Playing with Dirt


City and County Public Works departments are experts at designing horizontal construction projects. Think about anything that transports vehicles, people, and utility infrastructure (e.g. roads, sidewalks, bridges, utilities, street signs, etc.). Their staff engineers, surveyors, and maintenance crews are a talented bunch of people but there are occasions when the fork in the road leads to vertical construction. And when this occurs all signs point to the expertise of an architect.

As the architect we bring our talent for designing functional and aesthetically pleasing building that suits the Owner’s budget and schedule. More information regarding this projects’ program and goals for the Administration building can be found here and the Vehicle Maintenance building here

While designing the project on paper and computer is fun it’s a whole lot more fun once construction starts. And this is where we get to show Public Works Departments we’re just as good as playing in the dirt!

Because this site has been occupied by the department for so long there were a multitude of pole barns sprinkled throughout the site. The contractor’s first job was demolishing the existing building and paving to make way for the building pad and deep underground infrastructure installations.

This is a hydraulic dinosaur… it likes to eat buildings.

Once the buildings and paving are demo’d the concrete slab on grade gets prepped. This means scarifying the ground to get the soil to the condition required by the geotech report.

Because the construction site is an existing facility utilities were already onsite. However, due to the age of buildings the existing infrastructure was insufficient handle the load of the new buildings. Thus we had to bring water, sewer, storm drain, power, etc. in new pipes and conduits from the right-of-way.

Building foundations are excavated at the same time as utility trenching to help maintain the construction schedule.

Once anchor bolts and rebar cages are placed, the foundations (this is called a grade beam) get filled with concrete. The foundations will tie the building into the ground to resist lateral, vertical and uplift loads on the structure. See that random poke-o-dot pattern in the concrete - those are called keyways and help the slab-on-grade tie into the structural foundation (along with rebar)

Getting out of the dirt correctly is the most important part of constructing a building. Although the work can appear fairly straight forward each pipe, conduit, anchor bolt, grade beam, etc. has been designed to serve a specific task at a specific location within the building and site. If any one of these items is misplaced it can cause hang-ups going forward. The contractor on this project is very aware of this and has taken great measure to assure things are correct. We like contractors that pay attention!

Community Inspired

Once every two years the architecture community in our region gathers to celebrate Design, catch up with colleagues, old friends and new, cheer each other’s achievements for Excellence in Architectural Design and learn something new. But surprisingly, the take away from this night wasn’t about architects or architecture, it was about community. 

Architects are community organizers...

Like life-time AIA member Ernie Yoshino, who is not only an architect, but was the organizer, designer (and sometimes builder) of the Merced Monument for the Japanese Assembly Center. Ernie’s memorial design commemorates all the Americans-of-Japanese-Descent who were interned, including Ernie who was interned with his family as a toddler. 


Architects are teachers who inspire…

Like Architect Dennis Zagaroli who was a Partner at LDA and an incredibly personable and passionate architecture teacher at Delta Community College. His students approached LDA and AIA Sierra Valley in hopes of creating a scholarship in his memory.  We are proud to announce that dream has been realized.


Architects foster conversation that create homes and communities… 

Like Architect Chris Schrimpl who was very respected and trusted throughout the region for his talent and residential architecture. Chris is famous in our region, the community wanted to remember him and also create a scholarship in his memory. 

Architects continue to learn about architecture…

Believe it or not, this was actually the arduous task of Key Note speaker Alice van Ommeren. Looking around the room jaws were dropping as Alice walked us through time with images from vintage photos and postcards of Downtown Stockton’s notable buildings and architects, and downtown’s transformation through the decades. Alice is the author of “Stockton in Vintage Postcards” and “Stockton’s Golden Era”. “In those years, Stockton ... was a really prominent city. A lot of people just don’t seem to know about it.” 

Awards for community inspired design...

And the common theme among this year’s award winners are buildings that truly uplift their community. LDA is the very proud recipient of three Awards for Excellence in Architectural Design. The three projects to receive the awards are the Manteca Transit Center, the Lathrop Generations Center and the Stanislaus Day Reporting Center. Click on the project images below to learn more.



On Friday we left our desks and BIM models at LDA Partners and instead took architecture, construction, engineering, and design (ACED) back to school; we took these disciplines to students grades K-12. Why would we do such a thing? Who knows, but it was amazing!

What happens when you ask 3rd - 5th graders to build with cardboard, newspaper and sticks? You get a box city that takes over a playground, creativity emerges, and ingenuity takes hold when all of the glue, tape and staples are gone, teamwork comes naturally, and pride ensues. You also get spaghetti-marshmallow towers that can’t be toppled by the earthquake shake-table challenge! And out of newspaper, staples and determination; you get geodesic domes, pyramids, rockets and bragging rights.

