Over our more than two decades of experience, we have honed our expertise working with a wide range of constraints and creative challenges. Our values, forged by years of frequently invigorating, and occasionally humbling experiences, are simple. We are not ivory-tower designers. We are committed to the environmental integrity of our work. We strive to provide the highest level of service to our clients, and to imbue our projects with meaning and enduring quality.
Michael was born into an Air Force family in coastal Maine, and his extensive travels as a youngster included long stays in Okinawa, Japan. Early influences – aviation, aircraft, and exposure to non-Western cultures – would later subtly inform his work. Michael’s family eventually settled in Las Vegas, from whence he subsequently escaped to the saner confines of the USC School of Architecture on a Trustee Scholarship. Early in his career, Michael worked in the office of noted modernist Jerrold Lomax, before founding Kovac Architects in 1988; he soon earned a number of commissions for high end health clubs, commercial spaces, and detail-rich residences. Michael is passionate about design and innovation; not only in architecture, but also in industrial design and lighting. To this end, he is directing the office’s work on a line of lighting for mass production, as well as several pieces of furniture to be available in more limited release. Michael is, as they say, ‘outdoor-sy’, and experimented with just about every outdoor sport REI sells gear for before settling on mountain biking, stand-up paddle-boarding, and downhill skiing. He and wife Karina, a pediatrician, met while trail riding. She keeps his elbows bandaged, and her excellent vegetarian cuisine has moderated his penchant for hot dogs and In-N-Out Burger (or so he claims). They share a love of nature and sustainable living, and moved into Sycamore House, the firm’s first LEED Platinum project, in the Spring of 2010.
Daniel hails from idyllic, politically harmonious Caracas, Venezuela, and joined Kovac Architects after graduating from USC, where he earned a Master’s in Construction Management. Due to visa intricacies, Daniel’s first stint at the office was brief, and he returned to Venezuela in 2000. There he spent three years teaching at the Central University of Venezuela and running his own design/ build studio. Daniel rejoined the growing Kovac Architects team in 2003, where his drive, professionalism, and rock-climbing prowess have earned him the title of Senior Associate. With over 16 years of professional experience, Daniel has worked on a myriad of projects ranging from corporate logos to an unrealized Concert and Opera Hall for the Venezuelan National Archives Building. He also holds a B.Arch from the Simón Bolivar University. In his free time, Daniel loves doing art projects with his two children, Mateo and Kaia. If his accent confuses you and you find yourself asking whether he said yellow or Jello, the answer is probably Jello. Dark Cherry is his favorite.
Thomas Schneider is a California-licensed architect who has worked across projects of multiple scales including high-profile residential, commercial and adaptive re-use projects. Born and raised in Sao Paulo, and trained in Canada, Germany and Los Angeles, Thomas brings an international perspective to what he designs and builds. A particular passion is Brazilian modernism and urbanism. Prior to Kovac Design Studio, Thomas led the residential and adaptive reuse studios at another high profile Los Angeles architectural firm, where he oversaw design and management of modern structures which received wide recognition through publications and awards. Thomas has also devoted efforts at teaching and lecturing and has been actively involved in community and not-for-profit organizations. In his free time, of which there is little with two 7 years olds at home (seriously), he steals moments to go on hikes, marveling at what LA offers.
Shawn David Brown is a New York licensed architect, designer, educator and avid adventure traveler. He holds a B.Arch from Virginia Tech and an M.Arch from Cornell University where he stayed on to teach architectural design before moving back to New York in 2005. With over 16 years of diverse professional experience practicing and teaching architecture and design in New York and California, he brings a unique design perspective to the table. In addition to working with several leading architecture firms before joining Kovac, he also held the role of Design Director for NY Projects, where he collaborated with internationally renown architects and designers on several collections of design art and furniture. While his aesthetic predilections for craft, detail and beauty have always underpinned his work, he also believes that beautiful design is an extension and reflection of its user and therefore develops every new project with that in mind. Primarily focused on high end modern residential design, Shawn has been recognized both academically and professionally winning international design competitions and jury selections for his completed works. It’s not all work and no play however. When not designing, he may be exploring the world with a camera, a motorcycle and perhaps a fine bourbon, not while riding of course.
Cecilia grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, where she graduated from El Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM) with a degree in architecture. A licensed architect in Mexico, she partnered at a design/build firm and later headed her own residential practice before joining Kovac Architects. Growing up with a twin brother twice her size, Ceci’s quick wit and rigorous athletic regimen were developed by necessity at an early age. Known by friends and collaborators for her gentle and soft-spoken nature, Cecilia loves flamenco, fashion, kickboxing, and being the tallest woman in the office.
With a B.Arch from Iowa State University, Chris “The Trettin” first traded the cornfields of the Midwest for the Big Apple, where he practiced for several years before switching coasts. To say Chris is unflappable would be an understatement. He is respected by his colleagues for his almost superhuman tranquility, which is coupled with a laser-like focus on his work. Agile and efficient with a touch of class, if the devil is in the details; Chris is your savior. Chris’ interests include his mustache, Ducati, and iPhone, he also has a nostalgic appreciation of American muscle cars, and enjoys golf, cycling, and being outdoors.
Robert hails from the great Middle-west and joined Kovac Architects after earning his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from THE Ohio State University. He appreciates the finer things in life, especially rock n’ roll, college football, and comic books. The latter is a major influence in Robert’s work, informing both his design process and the architectural scenes he so beautifully renders. In the limited time he is not either watching or thinking about college football or building models in Sketchup, Robert enjoys soaking up the LA weather on long runs and drives with his wife Jess, and two dogs, a Maltese and Yorkie-Poo.
