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Meet Luis Tena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Luis Tena.

Luis, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up and graduated with an Architecture Master’s degree in Pamplona, Spain in 2012. I decided to try and explore new horizons and I chose to come to LA for several reasons. I wanted to experience living in a big multi-cultural city, meet interesting people from all around the world, be close to the Silicon Valley tech revolution and most importantly, be able to surf everyday if I wanted.

I landed at a very cool architecture office called wHY Architecture in Culver City. The principal, Kulapat Yanstrasast, had worked for many years for Japanese Pritzker prize master Tadao Ando and was leading a multi-disciplinary business model focusing on museums, art galleries, restaurants, high-end homes and managing some local projects designed by Ando. I was able to learn how things were done in California thanks to the opportunity to be part of such a nice team of talented people.

After that first year, I realized that I had fallen in love with Los Angeles. One of my favorite things was (and still is) how easily you can meet new interesting people, everyday. That’s how I got my next job opportunity. I met Severine Tatangelo (principal at Studio PCH) at a restaurant opening party that I had been designing while working at wHY. I started helping her with some 3D modeling and virtual animations of the master suite of the Nobu Ryokan hotel in Malibu and that nice workflow got me a job for the next two years, working in Malibu in a beautiful office located near Pepperdine University overlooking the ocean. I was part of the design team for multiple Nobu restaurants around the world, the brand new Nobu Hotel Los Cabos and the pool, spa, gym and luxury apartment adjacent to Nobu Ryokan in Malibu. This last project and the big involvement in the construction process from the architecture side showed me how important construction was and how tricky it can become if you don’t put all your senses on it.

I realized that I needed to get more real construction experience so I decided to change hats and work with Peter Borrego, founder of PD Construction, who was a perfect match thanks to his training in architecture, close relationship and experience working with the local masters like Ray Kappe, attention to detail and, of course, passion for surfing.

We worked together for more than three years, designing and building beautiful homes and commercial projects. Those years were also very important to me, as I started to create my own designs.

luis tena Design was officially established at the end of 2019. We (I have two amazing designers helping me part-time) are currently working on 15+ projects located in Malibu ( Malibu City, LA County and Ventura County), Topanga, Brentwood, Hollywood Hills and Studio City Hills.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I saw it as a learning process. It is tough because the more you know about something, the more you realize how much you still don’t know about it. I see architecture as a multidisciplinary practice where you have to know a lot about a lot of things. Patience, hard work and good attitude are key.

I have to admit that I have been lucky in finding the right people to work with to improve my skills and get the best possible experience. I saw it clear when I was ready to make the jump to start my own firm and I couldn’t be happier now, even if the timing with the global pandemic would indicate otherwise.

luis tena Design – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
luis tena Design is an architecture design firm. We design buildings trying not to specialize on any style or specific look.

Good architecture is the one that is not repetitive, understands and improves the site where it is located and provides the functionality that the owner/user needs. It is a balance between art and technique. The buildings have to be beautiful (art) and be structurally sound (technique) to serve its function. This is basically what we try to do: functionality, simplicity and beauty.

I like to compare a project to a system of equations with multiple lines and unknowns. You have to provide a solution to a problem providing a beautiful product. Dealing with the clients, the city/county planning legislations, construction codes, engineers, consultants, builders… the architect is the connecting mesh between all these elements, like the director of an orchestra.

I am very proud of the fact that our designs are capable of transmitting more than what they are originally expected to. When you walk into one of those buildings, you can feel that they have a soul. You can feel this specially in the residences that we are designing in beautiful places like Malibu or Malibou Lake, where the nature and views surrounding the sites are breathtaking.

What sets us apart from others is that we think out of the box and that every project begins with a concept that drives all the decisions through the design process. Coming from Europe also gives us a wider history perspective and admiration for the masters of architecture.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
When I presented a project for a fire rebuild residence in Malibu to the owners, who had lost everything in the Woolsey Fires. The husband teared up with happiness when he visualized his future home.

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