Our youngest students embarked on a shape treasure hunt around campus, they returned to their classes with the bounty they discovered all around them. They made a city out of paper complete with skyscrapers, houses, people, planes, trains and automobiles. Together they decide to give homage to their school and named the town "El Dorado". Out on the playground they selected and tested their paper airplanes. The competition and energy continued through recess.

The middle school students carried home perfect eggs in zip-lock bags like trophies, after launching their “protective egg containers” off the play-structure. They listened with enthusiasm to “talks” provided by experts in the fields of architecture, engineering and construction which were as much about a career and a path as they were about life and stumbles along the way. Excited to be off campus, students truly saw for the first time houses that they pass daily on the way to school. Tour guides pointed out gems from every historic period around every corner, proving that “the real voyage of discovery consist not in seeking new landscapes but having new eyes.” (Marcel Proust)

High school students from eight different campuses unloaded from school buses.  For some this was the first time they had stepped foot in Downtown Stockton. They learned about Downtown Stockton, old and new; from the construction-site of the new 14-story courthouse to the storefronts that reveal Stockton’s rich history and finally landing inside the historic Fox Theater and snapping a photo for fans on Instagram. Along the waterfront students took a hands-on crash-course in surveying. They gained a new set of vocabulary to describe the built environment, through the design principles workshop. And while watching a live robotics navigation demonstration they were wowed by what could be their next inter-high-school challenge. With all of these hands-on activities, we found a bit of time to watch the film “If You Build It” whose story was inspiring and taught lessons in what it means to be truly generous and what our youth are capable of achieving.

This was the mission of the ACED festival "To bring awareness to students and the community about the built environment, by demonstrating though our events the value of architecture, good design and the interaction between: design, engineering and construction." I would say these students 'ACED it'.

It goes without saying that “one cannot do things alone”… hats off to all of the volunteers, sponsors and donors: AIA Sierra Valley, San Joaquin County Office of Educations, Stockton Unified School District, Lincoln Unified School District, San Joaquin Delta Community College, The Stockton Builders’ Exchange, Ray Morgan Company, Grainger, Architechnica, Haggerty Construction, Justin Capp Structural Engineers, Turner Construction, Visit Stockton, Raley’s, The Stockton Emergency Food Bank, SF Market, and S-Mart Foods.

Starting Fresh

Local community, county officials, law enforcement, council members and congressman Jeff Denham dedicated the new Day Reporting Center at the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center Thursday, August 13th, which is the first of it's kind in the State of California. The center will provide evidenced-based programs and services to probationers and offenders who are out of custody with the purpose of turning a life of crime and drug abuse into a productive future. LDA Partners worked with the County to design the facility consisting of primary and secondary classroom and program space, substance testing, computer and administrative functions.

A former parolee, Andrea Conklin, gave her testimony at the dedication describing the powerful council that she received through similar programs that will be found in the Day Reporting Center that helped get her life back on track, reunited her with her son and gave her a fresh start.

Building Bridges

To better serve our clients, LDA Partners is currently undergoing an ambitious renovation of our workspace.  We conceived of our office expansion as an opportunity to create transparent, collaborative spaces where we could share every stage of the design process with our clients.  The adaptive reuse of an existing commercial space adjacent to our longtime Miracle-Mile location more than doubles our capacity, creating three open studios and an expansive new Design Center.  

Renovations include the adaptive reuse, embrace, and exposure of the raw materials of the existing construction along with carefully considered interventions to reframe the space and serve the needs of our clients.  The new street-level reception area emphasizes openness and transparency; adaptable state-of-the-art conference rooms encourage a collaborative approach; open-office studio work-areas provide opportunities for ongoing design discussions; and the Design Center provides a centralized repository where designers can confer with clients and consultants to assemble a complete project palette.  Our new second-story studio includes collaborative critique areas, office spaces, and a dynamic bridge creating a link to our current work space.  

We look forward to welcoming you into our dynamic new office space in the coming months.  

Stay tuned for our Open House announcement!

What about Parkour?

“What about Parkour?”

He was a teen with hair in his face, wearing a hoodie and tight jeans. His hand didn’t know if it wanted to be raised or lowered, he glanced to his right and left surveying his friends.  When he asked the question about parkour, his tone was part question, part statement. But this teen had the floor so he had the attention of everyone in the room. 

We were in our 4th community meeting. We looked at each other in bewilderment? “Can you repeat that?” It was clear we had no idea what he was talking about. 

The best description is the opening scene in the James Bond movie, “Casino Royal”. Imagine an urban environment, jumping, running, sliding from obstacle to obstacle, using your momentum to propel you forward, and this series of movements is in constant fluid motion. That is Parkour.

As an architect I’ll let you in on a little secret: it isn’t about the building. It isn’t about the windows, or the walls, or the lighting.

