In the next couple of years, Santa Monica will be seeing the addition of two new contributions to the City’s culture – the Santa Monica Historical Society Museum at the Main Library, and the DC-3 Monument Park Plaza at the Santa Monica Airport. The architect whose vision is helping to realize these projects is Santa Monica resident Kristina Andresen.
A recent recipient of the YWCA’s Santa Monica/Westside Woman of the Year award, Andresen is a woman of many interests and achievements. Not only is her firm Andresen Associates the designer of projects for clients as diverse as movie studios, recording facilities and museums, but she is also involved in numerous community organizations. Taking time out from her very busy schedule, Andresen talked with the Mirror about her life, projects and interests.
Born in Indianapolis, Andresen studied architecture and environmental design at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and later worked in Florida where she designed hospitals and country clubs. She moved to Beverly Hills and worked for Maxwell Starkman Associates, designing high-rise projects. And then came the recession of the early 1980s.
“The interest rates were rising to 22 percent and so all the big developers were just putting a hold on their projects,” says Andresen. “I was one of the last ones laid off from Starkman. At that time I knew someone at Lorimar Studios, and they asked that I start doing work for them. That’s how I started my firm.”
Andresen designed office buildings and warehouses for Lorimar, a film production company that had eight TV shows on the air including the popular Dallas. Her work for Lorimar led to jobs for other movie companies such as MGM, Todd-AO and Disney Studios. She also began to specialize in acoustics. “I started designing my first recording studio in the early ’80s. Since all the equipment is digital [now] they don’t have the big boards like they used to. So it’s really different now than it was 25 years ago.”
In addition to her work, Andresen is involved with many civic and charitable organizations. One of these is the Santa Monica Historical Society. Through her association with the Society’s board members and founders Bob and Louise Gabriel, she received the commission to design the Society’s Museum.
“It’s really been a pleasure working with everyone on the board,” Andresen says of the Museum project. “We had a big fundraiser and we had 260 people there who are interested in supporting the museum.”
Andresen’s proposed floor plan for the Museum features a permanent and a temporary gallery, spaces for archives, offices and storage and a library-multipurpose room with a “de-mountable” wall that can be removed to open up space. A large plasma TV screen will accommodate screenings of films, videos and PowerPoint presentations. The Rotary Club, another organization that Andresen is involved with, donated $10,000 to buy the plasma screen.
“The project is really going forward,” says Andresen. “Every exhibit that will be in the museum takes painstaking time to design. We hired a consultant out of Northern California who is foremost in designing exhibits. They’re called West Office and they’re designing the new Henry Ford museum in Detroit.”
Andresen is also working on the DC-3 Monument which will be part of the new Museum of Flying at the Airport. “David [Price, owner of the Museum] donated a 1942 DC-3 to our board, that was built at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica and he also gave us money to restore it.
“We had a team from West LA College that came in and spent over 3,000 hours restoring the plane. It’s all been donated time, from the Airport, the FAA, a tremendous group of people working together to restore the plane.
“One thing we’ve changed with the DC-3 – originally it was going to be 100-foot square with steps down from it. But the City has really embraced sustainable building, so now we have a surface that will be pervious [that will let water filter down into the ground].”
In addition to these activities, Andresen finds time for other civic and charitable activities that include the Center for Healthy Aging (“Their programs are absolutely wonderful. I work on their annual fundraising dinner”), Upward Bound House, a housing program for seniors and homeless families, and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. In addition, Andresen serves as vice chair of SMC Associates, on the board of Santa Monica College, and also serves on the City’s Building and Safety Commission.
How does Kristina Andresen, who is contributing so much to Santa Monica’s visual ambience, see the City developing over the next few years?
“It will really be determined by City Council, the Planning Commission and the Architectural Review Board, so far as where it’s going. I think that they are embracing the principles of smart growth. No, I don’t have a vision of what the City is going to look like, but given everything that’s happened within the last year, people in general do not want high-rise buildings.”
And on a last note, how does she manage to get everything done?
“I just have a lot of energy,” she replies. “I’m not married now and I don’t have children. I have no family here in California. So I think it’s really interest [in these things]. It’s not that I don’t have other things to do. I like people and tend to be pretty outgoing. I enjoy all the people I work with.”