Zoltan E. Pali, FAIA - Founder + Design Principal at SPF:a | SPF:architects
zoltan pali, zoltan e. pali, los angeles architect, los angeles architects, SPF:architects, spf:a

Zoltan is the founder and design principal of SPF:a. Launched in 1990 with partner Judit M. Fekete-Pali, SPF:a has received over 100 national and regional design awards, including an American Architecture Award in 2014 for the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, a National AIA Honor Award for his iconic design of Somis Hay Barn completed in 2001 in rural Somis, California, and a AIA|LA Presidential Award for leading the Executive Architecture team on the $300-million renovation and expansion of the Getty Villa Museum.

Known for an elegant minimalist approach to California modernism honed over a 40-year career, Zoltan has designed projects in varying typologies and sizes, from custom-built single-residencies high up in LA’s many hills to large civic infrastructure and privately developed commercial buildings. Among his other notable built designs are MODAA, a mixed-use live/work space in the heart of Culver City’s Arts District that houses SPF:a’s main offices, the Taylor Yard Bridge, a bicycle and pedestrian river crossing at the heart of the City of LA's LA River Master Plan, and Double Stick, a Beverly Hills residence named for its unique use of a high-performance two-sided panel tape to hold up the entirety of the façade.

An LA native, Zoltan began his architectural career while a student at UCLA in 1978. Prior to starting SPF:a he worked alongside Jerrold E. Lomax, FAIA, a case study maestro and one of the original LA-12, a famed 1976 group exhibition that included Frank Gehry, Cesar Pelli, and Craig Ellwood.

Zoltan has served as a visiting professor and lecturer at the University of Southern California, and a visiting critic at both California State Polytechnic University at Pomona School of Architecture and UCLA’s School of Art and Architecture. In 2005, he was inducted into the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows.

What do you love about architecture?

That it is so hard and demanding—that is if you want to do it well. I also love it because I think it is a fully worthwhile pursuit and something one can do every day and forever. So much of the practice of architecture—now as far as results go—is hard to love because there is so much bad work being performed, but once you experience something good, your view of life and humanity is elevated. I am of the belief that your visual surroundings affect your well being.

What is your most memorable architectural moment?​

There have been many "most" memorable moments; I can't think of just one. Seeing Fallingwater for the first time, seeing the Salk for the first time, walking into the Kimball, stacking hay on the hay barn in Somis, watching the crowd wait for a show at the Annenberg, the Eiffel Tower at the age of six, Il Duomo at the age of 16, Lomax's Westgate house... I am too far in the years to have just one memorable moment!