It’s the void. It’s what goes into that void. This is where people go to work, to play, to heal, to catch a cat-nap, to gossip with their friends, to jump, to run, and to live.

Before we can design a community center we have to understand that specific community. What goes into a facility depends on the users; who they are, what are their needs and what will make them use a facility. We take off our round-lensed frameless architect glasses and put on our anthropologist lab coat. We cast a broad canvas, collect information, and vet our discoveries. Our task is to develop a space meaningful to the people who will inhabit it. 

Through this discovery process, documentation and implementation in our conceptual design we were awarded a State Grant. Through this Grant we were able to build the Lathrop Generations Center. A facility which holds; a community center, teen center, public library branch, skate park, basketball court, community garden, amphitheater, and a parkour course. In fact, Lathrop is home to the first municipal parkour course in the nation. Traceurs (those who are practitioners of parkour) are willing to drive two hours to test out their stills on this course. Teens gather to run the course and cheer others on. Children climb on the concrete blocks and rails for the view and play hide and seek. Through the discovery process we found the pulse of this community and it beats every day moving swiftly, overcoming each obstacle in a series of movements discovering the ability of the human body and mind, here in Lathrop.

Changing the Swing

For many years the legacy of private country clubs has come under siege. Initially, through the nature of gender equality.  Most notably at Augusta National in Georgia, a long standing private men’s institution known for hosting the Masters Golf Tournament, was challenged to allow women members. Now such female dignitaries as Condoleezza Rice and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty are Augusta members. Although the addition of such high profile women is not emblematic of most private clubs, who struggle to downplay the classic “men’s” environment in hopes more women will seek membership.   

Now as the baby boomer generation is in full retirement mode and very cognizant of their retirement budget, the costs of a private club membership, no longer a benefit of employment, has come under greater personal scrutiny.  Also, with the increase in public golf facilities providing golf at a lesser cost, the challenge to maintain current members and acquire new members has become increasingly more difficult for private clubs. 

Private clubs look to create more opportunities to attract younger, family oriented members by offering varied and focused membership profiles including health and fitness, social/dining, and swimming/tennis.

As a result, the architectural design of traditional club facilities has undergone a significant metamorphosis. Stately and opulent structures have given way to more family friendly environments.  Gymnasiums and fitness rooms have replaced exclusive locker rooms.  Restaurant-like family dining experiences have replaced the elegant ballrooms and cloistered rooms. Exclusivity has been replaced by a marketing strategy encouraging family participation. Hospitality has become the dominant theme.        

Clubs, long thought of as the playground of the wealthy, are now re-examining themselves as a “business” in a very competitive environment.  The successful clubs realize the club experience must provide not only an enjoyable golf experience for their golfing members, but also a hospitality experience that encourages members to return regularly and bring their friends.  

Oasis in the Valley

Could a destination hospitality resort be created and flourish in a small rural community such as Lodi, California?  The answer is a resounding, yes. That was the inspiration of Del Smith and his partners Russ and Kathryn Munson when they embarked upon transforming the Towne Estate in Lodi into a rewarding destination for those visiting the Lodi wine region. 

The original Towne estate included approximately 2.5 acres on the north western edge of Lodi in the northern San Joaquin Valley.  Burton and Alice Towne created what many travelers in the 1930’s assumed was a public park, with large trees, expansive lawns and gardens.  The original home burned in the mid 1920’s and the Towne’s moved to the “cottage”.  A collection of rooms, apartments, and annexes then referred to as the Towne House. The grounds remained breathtaking. 

In the 1980’s Kris Cromwell, Del Smith’s mother, purchased the estate and converted the Towne House to a bed and breakfast inn, while enhancing the grounds as a wedding and event site.  

In late 1990’s Del Smith and the Munson’s purchased the estate from Ms. Cromwell and began their dedicated dream to create a truly renowned destination resort.  

With careful planning, our firm designed a master plan to retain the historic nature of the grounds and the Towne House, while incorporating new hotel suites, full spa and pool complexes, banquet facilities, administrative offices, and long term stay suites all incorporating an architectural theme reminiscent of the wine regions of Europe.  

As the project evolved, the Lodi Wine and Visitor Bureau, a promotional voice for the wine making region, approached the Owners about a possible site for their Visitor’s Center. Today the complex includes this public venue offering samplings of wines made by local vintners.  

The result is a truly incredible atmosphere of luxuriously landscape grounds and equally breathtaking architectural character. When a guest takes a stroll from their guest suite to a spa treatment, fine ding in the historic Towne House restaurant, or just enjoys a glass of wine on the balcony terrace, they can truly appreciate the Wine and Roses’ efforts to provide such a wonderful experience in an unexpected locale.