Westlake Reed Leskosky (WRL), a Cleveland-based firm of more than 150 people, is joining forces with Lehrer Architects, a boutique design practice in Los Angeles, in what they describe as a “strategic alliance.”

The alliance—which is not a merger in a financial or legal sense—will allow WRL to deepen its West Coast presence and Lehrer to enter new markets; Lehrer will also benefit from access to Westlake’s interdisciplinary staff (which includes 60 engineers). The firms will pursue projects jointly. Each firm will keep its name and branding, and managing principals Michael B. Lehrer and Paul E. Westlake Jr. will retain their titles. Lehrer and Westlake met as students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and have collaborated on several projects.

“I’ve been opposed to being bought out or being the lead designer in a larger firm—those arrangements don’t necessarily last too long,” Lehrer says. “This model is a little different—where it’s really the best of all worlds. I think it can work as a model for others.”

Westlake says, “Michael has an established client base and market awareness in Los Angeles, and we have multidisciplinary strength. [The alliance] is … designed as an opportunity to work together in a rich and deep way.”

WRL specializes in healthcare, corporate, performing arts, museums, and other cultural projects. Notable recent work includes the Kohl Building at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music and the adaptive reuse of San Diego’s historic Balboa Theatre.

Lehrer Architects has deep roots in greater Los Angeles, where it has designed the Water + Life Museums campus, the James M. Wood Community Center and Downtown Drop-In Center, and the Elections Operation Center of Los Angeles County. The Lehrer staff of 16 already shares a Los Angeles studio with six employees from WRL.