A: Brancusi. I have his picture on my desk. Lou Kahn (of Philadelphia). The Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Artists like Claes Oldenburg, Ed Moses, Billy Al Bengston. One of the deepest influences has been Japan. When I was at USC in the late 1940s many of the professors had just come home from the Pacific war. They'd seen Kyoto and flipped. In the classical Japanese craft and aesthetic there is a willingness to work with the materials at hand, even if they're just bamboo and paper. And the episodic, unrigid way Japanese tradition organizes objects in space was a revelation to my young mind.
Q: How does this Japanese influence relate to your feelings about Los Angeles?
A: The supple and adaptive Oriental way of being fits the character of Southern California, which is chaotic, yet energetic, like a Mack truck rolling full speed down a freeway. You either let it crush you, or you jump aboard and hope to ride to glory.
Q: Are you always so full of bounce?
A: I wish. I tend to look for things to worry about, like my aging mother's health or the well-being of my young sons Alejo and Sammy. My boys are my passion and my recreation, I just delight in them. Every spare moment I get from working or flying to appointments on the East Coast, Japan or Europe I spend at home. Right now the boys are helping me design the interiors of a chain of small L.A. sandwich shops I've been commissioned to do. Alejo's dreamed up this great robot feature, and Sammy did drawings. My (wife) Berta is a rock for me, she jollies me along, endures my shtick, lifts me up when I'm down. She looks after the office finances, which would otherwise be a mess.