Founded in 1988, