Downtown Los Angeles: A KPFF Structural Engineer's Perspective

I remember making the one-hour commute during the middle of the day to Fig at 7th for a structural observation in 2012. (Now it would be a two-block walk) I took the opportunity of being Downtown to see what it had turned into. I witnessed energy in the city that I was unfamiliar with. It’s a buzz of people moving, talking, dealing, thinking, creating all while headed to coffee, lunch, or a meeting. It is a well-oiled machine of professionals with an energy that is contagious. I couldn’t help but be excited for what Los Angeles is and the opportunity it has. When it came up as an option for our office move, I was all in; I wanted us to be that buzz.

I’ve had the opportunity to spend the last six months scoping out the place, and I can honestly say the buzz still gets me every day. I take the Metrolink in for an hour to Union Station. Every day a full train of professionals come off the train, some in suits, some in scrubs, some in construction shirts and hard hats. I am surrounded by people energized for the day. We get off the train and head to our next mode of transportation, for me it’s the Metro Redline. I scan my Metrolink app QR code to let me through the turnstile and we are off. At the 7th Street Metro station, our stop, a significant portion of the train exits, as this is a central transfer hub and location to offices. I head through THE BLOC tunnel to avoid the crosswalk and pick up the Starbucks coffee I ordered on my app two stops ago, and then off to the 21st floor. Every day it feels like I’m in a movie; I even feel the need to dress the part. 

Being up on the 21st floor makes for great views and better opportunity. KPFF Civil is one of our friendliest clients. I mean, they have let a lonely structural engineer crash their floor for 6 months. I didn’t mistype that, KPFF Civil is our client. They provide us with work and opportunity. I get approached at least weekly if not daily about a project. Some of them have been large projects and some smaller, but I’m getting the work because I’m ten steps away. It’s a true sign that location matters. The work Civil is approaching me on would have come to our office one way or another, but it’s coming to me because I’m close. Let’s now broaden our vision, what do you think our architectural clients in Downtown Los Angeles are doing? Are they more likely to call the engineer one hour away to get their feedback on a perspective job or the engineer two blocks away? Hopefully, they are calling us either way, but they will be more likely to call us when we are the engineer two blocks away. It’s the nature of relationships.

Here’s another example of where we can better our practice and create opportunity. Leo A Daly was the architect-of-record for Universal Project 831 I was working on last year. They are located 3 blocks from our new office. We had bi-weekly coordination meetings during the design phase of the project. Several times we would pull up the Revit model and work through some issues. Now, I’m no expert at Revit. The whole time we were meeting I kept thinking “I wish Simon was here right now to walk through this,” and now he can be!

Since I’ve been here, I was asked to propose on jobs with DLR Group because I took the elevator up to the 21st floor with an architect. I’ve run into clients while grabbing lunch and I’ve had the opportunity to attend marketing events and SEAOC meetings without the commute to worry about. I can hear the buzz getting louder as the KPFF Structural Office move is approaching. I can imagine needing ear plugs as we all get here and shake up Downtown LA.  Welcome to the land of opportunity!

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