SPOTLIGHT: A LOOK AT THE MAN BEHIND DANIELIAN ASSOCIATES, A VERITABLE TITAN IN ORANGE COUNTY’S ARCHITECTURAL SCENE
Architect Art Danielian’s vision made a mark on Orange County
By Alyssa Swanson Hamilton, Coast Magazine
You might not know Art Danielian’s name off the top of your head, but you know his work.
The founder of Danielian Associates is a veritable titan in Orange County’s architectural scene. Over the past five decades, he has amassed more than 640 awards and completed 5,272 projects around the world. His Irvine-based firm has designed custom homes, residential communities and dynamic large-scale creations throughout OC and worldwide.
The first architect to be inducted into the California Building Industry Hall of Fame, Danielian recently was nominated Person of the Year by the Council on Shaping Advancements in Generational Environments (SAGE) for 50 years of service to the community.
What’s behind such an august career? We sat down with the man himself to find out:
WHAT IGNITED YOUR PASSION FOR ARCHITECTURE?
I grew up in Pasadena, and my uncle worked as an architect nearby. He gave me a job sweeping floors. I came to realize architecture was a fascinating process, witnessing two-dimensional drawings transform into three-dimensional buildings. I took an architecture class at Pasadena City College, and our first assignment was a home-design competition, which I won. That sealed the deal for me on my career path. I later graduated with a degree in architecture from USC and worked for Ed Fickett, FAIA, one of the nation’s pioneers in master-planned residential communities. I started Danielian Associates in 1968.
HOW HAS YOUR FIRM PLAYED A ROLE IN SHAPING THE OC LANDSCAPE THESE PAST FIVE DECADES?
I truly feel that innovation in housing starts in Orange County. While no one individual OC firm can take credit, I believe Danielian Associates played a part in the collective advancements over the past 50 years. Architectural design is an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary occurrence. Our innovations throughout the decades with wide and shallow lots, “combo/condo” projects (a mix of townhomes and flats in one configuration) – and, more recently, designs that allow for higher density housing while maintaining livability, homeowner privacy, and usable outdoor space – have provided OC residents with higher-quality design options and created affordable housing choices in an area known for its very high land costs.
NAME A PROJECT IN ORANGE COUNTY YOU ARE PARTICULARLY PROUD OF.
One of my favorite projects of all time was The Terraces in Corona del Mar. The site was very challenging. We used the natural steep grade to build direct-access stacked duplexes, ultimately creating a dynamic senior housing project.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR HABITAT FOR HUMANITY HOME DESIGN IN FULLERTON?
Sustainability has always been at the core of our architecture and design philosophy. The Habitat for Humanity home in Fullerton was a partnership with Peninsula Publishing, Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, our firm and several others. The city of Fullerton required that the design honor the mid-century Eichler-style architecture woven throughout its downtown. The resulting two-story home was unique in that it
was a net-zero energy home (meaning it produces more energy than it consumes). It won national awards for its green design. The keys were eventually turned over to a former U.S. military veteran and his family – that was the best part.
DESCRIBE YOUR RECENT INVOLVEMENT IN THE MARCH VETERANS VILLAGE PROJECT IN RIVERSIDE, WHICH SUPPORTS VETERANS AS THEY REINTEGRATE INTO CIVILIAN LIFE.
To be able to provide housing and supportive services to those who served our country is truly a special honor. We are very proud of our work with the United States Veterans Initiative, and residents are already taking advantage of the resources now available to them.
ANY INSIGHTS ON CURRENT HOUSING TRENDS IN OC?
With high land costs in Orange County and a huge appetite for entry-level and attainable housing, we need to get creative to achieve density levels with home prices that young professionals and growing families can manage. If we continue to ignore this population, there won’t be any new housing in Orange County that our children will be able to afford.
YOU ONCE COMPARED YOUR WORK TO “GETTING TO GO TO A CANDY FACTORY EVERY DAY.” DO YOU STILL FEEL THAT ANTICIPATION AND EXCITEMENT?
Yes. To see a project go from a napkin sketch to a finished home where people live and thrive – that is a very rewarding process. An architect is always learning and honing his craft