Manny Gonzalez is the managing principal for KTGY’s Los Angeles office. He is responsible for the design, land planning and production of residential and mixed-use developments throughout the U.S., including active adult and affordable multi-family communities.
In 2016 Mr. Gonzalez was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects. Election to Fellowship recognizes not only his achievements as an individual architect but also his significant contributions to architecture and society on a national level. Mr. Gonzalez was also recognized in 2015 by Builder magazine for his legacy of delivering remarkable residential design with his induction into the prestigious Wm. S. Marvin Hall of Fame for Design Excellence.
During his more than 25 years of practice in residential development, Mr. Gonzalez has won numerous awards for his innovative designs including Gold Nugget, Best in American Living, NAHB Best of 55+
Housing and Pillars of Industry. Mr. Gonzalez also and received the LEED for Homes Multifamily Project of the Year Award for the Platinum certified community Primera Terra in Playa Vista, CA. Another LEED Platinum community designed by Mr. Gonzalez, Skylar at Playa Vista, recently won eight awards at the International Builders’ Show including a Special Innovation Award for its unique vertical triplex design. This is Mr. Gonzalez’s third Innovation Award. Mr. Gonzalez has been featured
n Builder & Developer’s list of “Who’s Who in Home Building” for many years and Green Home Builder magazine awarded him 2012 “Architect of the Year” for his forward-thinking NetZero ABC Green Home design and his outstanding contributions to the home building industry. He was also recognized as NAHB’s inaugural “55+ Associate of the Year” at The 2016 International Builders’ Show.
Mr. Gonzalez has written and contributed to scores of articles on residential design and is the Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) chair for 55+ Housing online magazine and an EAB member for 50+ Builder
magazine. Mr. Gonzalez has presented his observations and case studies to audiences at local, regional and national conferences as well as the 1st International Housing Conference of the Americas in Mexico
City and was recently invited to speak at the International Symposium of Design of Senior Living in Qingdao, China. An eighth generation native of Los Angeles, Mr. Gonzalez loves to ski, golf and fly-fish when not working on new designs
For our guests today, please welcome Manny Gonzalez, FAIA architect and managing principal of K T G Y in Los Angeles, California. During his more than 25 years of practice in design, land planning and production of residential and mixed use developments throughout the United States, including active adult and affordable multi-family communities. Manny’s of course won numerous awards for his innovative designs and a God we can go on forever, but hold those awards. And we’ll talk about that in just a second. You can find more of them, but Manny and KTGY, the web@KTGY.com, Manny really honored and excited to have you on the Modern Built Environment.
Thomas. Nice to be here. Nice to talk to you again. It’s kind of funny that thanks for the introduction, but I think you can add another 10 years out of that experience now.
Tom (1m 49s):
That’s a beautiful.
It is. It’s been a wonderful career and I’ve really enjoyed it. And I’ve, as you said, I’ve won a lot of design awards and really been appreciative of the team. That’s worked with me to help me get there because I don’t do it on my own. It’s usually the people that work with me to make me a success, make me look good. But I think now at this point in my career, my whole goal is just to make sure that I personally help our clients put out the best housing, the best homes, the best apartments, whatever it happens to be and create great living experiences for their residents going forward. So that what we do is as good as we can do and try to help elevate our business and our industry to make it even better.
It keeps improving every year, but if I can keep pushing it forward, that’s my goal from my last, whatever it is, half dozen years in this industry,
Tom (2m 42s):
I’d like to keep pushing it forward. Can you share a little bit about what that means to you and why it even matters to, for you to just keep improving?
Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting. I’ve been talking about universal design for a long time and it’s finally taking hold, but it’s about having homes be easier for people to live in or even apartment building. And now people are starting to get it where you make lifestyle easy. And my favorite example is putting a light switch with a plug. There’s usually a light switch on the wall, somewhere in the hall or into the beginning of a bedroom, the opening of a bedroom. But if you put a plug in there, cause you can have a di a duplex outlet that has a switch and a plug. So the switch works for the light, but the plug is where you plug your vacuum in. So you don’t have to bend over every time to pull out or push in that plug.
And most people will just rip the thing out of the wall anyway, but it makes it a little bit easier. It’s just a little bit of a detail, but it’s smart thinking. So the homework’s better. And then the industry as a whole started coming up with greater product that helps with universal design. There’s grab bars that don’t look like grab bars. They look like enhancements in a bath or shower. So we’re getting better at that. And I think we’re going to keep improving. As long as the product suppliers keep helping us out with new products that looked better and help people live easier. And it’s all about wellness. Now today, wellness is a big thing with the well certification, but I don’t want to slam wellness, but I think what you’re going to find is it, before too long, the well certification is going to be like the lead certification for a long time.