Michael, our office manager, has long indulged his interest in architecture by working in related fields. His enviable resume includes work as a location manager for the motion picture industry, a location photographer (in the course of which he was privileged to shoot many important residences in Palm Springs and Los Angeles), and as an office manager for an award-winning general contractor. A proud Boston expat and Syracuse University alumni, Michael remains an outspoken supporter of his eastern teams despite moving to the Left Coast. Some would say too outspoken . . .
Gabby is the office’s undiscovered competitive eating champ; born in New York, she spent time in Puerto Rico and mostly grew up in Arizona. She credits the geographical and cultural diversity of her formative years for her interest in urbanism and communal spaces, and her adventurous palette. She has a Bachelor’s in Architecture from the University of Arizona- during her tenure there she participated in the 2009 Solar Decathlon and studied somewhere called Orvieto (Italy?). A relatively recent transplant to the West Coast, Gabby enjoys the easy access the mountains (snowboarding), beaches (for “beaching”) and food trucks. Her challenges at work including managing Shawn and learning how to eat Honeycrisp apples quietly.
Kevin grew up minutes from the ski resorts of the Colorado Rockies, and is unsurprisingly an avid lifelong snowboarder. He eventually found time to get a four-year degree from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and later graduated at the top of his class with a Master’s in architecture from the University of Texas in Austin. His professional experience is diverse; he has worked on a pedestrian bridge in Austin, affordable housing in Santa Monica, and a school of music at UCLA. At some point, he worked for this Frank Gary character he says is famous and we guess designed a mall in Santa Monica back in the ‘80s. He is also an avid surfer, mountain biker, and guitarist, and says he enjoys woodworking although nobody we know has seen anything he has made.
Jaclyn was raised on idyllic Cape Cod, the oldest of three daughters in a DIY family, at an early age she was ingrained with an enthusiasm for architecture and design. While always a New Englander at heart, Los Angeles indulges her interests in SoCal modernism, vintage furniture finds and the beaches are a close second to those back home. Jaclyn earned her Bachelor’s at Smith College and her Masters of Architecture at the University of Washington in Seattle, with her thesis on LA River rehabilitation evolving into a lifelong pursuit.
Ioanna was raised in Lebanon alongside her four siblings. Being the eldest meant she had first dibs on reading her dad’s comic books, a great privilege! Born into a family of architects and having witnessed first hand what it does to a person, her parents thought she was crazy when she claimed the profession as her calling. She holds a D.E.S. from the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts, in Beirut; and for the past seven years, has put her multicultural heritage to use in enriching her work. When not taking notes of architectural details while exploring the city of angels; you can find her immersed in a book, looming over her oven crafting delicious baked goods, or playing with rescues at the local dog shelter.
Phillip Royster grew up in central Michigan juggling soccer balls and swinging golf clubs year round, even in the snow. At fourteen years old, he moved with his family to Shanghai where the buildings illuminated his curiosity for modern architecture and photography. After spending two formative years in China, he took an opportunity to study architecture at the University of Southern California on a full-tuition academic scholarship. Throughout his education, he dabbled in CNC milling foam composites, weaving fishing line through wood frames, and programming KUKA robots in order to physically realize his drawings and ideas. Since graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture from USC in spring of 2015, he is building towards an architecture license and is excited to be a part of the team at Kovac Design Studio.
Our projects are as unique as our clients. At the beginning of each project, we listen thoroughly to each client to understand their unique requirements. Believing that “a problem well-defined is half-way to being solved”, this allows us to develop a nuanced program, which we further refine with the client to ensure that the end product is perfectly in tune with their way of life.
Our work is guided by principles, rather than by a preoccupation with a particular form or formula. We explore each site’s characteristics to better understand how they can be optimized, taking advantage of topography, views, sun angles, and prevailing breezes. Constraints become virtues. Our work is crafted to be warm and inviting, to maximize the potential of each material, to have a richness of detail, and to heighten the user’s experience. As our work progresses, multiple iterations of each design are developed and reviewed with the client.
We believe it is essential to understand materials and construction options fully in order to assist our clients in deciding where their budgets are most wisely invested. No stone is left unturned when developing details and preparing documents; research, digital modeling and mock-ups are all a part of the process.
4. BIDDING AND PROCUREMENT
In addition to producing documents, we advise clients on their selection of a qualified builder, and carefully review and compare bids for accuracy. We understand the importance of comparing contractors and sub-contractors for their experience, the quality of their work, and their commitment to delivering projects on-time and on-budget. Beginning as early in the process as possible, we work closely with builders to ensure details are worked out in the most cost-effective fashion, and potential pitfalls are spotted. Finally, we draw on our experience to help locate the fabricators and suppliers necessary to achieve the aesthetic goals of the project.
Our design team remains actively engaged throughout construction. Though we endeavor to anticipate all situations in advance, our active involvement in the construction process allows us to proactively address unforeseen circumstances if they occur. We hold routine site meetings with the project team, and stay in close contact with both the on-site construction supervisor, our consultants, and the client. For geographically distant projects, site visits occur as often as schedule and budget will allow, and progress is monitored via webcam.
The only constant is change, and so our engagement after completion extends beyond merely responding to routine maintenance issues. We understand that our client’s needs are dynamic, and that their buildings and spaces need to evolve with them. While we strive to build adaptable, flexible structures, technology, family dynamics, and stylistic attitudes change. If the need arises, we look forward to the opportunity to be involved.