Sarah Ann Dennison, FAIA, 1948-2018

Sarah Ann Dennison, FAIA, a Los Angeles architect who turned her lifelong love of science into a career providing university buildings for the study of science, has died. She was 70.

Her death peacefully at home in hospice was the result of a rare form of cancer. Her husband and life-long partner Gregory Baker and her son Paul Baker were with her.

She was an architect, a biologist, a photographer and a feminist. Each of these elements informed the others- her architecture was about science, her photography was about nature, and her feminism allowed her to compete in what had been a male-dominated profession.


A native of New Jersey, she graduated from Wells College in 1970 with a degree in biology, and after moving to California with Greg in 1972, worked in an immunology lab at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. A growing interest in design led her to seek a profession which could combine art and science, and in 1976 she and Greg were both accepted into USC School of Architecture, graduating in 1980 with a Bachelor of Architecture degree. They moved to Venice in 1986 and remained there happily.

In 1987 she joined a newly formed firm, Anshen+Allen Los Angeles, which specialized in the design of healthcare and lab buildings. She later became a founding partner of the firm CO Architects until her retirement in 2008.

Sarah was a lifelong student. She was the valedictorian of her high school graduating class, received the AIA/LA Academic Medal awarded to the student graduating first in her class at USC Architecture, and in her retirement worked with the Venice Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC). Her readings later in life focused on issues of global warming and the environment.

In 2010 she was awarded a Fellowship in the American Institute of Architects. The summary statement of the award said “Sarah Dennison’s immersive involvement in shaping architecture with clients leads to the creations of engaging and transformative environments that celebrate scientific discovery. Her buildings stimulate hands-on learning and foster delight in the wonder of science”. Sarah also co-chaired  the AIA Los Angeles Fellows Nominating and Mentoring Committee and was instrumental in helping many distinguished candidates achieve Fellowship. She participated in AIA|LA’s popular  Demystifying Fellowship panel in 2012, which can be viewed on YouTube.

Sarah leaves her husband Gregory; her son Paul Baker and daughter-in-law Amanda (Mandi) of San Francisco, who are expecting their first child, a boy, in March; her brother James Dennison of New Jersey, his spouse Carol, and daughters Oona and Mei; and her cousin Karen Kutzin of Van Nuys. She was preceded in death by her parents James and Margaret Dennison.

We would like to acknowledge the extraordinary care provided over the past 20 years by Dr. Stephen Forman of City of Hope, and additionally in the last 3 years by Dr. Sumanta Pal and the staff of City of Hope.

A celebration of her life will be held at USC’s Harris Hall at 2:00 pm on Saturday, January 19, 2019.

Los Angeles Valley College Allied Health and Sciences Center
PHOTO: Robert Canfield Photography
PHOTO: Banner: Detail of Photo by Mark Robert Halper