David Lawrence Gray, FAIA
1939 – 2022
The AIA Los Angeles remembers David Gray, FAIA, celebrated Architect, longtime AIA member, and for several years, one of the leaders of the AIA|LA Fellows Nominating & Mentoring Committee. We’d like to share this memorial message from David’s family, along with a remembrance from Steven Ehrlich, FAIA.
On December 19, 2022, the world lost a true iconoclast and artist, David Lawrence Gray, FAIA. David was born in Seattle, WA. where he attended school through his BA in Architecture at the UW. David proudly served 7 years in the USMC Reserves. He received his Master’s Degree in Architecture from UC Berkeley and commenced his 60+ year orbit as a diverse, prolific and inspired architect.
David began his career in Seattle as a ground up design-build firm. In the early 70’s he moved to Los Angeles, where he began his many decades long teaching career at USC. He opened his LA firm, still in business, vowing never to retire. His art was his passion.
David’s oeuvre spanned many disciplines of architecture and geography, having designed and built projects in WA, CA, ID, CO and OR. In 1993, he was honored with an esteemed Fellowship by the AIA. He designed projects in which thousands of people have lived, worked, played and prayed. His highest concentration of work encompasses the LA area, specifically DTLA (historical restoration) and Malibu (residential.) His firm is honored to be continuing his vision on multiple projects.
David is survived by his loving wife of 47 years Karen, daughter Berkeley (Scott,) siblings Miriam, Janet (Brad) and Larry (Lori,) grandchildren Elliott and Amelia, and Berkeley’s mother Midge. He is pre-deceased by his mothers Jewel and Arva, and his father Bernard.
David’s true gifts were in his vast reach amongst a myriad of people and his ability to connect with each of us uniquely. He is remembered with love, respect, and admiration by so many. Raise a glass of bourbon tonight. Semper Fi. Services held privately.
An Appreciation of David Gray, FAIA
by Steven Ehrlich, FAIA
David Lawrence Gray, who passed away on December 19 at the age of 83, was an important figure in Los Angeles architecture. David was a dear friend and mentor whom I revered as my “big brother.” Working out of his downtown firm, he was a generous boss and colleague, a long-time educator at USC. A confident, modest man, David was not a self-promoter although he connected deeply with people. He let his buildings perform for him: his design prowess with cast in place concrete was breathtaking, and his peers recognized him with multiple AIA Los Angeles and AIA California Design Awards over the course of his career. I admired his talent and valued his judgement enormously.
I first met David in the early eighties when he gave a talk at USC. He had recently arrived from his hometown of Seattle, already an accomplished architect and developer. We got to know each other better in Chicago in 1993, when we both became Fellows of the AIA; he served as a member and advisor on the AIA|LA Chapter’s FAIA nominating committee.
David committed himself with passion to renewing downtown LA, restoring and adaptively reusing several historic architectural treasures. He preserved the grandeur of the City’s past while creating more than 500 new units of housing with updated interiors, airy living spaces, and spectacular views of the City. He gave new life to tired gems including William Pereira’s Metropolitan Water District Building, now the Elysian, which in 2017 won an AIA|LA honor award. David was a forerunner of today’s trend of converting office buildings into housing.
One of David’s most stellar gifts to LA remains his 1988 rescue of Leland Bryant’s art deco Sunset Strip masterpiece, the Sunset Towers Building, which won AIA|LA and AIA CA awards. He bought the West Hollywood structure in a sorry state of decay, and navigated its resurrection through a difficult political, design and construction process. Transformed into a luxury hotel with every amenity, Sunset Towers became a hot spot for the glamorous Hollywood crowd to see and be seen. Without its majesty, Sunset Blvd. would be far less glorious.
I visited David and Karen at their Telluride retreat where we skied together. Here David paid tribute to history in his own home by honoring the built vernacular of local mines. He used local stone, Douglas fir, and corten steel in a multi-level, pitched-roof contemporary design that steps up the mountain hillside.
When freed of historical constraints, David unleashed pure poetry in concrete, steel and glass. He developed and designed dynamic office buildings in Santa Monica, and as the architect of the Marina del Rey Costco, enlivened the big box with muscular beams and canopies of steel painted yellow, his favorite color.
His residential legacy is centered in Malibu, where the beaches and hills on which he loved to bike are sprinkled with single family homes whose budgets allowed large-scale expression of his powerful vision. In the 90s he designed and built a Malibu beachfront house for himself and his wife of 47 years, Karen; his daughter Berkeley, her husband Scott and their children Elliott and Amelia visited often. Last year he and Karen moved into their last residential project in the Malibu Hills. Taut steel and glass in composition with earthy concrete captures exquisite light and views of the ocean. It is the work of a master architect. David designed the house with customized bedrooms for his grandchildren.