Michael J. Smith, FAIA
AIA Los Angeles
Yazdani Studio of CannonDesign
Michael Smith developed, refined, and sustained a unique, independently branded design studio within a large architectural firm, that strategically combined attributes of both to advance the profession and create a new practice typology.
Fellows Feature Questions:
- Why did you apply for fellowship?
I initially, and mistakenly, thought that fellowship was a celebration of lifetime achievement in the profession. I discovered it was really about identifying an evolving accomplishment woven into the arc of my career that had a significant impact on our profession and society. Working with my sponsor and my mentor helped me look at my work with fresh eyes. It was daunting to reflect on what was unique in my contribution as an architect; it was both grueling and invigorating to articulate the story in forty pages.
- Where were you when you got the news you received it?
I was making a virtual presentation to a client, when an email popped up on my screen: “2022 AIA Fellowship Notification. Congratulations …” I couldn’t help but let out a little gasp in mid-sentence! My client probably thought I had swallowed something the wrong way.
- How did you celebrate?
I took a walk with my wife in the canyon above my home in the Hollywood Hills. My excitement must have produced lots of adrenalin, because it was not hard at all to get 10,000 steps that afternoon.
- What’s your one piece of advice for those applying, or thinking of applying?
Applying for fellowship is a process of self-discovery, a way to step back from the frenetic pace of your professional life and think deeply about what you’ve accomplished in your career. Amongst all you’ve done, what has contributed most to our profession and society? Try to capture that in words and pictures. Approach the application with the passion and confidence that you bring to your projects.
- What’s is your most favorite project you have worked on within your career?
Every project has a story; every client engagement has been a learning experience. But right now, my favorite project is the Resnick Sustainability Center at Caltech, which has just started construction. The building will enable cutting-edge research to save our planet. The building’s organic, undulating glass façade on a mass timber frame, symbolizes the Center’s mission: Sunlight to Everything.
- Who has inspired you most within your career?I’ve been privileged to study under and work for many brilliant architects: Michael Graves, FAIA, William Turnbull, FAIA, Kurt Meyer, FAIA, and Daniel Dworsky, FAIA are just a few. But my greatest inspiration is my partner at CannonDesign whom I work with every day – Mehrdad Yazdani. His design of hospitals, laboratories, courthouses, schools, and cultural centers have changed the way the users of our buildings work, learn, heal, and experience life.