PHOTO: Detail of a Photo by: Mikey Tnasuttimonkol

She likes to fly. As in: in the air, when she has free time, with her daughter, and her husband and partner, Roland Wahlroos-Ritter. After all, he is a pilot. That’s what Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter, FAIA, Dean of Woodbury’s School of Architecture, told us in a recent “Q&A with Presidential Honorees.” Wahlroos-Ritter was responding to the Q&A as the 2018 Presidential Honorees “Educator of The Year,” an accolade which will be bestowed upon her in-person at the 2018 AIA|LA Design Awards Ceremony + Party.

The fact that Wahlroos-Ritter likes to fly wasn’t the only surprise we found in her interview. What wasn’t surprising—that her answers so fully expressed her bona fides as the 2018 Educator of the Year. The breadth of her academic and theoretical interests, for instance, and how she folds this knowledge into her realization of the practical. Or the fluidity with which she connects and communicates these ideas to students, plus her deep commitment to the latter. Finally, there was her generosity. It seems that, even at this moment, a celebration of decades of her work, she’s intent on championing others. To find out who the individuals she chose to celebrate are, as well as her thoughts about Los Angeles, read this interview with Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter, FAIA-Dean of the Woodbury School of Architecture; Director, WUHO.

AIA|LA: Favorite place to eat in Los Angeles?

Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter: My garden in the hills of Echo Park. My husband and partner, Roland Wahlroos-Ritter, is a brilliant, adventurous cook and a huge fan of the recipes of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Our deck has a view of downtown Los Angeles and, on a clear day, the cranes of San Pedro harbor. The backdrop to our ‘dining room’ includes some of my favorite LA buildings: the Bonaventure Hotel, Los Angeles City Hall, Pelli’s Citycorp Tower, DWP headquarters, a view that is fringed by the palm trees surrounding Dodger Stadium and our neighbor’s eucalyptus trees. Every evening as I see the setting sun reflected in the glass towers, I hear Reyner Banham’s voice echoing in my head: “that great moment of plastic, fluorescent spectacle, the sun going down in man-made splendor, that really is to all us lovers of Los Angeles the greatest exit line any city could ever have.”

AIA|LA: Dream Commission. What current site, project, or building in Los Angeles would you reconceive? Why and how?

IW-R: Hollywood Boulevard, ripe for a renaissance. A jumble of contradictory urban stimuli, it is, simultaneously, a walkable (!) tourist destination visited by over 10 million visitors a year as a guaranteed-to-disappoint symbol of glitz of our cultural and creative film industry; located in the Los Angeles Promise Zone, home to 165,000 residents, 35% of whom live in poverty; destination for a disproportionate number of homeless youth a majority of whom are LGBTQ; crossing the ‘biggest parking lot in the world,’ the Hollywood Freeway.

What a wonderful challenge it would be to work with members of this manifold community to develop low-income housing projects, as backdrops to a vivid and walkable low-rise commercial artery that stays true to its local creative roots and to L.A.’s promise of perpetual self-improvement.

(We invite you to celebrate Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter at the 2018 Design Awards Ceremony + Party. Here’s how.)

AIA|LA: Okay, a commission or project that you’ve done. Tell us a story about it that we don’t already know.

IW-R: I have worked on so many marvelous projects. My most inspiring ‘projects,’ though, are my students. Here are just a few of their inspiring stories:

Susie Huerta, a Dreamer, (BArch ’14) says that “without the AIA San Fernando Valley Scholarship that she received in 2013, she would not have been able to graduate.” Within four years of graduating, she fully paid off her student loans and is now working as a Project Engineer at KCS West. She is engaged to another Woodbury alum, Jesse Santiago (BArch ’15), newly-elected member of AIA SFV’s Board, and energetic chair of both the Emerging Professionals AND the Women in Architecture sub-committees.

Germane Barnes (MArch ’12), born in Chicago’s West Side, has helped revive the city of Opa-Locka, Florida “while battling gentrification head on.”

Since graduating, Maria Kobalyan (BFA ’16) has interned for couture fashion company Rodarte, worked as exhibition coordinator for Materials & Applications, started the jewelry company Vertexx with her twin sister Anna (BFA ’16), and is now designing film sets.

I am struck, daily, by the purposefulness of our students and alumni, by their integrity and curiosity, and by their desire to engage as architect-citizens pushing at the boundaries of our profession. They give me hope for the future.

AIA|LA: If you had four hours off and could spend it anywhere in Los Angeles, where would it be?

IW-R: My husband is a pilot. When we have free time, my husband, daughter, and I like to fly. Los Angeles is breathtaking, and nearly comprehensible as an urban pattern of human and geographical ecology, when you are 3000 feet in the air.

AIA|LA: Been to the Design Awards before? Tell us about a moment that stands out, whether it’s inspirational, behind-the-scenes, or lighthearted.

IW-R: Last year’s Design Awards was a highlight for me. I had the honor of announcing the ‘Next LA Awards’ with Milton Curry, Dean of USC School of Architecture. Not only did I get to congratulate in person so many talented architects, friends and colleagues – Alvin Huang, Julia Koerner, David Freeland, AIA, Patrick Tighe, FAIA, Warren Techentin, AIA, Tom Wiscombe, AIA, Georgina Huljich and Marcelo Spina, Scott Uriu, AIA, and Herwig Baumgartner, AIA – I had the privilege of sharing the stage with Milton, whom I had not seen since 2002 when we taught together at Cornell University. He hasn’t changed one bit in sixteen years. I simply don’t understand it.

PHOTO: Banner: WUHO exterior. Detail of image by Mikey Tnasuttimonkol | Row 1 (L): Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter (R) Bloom. Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter was a façade consultant with DoSu Architects. Photo: Brandon Shigeta