Lead was a big thing. You had to have lead certification. And now there’s, I don’t know, at least half a dozen other certifying groups. And here in California, if you comply with the building code, you’re able to get lead certification. It’s just a matter of paying the fee, which a lot of builders don’t want to do. But I think wellness, we’re all catching onto wellness and COVID kind of pushed us there. We were going that direction, but we got sped up a little bit in that direction. And so I think what you’re going to see is that people are going to start using air filters, higher Merv ratings. You’re going to use water quality sensors, and there’s going to be a, we’ve had low VOC paint forever, but it’s all those things that really are going to help us live a healthier, longer life.
And I hope that helps me. I’m doing a remodel on my house right now. And I’m hoping that I’m going to give myself the ability to live a healthier, longer life
Tom (5m 20s):
Touch on that wellness and why obviously now it’s vital that why it will be so much even in the future that it’s like, that’s a priority.
Yeah. It’s, it’s what people want. It’s it’s, you don’t really realize it, but it’s all the aspects. And I call it total wellness because it’s financial stability, it’s family, it’s food. And so I want the things that I’m seeing now, especially in some of our 55 plus the age qualified communities is farm to table communities where there’s actually a farm where they’re growing crops, that the residents can help with, that you can’t have the residents maintain it. You have to have outside people maintain it, but the residents can come in and help with the harvesting. If you help with the harvesting, you generally get what part of what you harvest, if you didn’t, but you still want some, there is a farmer’s market that they have, and you can go buy your produce at the farmer’s market.
But it just seems like it’s a healthier thing. And you’re exercising doing that, farming, picking the crops, and then you’re also eating healthier food. That’s fresh. And there was some sort of satisfaction to knowing that you’ve grown it. So there’s a lot of great things that are contributing to that. And then, and then actually in some of the age qualified communities, the cooking demonstrations are a big thing because people will teach you how to eat healthy and fitness centers are always big. So I think as a country, we’re starting to lean toward that a little bit more where we want to be healthy and active and live longer.
And I’ll tell you, this is kind of an interesting story. It wasn’t that long ago that I had my hip replaced and it’s amazing what medicine can do because I, I was up walking without any assistance after four days getting into total hip replacement. So, you know, the it’s unheard of what people can do today. So I think just staying healthy and living longer, and that’s what we’re going to find is our population’s going to be aging up and they’re going to be healthier. I, yeah, I don’t know how long ago it was. People would think that somebody that’s 70 is old. Oh yeah. And I’m getting close to that.
Tom (7m 33s):
You know, that, what’s your thought on this, many of you talked about crops as food. What about even landscaping? If you did the landscape that with edible vegetation? What’s your thought on that?
2 (7m 45s):
It’s interesting. I think my favorite example, although I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve seen pictures of it and talk to people about it as Sarah and be outside of Atlanta. And when you walk down the streets and be there Berry bushes, and you can just pick them and eat them as you’re walking, Rancho mission, VA hill has orange trees that are planted along the roadways and you can just go pick your oranges. So that’s a wonderful thing to do if you have the budget to do it, but those guys do. And then it just kind of creates a feeling of, I don’t know, it’s kind of small town or neighborhood, but it really does help with the ambiance of the community that you’re living and to have edible landscape.
And I think that’s a wonderful idea, Tom. And I think the people that can pull it off, I mean the orange tree doesn’t take much to maintain it. And you hope that people pick them before they fall. But you know, it’s not, not that big a deal in it. And it’s pretty walking down a street and having berries growing. So, you know, anybody that’s willing to do that is I think hitting a home ru
Tom (8m 50s):
Manny, I told you, it always seemed that you always designed from the inside out, meaning the, the people first, not the building of what the tight target. Can you tell your audience today? You know why it is important to start from the human perspective first
Yeah, I think there’s, if you’re doing a Gary music hall or something like that, you’re designing from the outside in, because it’s the big picture and you’re trying to be, you know, create some monument. If you’re doing housing, it’s really designing a home or an apartment or whatever for the user, the end user of that. So if you don’t make that usable and you don’t make it furniture bubble and you don’t make it a comfortable place to live, then it doesn’t matter what it looks like on the outside. So I think first goal is to create a space that residents will enjoy living in where families can function, where you can have your separate spaces
And today that’s an important thing that we’re finding after COVID is that if you’re going to be working from home or you’re going to be homeschooling to have places where you’re not sitting on top of each other, while you’re doing zoom meetings is critical. So we’re starting to see some smaller rooms that, and, you know, cubby is under a stair that are a little workstation, so trying to accommodate where the future’s going. And I think there was another thing that COVID sped up for us w is the alternate work conditions where people aren’t going to be driving in, aren’t going to be going into an office every day. And I, and we’ve lived with it for what a year and a half at least.
