Adele Chang is passionate about designing houses for the way people really live. Her firm, Lim Chang Rohling & Associates in Pasadena, Calif., does just that for its residential projects, which encompass low-income housing to production work to luxury homes in a range of density and locations.
“I personally believe that designers should be able to design anything once they have the appropriate information about a project,” she says. “We thrive on this type of variety.”
What is not variable about Chang is her dedication to meeting the needs of her clients, which include many large production builders and developers such as The New Home Co., City Ventures, Intracorp, and Standard Pacific Homes. Her clients appreciate her ability to listen carefully to discern their needs, and then turn those conversations into award-winning creations.
“In addition to her beautiful designs, she’s always been an architect who really listens and thinks about who the potential buyers are,” says Larry Webb, CEO of the New Home Co., who also worked with Chang in his roles at A-M Homes and John Laing Homes. “She’s very good at putting herself in potential customers’ shoes. There is absolutely no ego there.”
Peter Lauener, regional president of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Intracorp Cos., says his buyers adore Chang’s stunning design and attention to details, especially on tight infill jobs that must blend in with existing buildings. “She designs projects that fit into the neighborhood—she is very strong on elevations,” he says.
While some architects might turn up their noses at designing for the masses, Chang relishes it. “I like working with companies who are building for the 99 percent, a group that is often left out by the architectural establishment,” she says. “I’m proud to be working with builders who are building for the middle class.”
She also relishes running her own architecture firm (along with partners Everardo Garcia and Mark Rohling), which she formed in part to test the industry’s glass ceiling. “Although I was treated very well at the other firms where I had worked, deep inside I wondered whether I had reached the limit to my career success.” Her talent and dedication helped her break through gender barriers and she is now seen as a role model for young female architects.
Focusing on Infill and Mixed Use
These days, Chang says she feels the market pulling her toward a greater focus on urban infill and mixed-use projects, and she looks forward to working more in this niche. “In an urban situation the type of architecture can be more forward-looking than backward-looking, and that’s exciting to me.”
For example, she is working with Lauener on the Row 3 townhome-style project approved under Los Angeles’ 2005 small lot ordinance. The 19 three-level detached dwellings in West Hollywood are located on a single 28,000-square-foot lot and feature a contemporary design aesthetic with open floor plans and large roof terraces. “It’s a way to get a level of density on an infill site that still lives really well and makes housing affordable in a livable way.”
As for the future, Chang’s clients says she will continue to be an invaluable partner, no matter what the style or type of project. She is up to the challenge: “Execution is everything, that’s why the builder/architect team is so important,” she says.
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