Born in Wales, Pugh earned his civil engineering degree from the University of Leeds in England in 1975, then moved to California to pursue an architecture degree at UCLA. In the ensuing years, he developed the generalist approach he maintains today. “I'm a jack-of-all-trades,” he says. “I like the whole story.” Pugh + Scarpa's organization is intentionally loose so the principals and their staff can be involved in different aspects of different projects. But they do tend to gravitate toward roles that play to their strengths, and so Pugh often handles urban design, technical issues, and office management.
As one of Santa Monica's planning commissioners, the LEED-certified Pugh spends a lot of time thinking about the critical need for sustainable workforce housing in American cities. He, Scarpa, and Brooks champion regionally appropriate design solutions as an intrinsic part of the overall sustainable picture. “I see sustainability as being the saving grace of architecture because it has to be local,” Pugh says. “Otherwise it's not sustainable. It has to be particular to its location. Colorado Court would probably not work in Beverly Hills. If people are really serious about sustainability and get into it at a higher level, it will keep architecture fresh.” He takes green design seriously in his own life, too. He and his wife, Linda Jassim, a former filmmaker who is now a landscape architect, reside in a solar-paneled house in Santa Monica.hands-on
Brooks and Scarpa also live sustainably by design. Their ultra-green remodel of their own tiny bungalow in Venice, Calif., known as the Solar Umbrella house (in tribute to Rudolph's 1953 Umbrella House in Lido Shores, Fla.), won a 2006 AIA/COTE [Committee on the Environment] Top Ten Award. With typical Pugh + Scarpa aplomb, it combines a photovoltaic canopy and solar hot-water-heating system with innovative materials and striking good looks. It also serves as a laboratory for testing new ways of using familiar elements. OSB forms the flooring and some of the cabinetry in the kitchen/dining room, light filters through a glass wall filled with transparent plastic balls, and louvers made of industrial broom brushes create an appealingly fuzzy exterior detail. Pugh + Scarpa devotes substantial time and energy—and a full-time employee, Vanessa Hardy—to researching materials at its in-house workshop. Hardy, Scarpa, and project manager Chris Ghatak are currently developing building blocks made of crushed, recycled aluminum cans to use at Broadway Housing, an under-construction affordable project in Santa Monica.
When Brooks joined Pugh + Scarpa in 1999, she brought an understanding of real estate development gained from years of working in nonprofit housing. (She also put in time at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and HOK.) “I really wanted to be a planner, not an architect,” she says. For her master's thesis at SCI-Arc, she rewrote L.A.'s zoning codes to encourage higher density and mixed-use development. Those same ideas kept cropping up years later in her and Scarpa's conversations with several like-minded planners, transportation experts, and other land use professionals. The group decided to incorporate, and in 2000 Livable Places was born. With Brooks as its board president and Scarpa as a board member, the nonprofit group now has a staff of six and an office in downtown Los Angeles. It's developing one for-sale, mixed-income housing project designed by Pugh + Scarpa, one designed by Studio E Architects of San Diego, and another project by McCormick, Smith & Others, also of San Diego.
Though Brooks occasionally serves on juries or gives talks with Scarpa, she's more interested in behind-the-scenes work. “I'm into policy and getting things built,” she explains. Accordingly, she takes charge of construction management on most of the firm's projects. And since Colorado Court, which she shepherded through LEED accreditation, she's accelerated Pugh + Scarpa's commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency. Physicist John Ingersoll, Ph.D., now serves as the firm's Director of Environmental Sustainability and oversees both the implementation of green technology into projects and the energy studies Pugh + Scarpa does for other architects.
While Scarpa appreciates all the acclaim the company has won for its sustainable efforts, he worries about being pigeonholed. “First we were the commercial interiors people, then we were the housing people, now we're the sustainable people,” he says. He needn't worry: The firm's next claim to fame could be any number of exciting projects—restoring the long-gone canopy of the original Umbrella House using solar panels, which it just signed on for, or even its own development work, which it's investigating doing out of its small Charlotte, N.C., satellite office. Or it could be something altogether different. You never know what Pugh + Scarpa will conquer next.