And we’ve all seemed to survive for the most part, you know, in the, in the building industry, obviously there is some flaws that have hit like the labor shortage and the supply chain issues, which are really making an impact on stuff. I mean, I had the order of my appliances six months in advance just to make sure I have backed. I even heard there was an apartment builder and I won’t name this supplier, but the supplier, they were short eight refrigerators trying to finish up and closed their apartment building. And the supplier said, just go to Lowe’s or home Depot and buy eight of them.
Cause you’ll get them faster than you would from us. Wow. Yeah. So it’s, you know, when you see those pictures of all those ships sitting out off of the Harbor, it impacts an awful lot of things.
Tom (11m 25s):
True. You’re listening to the modern built environment podcast powered by Swinerton. We’re talking today with Manny Gonzalez architect and principal at KTGY for more information, you can visit their website at KTGY.com – Manny on the topic of alt work conditions in and housing. Is that almost, do you think it’s going to become standard or I don’t know, requires too much, but at least standard in new projects that they’re going to have that consideration.
You know, I think you don’t have to look much farther than what probably the biggest growing segment of housing is right now. And that’s to build where people are building houses, the master, not a master plan community, but a large community of single family homes that are nowhere near the city center, but it’s a rental property. So what you get is you rent your home and you get the yard, you get the kitchen, you get the three bedrooms without having to live in an urban environment and pay a higher rent. And it’s just because people can telecommute.
And I think there’s certainly some industries where that’s easier than others. And if you look in the tech industry, that’s really easy for them to do in a lot of cases because you’re doing code and writing programs. There’s still times in, in architecture where you want to have hands-on meetings, but that doesn’t mean you need to be in the office five days a week to do that. So, and then I think the other thing that’s happened is people have gotten used to being home with their kids or being able to run your child to daycare and then come back home and not have to drive into the office. So I think it’s here to stay. I think there’s going to be modifications of it, but I think if you don’t allow it, you’re going to be losing staff.
There’s people that are just going to go somewhere else, where they do allow it because people have gotten too used to it.
Tom (13m 29s):
What’s your thought on that human element that now we were not able to where we can, but it’s limited to just see each other face to face. How has that changed for you in architecture?
You know, I was just out of urban land Institute conference with my counsel and it was the first time we’d gotten together and probably two years. And everybody was just so happy to see people again in person. Fortunately, the conference wouldn’t allow you to come if you didn’t prove vaccination. So we all felt pretty safe to be in there, but I think we’ll, we’ll get over it, you know, somehow allow people to get together, hate to say it. But I think when we were all in our conference room, nobody wore masks because we all knew we were vaccinated. But you know that there is that human touch that you want to have.
You know, I think the one thing that is, has been missing is the mentorship for younger people, where if you’re not there talking to somebody, showing them something it’s a lot harder to do on a zoom meeting when you can’t sketch something out or show them, you know, face to face. So that I think is probably one of the things that’s missing the most. I also still think for an architect with a client, the initial concept brainstorming big picture stuff really still wants to happen in person. It doesn’t work virtually, but I think once you’re refining a plan and you’re making changes to a floor plan or a unit plan or an art elevation, those things can all be done virtually.
And the good part about that is it allows you to do work just about anywhere and get clients from anywhere consultants from anywhere designers, interior designers from anywhere. So you can put a team together, a virtual team. And I don’t love to sit in the same room and it does say travel time and expenses. And I think, I don’t know about you Tom or other people in this business, but I’ve kind of enjoyed not getting on a plane three times a week. So I don’t think that’s going to happen again. I don’t think people are going to pay you to come to a meeting for one hour, pay for an airfare and rental car anymore. So we’ll see where that goes. But I do believe that that human touch aspect has to be back in the business.
It has to be a part of what we do. I think on the flip side, you’ve seen a lot of that human touch with parents being home with their kids, where there’s a lot more connection. My son that has a two-year-old daughter, my granddaughter, and she’s so attached to him because he’s been working from home the whole time she’s been born. So she just thinks dad’s at home and is really clingy, which is nice. It’s, she’s a sweet girl, but getting back to normal or something close to normal or whatever the new normal is, is probably something
that would be welcomed by a lot of people. But I think we’ve seen a shift in how we come out of this and deal with it.
