"The True Bucket List Moment"--Dafna Kaplan, Hon. AIALA, Answers the Honoree Q&A

During the twenty-plus years that we’ve known Dafna Kaplan she has used her intelligence, drive, expertise, and strategic acumen to be a force on behalf of firms and companies in the A/E/C industries. Being Dafna, she has also consistently turned these skills and talents to the betterment of the Chapter, and long range thinking for how the AIALA can support its members. Today, as the founding CEO of her own company, CASSETTE, she has turned her focus to one of three existential crises facing our city: the housing crisis. CASSETTE manufactures modular housing. That’s where her Presidential Honoree Q&A starts: her foundational beliefs about housing, and who should receive it.

1. What’s on your bucket list design-wise. What’s that dream project.
I guess the true bucket list moment for me is when we see housing AND architecture delivered to every Angeleno as a human right, obstacles overcome. So, every project with that aspiration is a dream project for me, and I’m blessed to wake up every morning and work with others who are rowing in the same direction.

From a design standpoint, my bucket list moment will be when we’ve achieved a true collaboration between industrial design, architecture, and material innovation. There are a few significant hurdles in the path toward that ultimate future, but I believe in 10-20 years, it will become the norm.


2. Out of your projects, can you select one which you believe has most contributed to the city, how, and… why did you do it?
We are modularizing a 10-acre development near downtown to hold 1400-1600 units of housing for middle- and low-income families. The project combines this much-needed housing with a vibrant mix of uses that connect it to the local community of South Park.

How are we doing it? We’re able to deliver great design at these price points by committing to best practices in industrialized construction, with a great client that is committed to process excellence.

[Celebrate Dafna Kaplan, Hon. AIALA with us at the 2020 AIALA Design Awards, October 29, 2020. To purchase tickets for this zoom event, click here.]

3. What’s the best thing a client or community member can say to you?
“I am willing to change the way that I do things to improve the result.” Since modular success comes down to process, not any one technology – clients only achieve its potential if they are willing to consider a different process. This can be uncomfortable and takes a bit of a leap of faith. But such openness is music to our ears, because we know that it will result in an amazing project for everyone involved.

4. What’s your favorite public place to safely distance in LA right now?
Will Rogers State Park – the hiking trails are wide, and early in the morning you forget that anything is out of the ordinary. When the polo field is open, you can bring a soccer ball or frisbee and pass the time with family, while looking across the field at other families doing the same. There is something reassuring about seeing other people enjoying themselves, even at a distance. Nature and its many creatures give me the jolt of perspective I need, away from my Zoom calls and other digital screens.

5. What’s the best depiction of LA architecture in a movie, Netflix project, video or book and why (if you’re so inclined.)
It’s supposed to be in DC, but the Minority Report was mostly filmed across Los Angeles. I love the movie’s still-revolutionary depiction of transportation design. Los Angeles architecture is nothing if it’s not about possibility, and this movie captures possibility in spades. The transportation concept was also designed by my dear friend, the epically talented Harald Belker.

Images: Product images Cassette’s steel modular construction system


Read the press release announcing the 2020 AIALA Presidential Honoree Recipients.