Whether by design or circumstance--and quite aside from its rapid growth in the past decade--the most striking aspect of the Nadel Partnership architectural firm is its global mix.
Name a country and the Santa Monica-based firm is bound to have a native of that nation within its own expanding ranks. It boasts having one of the largest staffs of foreign-born architects, representing 18 countries.
Herbert Nadel speaks in glowing terms about his staff, a total of 180 persons (with an average age of 35), including natives of Romania, Argentina, Egypt, Belgium, Hungary, the Soviet Union and Lebanon.
"We are a veritable United Nations," said Nadel, the 47-year-old chairman and chief executive officer, who is equally proud that his firm has provided "from the very beginning, a hospitable and opportunistic setting for dozens of talented foreigners.
"It reinforces my conviction that Los Angeles is not only a world-class metropolis, but a great and enriching melting pot capable of generating a large-scale labor pool in architecture from a diverse ethnic composition of people who seek to work and live here," he added.
Sharing responsibility as partners are Vorapat Chuthakieo of Thailand, Behrouze Ehdaie of Iran, Dirck Kim and Taehee Lee of Korea, Abraham Shapiro of Israel, Sonny Umali of the Philippines, Pedro Birba of Cuba, along with American-born Bernie Altman, Dale Yonkin, Mike Salter, Jerry Kramer, Randolph Jones, Morley Simon, Rick Grandy and John Elizalde.
Associates include Joe Fontanilla of the Philippines, Robert Jacques of Mexico, Alex Lee and Chai Vachirakornvatana of Thailand, Aki Sato of Japan, Tony Tang of Taiwan and Albert Croft of France, in addition to other key personnel, including William Rockhold, Neville Evins and Gail Schwartz, also an associate, who brings these talents into play as the company's director of business development.
"Our foreign-born architects contribute to different dynamics in the way the firm thinks," Nadel said.
"For instance, Middle Easterners are basically business-oriented, and this is the kind of plus input we get from people like Behrouze Ehdaie of Iran, who will be heading the firm's Orange County division, opening in December.
"Taehee Lee, a graduate of Yansei University in Korea and of UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning, brings another dimension--a refined, aristocratic exposure--while Vorapat Chuthakieo of Thailand is no ordinary human being.
"A black-belt karate athlete, he tackles each project challenge with total concentration and perfectionism."
Monika Moses from Israel, a senior designer on residential projects, contributes a special sense for solving problems in functional and cost-efficient ways, having always lived in apartment communities and understanding their needs.
Varied Personal Profiles
"Our office is full of unsung heroes," Nadel said. "Virgil Griffin, a black associate, is a lead architect who orchestrates the complexities of our major shopping center assignments. Another minority member is Chai Vachirakornvatana, whose alertness and skills are largely responsible for a 'no errors, no omissions' achievement in our recently built 24-story Wilshire Landmark project."
Personnel profiles are varied and include Fernand Banna of Tehran, project manager of major office buildings, Jorge Sciupac of Argentina, project manager of the hotel division, and Elizabeth Rozsnyai-Varo of Hungary, specializing in residential projects.
Nadel, a native of Los Angeles, grew up among ethnic minorities and was graduated from Venice High School. Raising a family at 23, he prepared for his profession by attending USC School of Architecture's night school and working at various times for Maxwell Starkman, Daniel Dworsky and Leroy Miller, whom he considers his mentors.
Nadel believes that the presence of such institutions as the USC and UCLA schools of architecture, Cal Poly Pomona, the Southern California School of Architecture, Los Angeles Trade and Technical School, Pierce College--also now teaching drafting--and Woodbury University, provide valuable incentive and learning opportunities in architecture and related fields.
Gets Personally Involved
"All have reinforced Los Angeles' employment base and encouraged cross-breeding of diverse talents. We are frequently mix-matching our own architects on different projects because we feel it is so enriching when they can complement one another," he said.
Nadel prefers being close to the drafting board. "I am turned on by front-end design, which means I get involved in every project in the shaping stages and also in overviewing and approving the end result," Nadel said.
Currently, the Nadel Partnership (formerly Herbert Nadel & Partners) has 18 hotel projects, shopping centers, residential, interiors and research-and-development and industrial assignments.
Among the more recent projects, the Wilshire Landmark stands out as the firm's "best project in every respect," Nadel said.
'Sense of Timelessness'