Architect Barbara Bestor on crafting a firm identity

Architecture Facades+ News West
Bestor Architecture's Blackbirds, Los Angeles. (Iwan Baan)

Bestor Architecture’s Blackbirds, Los Angeles. (Iwan Baan)

Barbara Bestor, a SCI-Arc graduate and founder of Bestor Architecture, has spent decades immersed in Los Angeles‘ design culture—and it shows.

Her firm’s work, which ranges from installations (Bestor co-curated Deborah Sussman Loves LA! at Woodbury University‘s WUHO Gallery) to corporate headquarters, retail and restaurants, and historic adaptations, celebrates the city’s bold character while bridging the oft-overlooked gap between the bungalow vernacular and Hollywood huge. Bestor will speak to her experience as an urban mediator—between interior and exterior, low- and high-design, small and large—at next month’s Facades+ LA conference.

Barbara Bestor. (Laure Joliet)

Barbara Bestor. (Laure Joliet)

Bestor Architecture has wrestled with the question of scale on an operational level, too, as it recently began to tackle bigger commissions. One of the challenges that comes with growth is establishing a brand identity, explained Bestor, acknowledging the status of “architecture as a consumer project.” “It’s different from trying to be the slickest, most global” firm. Rather, Bestor Architecture’s strengths lie in its characteristic approaches to design problems. One common technique—based on the firms origins “doing high design on a shoestring,” said Bestor—is to “create atmospheric environments using two-dimensional themes,” including graphics and materials, rather than focusing solely on formal expression. When it comes to development work, meanwhile, “there it’s more form,” she said. “We’re trying to create new forms that aren’t necessarily the developer’s envelope, without screwing up their lines. The stuff we’ve done, the developer has to take a little leap of faith—but we wind up with much higher returns.”

Take, for example, the firm’s 2015 Blackbirds, a group of 18 homes in the Echo Park neighborhood. The project answers the call for dense, high-quality housing that retains a connection to nature. Inspired by the disposition of early-20th-century Craftsman cabins, the community collects groups of houses into larger volumes, avoiding the repetitive strain associated with so many suburban tracts. Wrapped in sleek paneled exteriors that nod to board and batten construction, the homes retain a sense of Los Angeles’ historic residential fabric without losing sight of contemporary spatial and environmental needs.

Hear more from Bestor and meet other movers and shakers in the facades world, including Emilie Hagan, associate director at Atelier Ten, and Woodbury University associate professor and dean Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter, at January’s Facades+ LA conference. Learn more and register for symposium and workshop events today at the conference website.

Bestor Architecture's Beats By Dre Headquarters, Culver City. (Jasper Sanidad)

Bestor Architecture’s Beats By Dre Headquarters, Culver City. (Jasper Sanidad)

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