It’s going to be important, but I agree with you, Tom, that human touch is something that we all want. You want validation, you want to have mentorship. You want to feel like you’re doing the right thing and have people congratulate you, or if you’re not doing what’s right, or you’ve made an error learn about it. And it’s a lot easier to do in person. I think sending emails is probably the worst thing you can do because you can never hear the temper in somebody’s voice, whether it’s soft or, you know, harsh, but in person, you know, whether they’re really upset or whether they’re just telling you that it fix it this time
Tom (17m 8s):
Very cool. You’re listening to The Modern Built Environment podcast by Swinerton. Our acknowledgement for Manny’s show today is the Jimmy V foundation. The Jimmy V foundation for cancer researchers started in 1993 with a big dream to achieve victory over cancer. Since then they’ve expanding into an organization that’s awarded over $200 million in cancer research grants takes a lot of teamwork and dedication to move towards curing cancer. And the Jimmy V foundation is an instrumental part of that. For more information, you can visit their firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom (17m 50s):
Again, that’s v.org. We’re talking today with Manny Gonzalez principal at KTGY for more information on KTGY, you can visit their email@example.com. The big picture, your thoughts on seeing things, not just in design, but in, in life, in a big picture way. Can you share a bit about that
Yeah, it’s interesting. And I known of this company for awhile. That’s from big. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard them about Bjork angles group out of Copenhagen. And I was actually my wife and I actually were on part of our trip last month in September, we went to Copenhagen and I made her schlep out with me to go look at some of Bjork angles work. And if there’s anybody that comes up with a big picture, he’s one that does it. And you can see that how it plays out in the design. He has one that’s called mountain house, and all it really did was tilted things up on an angle. So it looks like a mountain, but everybody’s got a great view.
Everybody’s got a patio it’s spectacular. And then that’s, Tallaght eight and the buildings in the shape of an eight, but that’s the address of it. And it’s just, it’s really cool when he comes up with that one big move. It doesn’t change what the building would do. It’s still the same building, whether it was flat or not, but it gives the building a character that makes it absolutely different from everybody else. And I think we tend, if we just kind of get to be too cliche here in the U S where whatever we’re doing, wherever, the current thing is, is it’s corrugated metal. If it’s folded plates on the corner of a building, it just gets done over and over and over.
And every building kind of looks the same, but I’ll tell you, if you look at his work, every building is absolutely different. It’s really, really quite interesting to see. So, and then I’ll tell you another person, and this is not well, it is kind of residential in some cases, but what do your gang does? What Jeannie gang does her buildings at? The one of my favorite buildings in the world is Aqua in Chicago that she did several years ago. And it was the tallest building until she built the next building, the tallest building by a woman, but just little movements. It’s, it’s great. I did hear that there are some issues because it’s a concrete floor that comes out and it gets cold that in the winter, and that concrete brings the cold into the unit, but they’ll figure it out.
But I think, you know, that doing something that, where you have a big picture idea that isn’t a, an expensive one and it isn’t decoration, it’s part of the building, but it just creates a different look to it and a different feel to it. And I think that’s where we need to go as a profession. And, and I’m hoping we can encourage clients to do it because obviously it builds Bjarke, Ingels buildings. You can’t get a unit in his building, one of the most popular places in Copenhagen and the same thing with Jeannie gang’s buildings they’re really popular. So I think the more you can try to go that way and convince your clients that that’s the way to go is going to help our industry and just make our skylines better looking
Tom (21m 12s):
Great. Manny, any closing thoughts that we you can share with your audience or that we may not have touched on that you think is valuable?
Well, Tom, I want to thank you about for one thing, and not making me go up to Stanford because as a Cal guy it kind of hurt last time to go to the studio in Stanford, but I’m always happy to talk with you. And I, I just hope that, that we can continue to. It’s interesting if you go back and look at the work, even that KTU, why did twenty-five years ago and where we are today and it is so much better. And I hope that the industry, the architecture industry and the building industry in all phases keeps getting better and better try and harder and harder coming up with better solutions. We keep having issues that we have to get over, or, you know, it’s the cost of materials today, supply chain and all those things, but we’ve had issues in the past, the snowy owl and tons of things that hit us over the years, somehow we’re resilient and keep going.
And I wanted to see our industry come out of this COVID thing, get back up, get moving forward and just creating better homes, better environments for life and people happy and a healthy many.
Tom (22m 30s):
It’s an honor enjoy having you on the show today. Thank you very much.
Absolutely, it’s my pleasure. And thanks for having me. Thank you.