AIACA, Fellow Friday|

Fellows Feature Questions:

  1. Why did you apply for fellowship? I was nominated by the Los Angeles AIA chapter for my documentary film work and outreach to the public for over a decade.  But I had to be convinced to apply.  I’d rarely—if ever, sought awards and honors.  I didn’t want to try because over the years, I’d faced so many obstacles from inside and outside the profession.  The obstructions were insidiously invisible, like flying full force into glass.  They felt self-inflicted because I was always an outlier attempting to fly.  Several design mentors pushed me to set an example for people like me.  To show that it was possible. To show that sometimes unconventional architects with under-represented voices might be heard.  And to show that sometimes it was possible for people like us to fly.
  2. Where were you when you got the news you received it?  In February 2021 during the worst of the pandemic, I was at home like most of the world.  As an extrovert, it’s been difficult for me to live in isolation. I’ve struggled to adapt to this “new normal” by using my time alone to co-write a book about the powerful influence of architectural excellence in cultural diplomacy at World’s Fairs. (More on that below.)  After writing all night, I had just woken up in bed.  (See attached, late nights in bed working on a film.)  I was checking my emails to see if there was anything urgent or needing attention.  I called my co-author first.  She was one of the design mentors pushing me for years.
  3. How did you celebrate? I called, texted, and emailed my family and friends. This took a few hours.  One of my FAIA design mentors and friend I teach with, surprised me by sending me flowers (see attached).  It was the day before the 2021 Lunar New Year of the Ox, so I’d been getting ready to celebrate this annual holiday—usually with family and friends.  I’d just finished filming a video message (see attached in full make-up and hair) for the LA Chinese Chamber of Commerce’s online virtual celebration.  All dressed up with nowhere to go!  Virtual still sucks, but it’s better than nothing.
  4. What’s your one piece of advice for those applying, or thinking of applying?
    This was what I posted on social media:I am honored to be elevated this year as a 2021 Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

    This is a story about guts not glory.
    Awards and honors are all about failure.

    They are testaments of dogged determination.

    Failing and trying again.

    Failing and trying again.

    Failing and trying again.

    They cost in sacrifice.

    When you don’t have the resources (time, money, energy), you must magically conjure them up.

    They are about community.

    When you fail a lot and drive those who care about you nuts because your ego takes a beating, you must graciously them.

    They are bigger than you.

    When curled up with the covers over your head, you realize it’s not about you.

    You keep trying because others tried for you.


  1. What’s next for you?
    National impact of the film I created “FACE OF A NATION:  What Happened to the World’s Fair?” has affected my research and work plans.  The pandemic postponed national screenings.  (Over 30+ IRL screenings before COVID.) But we are planning more educational screenings and negotiating public broadcasting contracts.  Elevation into the College of Fellows for achievements in documentary film, public scholarship, and interdisciplinary teaching has affected my plans as well.I am continuing my role as an architecture advisor to the State Department Expo Unit on U.S. participation at World Expositions.  (Our film is listed on the State Department website: They have invited me to participate as a panelist for the upcoming Dubai World Expo.  I just started the 2nd year of research/writing for a book I am co-authoring on the powerful influence of design excellence in U.S. pavilions overseas.   We hope it will serve as a resource for decision-makers to help them understand the complexity and critical impact of architectural excellence.  The book will examine the continued importance of IRL World Expos towards people-to-people engagement, specifically aspects in public diplomacy within the context of 21st-century media and new communications technologies.

    The pandemic also delayed production on several projects in the film industry.  It delayed my film plans as well.  I would like to continue exploring filmmaking in architecture as an approach or tool to capture spatial and cultural identity issues and other unseen forces in the built environment.



AIA California
AIA California
Celebrating over 75 years of service, the AIA California actively promotes the value of design and advocates for the architectural profession. AIA CA is an association of 11,000 dedicated and passionate members who share a commitment to design excellence and livability in California’s natural and built environments.

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