Impossibly tight budgets, outmoded planning codes, and an entrenched status quo are just a few of the obstacles that Koning Eizenberg Architecture (KEA) encounters daily, even as it continues to rack up design awards—more than 60, including the American Institute of Architects’ California Council 2009 Firm Award. While project types range across the board, the architects are best known for complex commissions that mend the social fabric of neighborhoods, such as affordable housing and community support services.
These artful, upbeat buildings belie the social and economic forces often stacked against them. Yet KEA’s relentless reinventions—of materials, forms, assemblies, and business partnerships—are paying off. “Ten years ago the question was how to get housing providers to see there’s value in what architects can do,” says co-founding principal Julie Eizenberg, AIA. “That’s well-proven at this point. Now the deal is how to get to the sweet spot of aligning design and budget. Some cities allow you to do it smarter than others, but it’s still tough to get the right values integrated with code.”
Whether it’s cross-breezes, colorful window graphics, or the inclusion of hands-on gardens that foster social trust, KEA’s buildings have the power to change everyday lives. The prospect clearly energizes Eizenberg. “Multifamily and mixed-use housing represents a stimulating set of ideas,” she says. “The people running these organizations all believe architecture is the key to social change. There is a lot afoot.”
What is the most gratifying aspect of residential practice?
We believe in building communities, and housing is key. The thrill comes from consistently reframing the investigation to discover new and better approaches on all levels—from economy and sensibility to sustainability and amenity.
What is your mission statement or firm goal?
We explore the potential of architecture to connect culture and community.
What is the most indispensable tool in your office?
What software does your firm use?
Revit, SketchUp, AutoCAD.
Who is your ideal client?
Someone who wants to think together.