Late last year, Gwynne Pugh, FAIA, ASCE, LEED AP, turned a new page in his impressive career. He left the award-winning firm he’d co-founded in 1991, Pugh + Scarpa Architects (now Brooks + Scarpa Architects) to start his own firm, Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio. residential architect recently spoke with Santa Monica, Calif.-based Pugh to see what he’s been up to—quite a bit, as it turns out. Visit his new website at

ra: What kinds of projects are you working on?

gp: I’m very interested in urban design, in how public architecture and developer architecture interact in the built environment. I’m working with various cities in California on a consulting basis: San Diego’s Centre City Development Corp., and the cities of Long Beach, Carson, and Santa Monica. Also, a project for Santa Monica College has been delayed and will be resuming in a few months. I’m continuing to work on affordable housing, collaborating with Michael Folonis [FAIA] on a project.

ra: At Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio, what are you hoping to focus on?

gp: I’m looking to expand more to interacting with cities. What’s really interesting is this place in between planning and architecture. I’m trying to see how cities can maximize what they’ve got, how they can contribute to the life of the city. Before things are cast in stone, there can be a real discussion about how they can set about that and become more of an interactive place.

ra: How does that discussion relate to sustainable design?

gp: A lot of people complain about the quality of their urban environment. There’s been a greater recognition that it’s not just about what’s built on the site—it’s about how it comes together. As we improve the quality of life and work toward a more urbanistic experience, it ties into the issue of sustainability as well. You’re not getting into a car. In a large building with a lot of other units, you’re not having as much heat loss and gain.

ra: As a member of the Santa Monica Planning Commission, can you tell us about the commission’s recent endeavors?

gp: The commission just finished six years of working on land use and circulation policies. We tried to coordinate them. We’ve been awarded by the state for that plan. One of the nuggets of it is, no new net increase in traffic in the afternoon rush hour—any development created needs to redirect its own traffic. And the city needs to work to reduce its own traffic as well. Finally we’re getting a light rail system coming in—that will help. And we have quite a good bus service. We’re also looking at bicycle service and of course pedestrianism. We’re looking at having activity nodes within a ¼-mile radius. That’s all part of the traffic aspect. Historically, a lot of cities have tried to encourage any kind of development. But that doesn’t necessarily make for a very functional city. We’re trying to change those attitudes and think about it in a holistic way.