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santa monica       ca 90405

Joel Cichowski established site-specific architecture in Santa Monica, CA in 2007. Joel has developed a practice with a focus on residential work because it offers him an opportunity to work with clients to create something personal to each individual or family at whatever stage of life they may be in.  His commitment to this client partnership helps him create buildings which become an expression of, and setting for, a client’s personal lives. This objective brings an engaging intensity to the process and the result.


Joel received a bachelor of arts in architecture from the University of California Berkeley in 1991 and then a master of architecture degree from Columbia University in 1996. Joel has worked for architects in the US and Europe.  In Berlin from 1996-99, he worked for Barkow Leibinger Architects on showcase modern industrial and institutional buildings including projects for a premiere manufacturer of laser production tools for Germany’s automotive industry. From 2000-06 Joel worked in Los Angeles for Nicholas Budd Dutton Architects where he was able to bring the material / detail focused quality of the German work to Southern California residential projects. 


site-specific architecture is based in Los Angeles where we benefit from a unique condition which this city presents for architectural practice.  The growth and development of LA during the last century provides that most residents, or possibly their parents’ generation, brought with them traditions of the built environment of their origin, but these new Angelenos have also made a choice to come to a place where they have the opportunity to create something personal and new.  This re-invention is an LA tradition.  LA is not on a peninsula or island; it offers space for a new-comer to make a gesture in a broad urban environment.  In this architecture culture, our practice has found great client partners who come to us with ambitions to make a place for themselves or their family, grounded in the LA tradition of invention.


Our work often comes to focus where there is an opportunity to maximize the space of the urban fabric which was rolled-out by developers and builders of the last century.  In some of our projects, developer tract stock is razed to make way for a new home with a more generous footprint and an open floor plan that extends beyond its interior spaces, to the property line boundaries.  In others, the original footprint of the building is maintained, but the plan is reworked to create an open living space and a new second floor of bedrooms.  In some, the generic developer floor plan is untangled to allow the living spaces to connect to the outdoor space of the backyard and create a brighter, more functional layout, which also creates a modern image for their home.  In a neighborhood like Venice, multi-family zoned lots are reworked to allow for more dwelling unit density, while also maximizing connection to the limited outdoor space at the ground floor, but also at the roof top with the addition of a roof access structure and roof deck.  In other projects, existing custom homes are updated and tuned to the requirements of a new owner. 


Architecturally, these objectives are achieved with visually light, wall and roof planes which frame the link between interior spaces and the sun-filled California exterior spaces through large openings, (often, multi-slide or pocket doors and operable windows) which allow for natural ventilation, daylight and view.


More than half of our projects are within the broader jurisdiction of the City of Los Angeles, but we have projects and plan approvals in many other incorporated municipalities including Culver City, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Burbank, Beverly Hills, Palm Springs and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.


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