiring workplace for our team. While we pride ourselves on our sensitivity to the past and our many years of preservation, restoration, reconstruction, and rehabilitation experience, we’re equally proud of the new ideas and modern architecture that are undoubtedly rooted in this knowledge but not always bound. Change and fresh starts, along with evolving ideas, are the most important aspects of what we provide to our clients and the community. Engaging with clients and communities, we navigate the evolving landscape of permitting and entitlements, embracing change while honoring our city’s character.

I admire Mayor Karen Bass and the various city agencies, as well as our state and other local government’s efforts toward equitable progress and development. Our practice emphasizes the importance of elevating underrepresented voices, ensuring development benefits all communities without exception. I’m optimistic the city will continue to have these important and sometimes difficult conversations.

Charles “Sonny” L. Ward III, AIAPresident, California Architects Board & Owner/ Principal, June Street Architecture & Member, Advisory Council On Historic Preservation

Sonny Ward is the President of the California Architects Board and the founder/principal of June Street Architecture. Most recently, he was appointed to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation by President Joe Biden. His work includes the preservation, rehabilitation, and restoration of many historic properties. Sonny holds a B.Arch. (Woodbury University), an M.Arch. (UCLA) and lives in Los Angeles with his husband, daughter and son.