At the heart of the AIA|LA’s Presidential Honoree awards, designated by the AIA|LA’s Board of Directors, is the honoring a body of work. Projects or contributions that have changed Los Angeles over time. So, it makes sense that those earning honors, or in the case of a company, part of the management team, have an almost encyclopedic sense of our city.

Case in point—Stephen (Steve) E. Smith who began his career at Hathaway Dinwiddie as first period apprentice carpenter on the Getty Villa in Malibu in 1971. Today, Smith is Executive Vice President/General Manager of the company which will be celebrated with the Design Advocate, Builder award at the 2018 AIA|LA Design Awards.

Smith’s tenure with the noted builders incorporates a fascinating perspective of Los Angeles which he shared with us in this Presidential Honoree Q&A.

AIA|LA: Favorite place to eat in Los Angeles.
Steve Smith: The Pantry – 2 eggs over easy, sour dough toast, salsa, and black coffee.

(Celebrate Hathaway Dinwiddie and Steve Smith at the 2018 Design Awards Ceremony + Party. Here’s how.)

Dream Commission: What current site, project or building in Los Angeles would you reconceive? Why and how?
The John Ferraro building, located at 111 N Hope St., aka Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Building (LADWP), could be reconceived. When the building was completed in 1965 it stood as a testament to the utilities provided by LADWP, lights being left on during all hours with water and fountains surrounding the base of the building, and in 1965 that seemed appropriate but in 2018, being more environmentally sensitive by replacing the fountains with a drought tolerant landscape and turning off the lights when the building is not occupied would make some sense in the current environment we live in.

Okay, a commission or project that you’ve done. Tell us a story about it that we don’t already know.
The project is the California Plaza 2A, a 52-story commercial office building on Bunker Hill, completed in 1993. On a Sunday morning in the summer of 1991, I am reading the Sunday LA Times and I see a picture of a dumpster filled with what appears to be construction documents. I read the article and come to find out that the architect we have been working with for over a year, Arthur Erickson, decided he had enough, and he closed his practice in California and relocated to Canada. The drawings in the dumpster were indeed construction documents. They were our shop drawings and submittals that we were asking to have returned. So, we did some dumpster diving to retrieve our documents. AC Martin picked up the ball and we were able to complete the project on schedule.

If you had four hours off and could spend it anywhere in Los Angeles, where would it be?
I would spend four hours at the Getty Villa in Malibu. I worked on the project back in 1971 as a first period apprentice carpenter working for Dinwiddie Construction at the time and I am enthralled with the architecture and recreation of the villa de Papyri in Herculaneum that the Getty Villa is striving to recreate.