CO Presents 04: Lorcan O’Herlihy, FAIA on Amplified Urbanism

By Alison Martin

CO Architects was pleased to host Lorcan O’Herlihy, FAIA as part of the continuing Balcony Hour lecture series, CO Presents. O’Herlihy is the founder and principal of Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) and currently serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern California School of Architecture.

“Exceptional architecture elevates the built environment in dimensions that radiate far beyond normal parameters.” – Lorcan O’Herlihy, FAIA

We all choose the profession of architecture because we truly believe it can change lives. Regardless of how much we outwardly express this belief in our design style or project strategies, it is the fundamental reason we do what we do.  Lorcan  takes this belief seriously – so seriously that it is the root of his firm LOHA’s urban design approach, and the subject of his new book, titled Amplified UrbanismLOHA’s work is driven by “ruthless optimism, creative pragmatism, and a profound conviction that bold, enlightened design elevates the soul and enriches the community.”

Every designer is shaped by their mosaic of experiences, and O’Herlihy began exploring these principles during his time with I.M. Pei Partners, as well as through personal exploration of abstract art and sculpture. “Artists have a more joyous experience than we do as architects,” says O’Herlihy, who saw a particular optimism for change in our native city of Los Angeles.

For LOHA, engaging the “transitional” city, like the Los Angeles of today, manifests in three forms: strategic voids, activated edges, and bold materiality. All three principles work together to address how private space can overlap into the public sphere and create a “third space” for all. This spatial concept physically manifests the abstract ideas of engagement, inclusiveness, surprise, and a sense of wonder within the urban environment.

Although the bulk of O’Herlihy’s work has been tackling transitional spaces in Los Angeles, he also applies these principles to other cities, most recently with his work in Detroit. Although they may manifest themselves differently in other urban environments, these principles remain relevant in any city, and can be broadly applied as demonstrated by his SL11024 housing project in Westwood near UCLA and his proposed project for Brush Park in Detroit. He sees the urban condition in Detroit as an inversion of  Los Angeles. Vast areas of Detroit have been razed and provide the designer with a blank slate, while Los Angeles has a more established and dense context to tackle.

O’Herlihy’s urban perspectives resonate as a call for renewed joy in the practice of architecture. With the firm belief that we can have an impact in this city, our work, and the greater collective work of architecture, will benefit the broader community beyond anything we can imagine. This renewed joy will also increase the credibility of architects within the city as they strive to create a more equitable, accessible and empowered city for all.

Check out more of LOHA’s work on their website and follow @loharchitects on Instagram for more insight into their work, urban strategies, and architectural perspectives.

CO Presents is an in-house lecture series where invited guests join us during Balcony Hour to present their work and ideas in a casual format where thoughtful discussion can occur. Architects, artists, technologists, educators and innovators bring fresh, inspiring perspectives to the CO community.

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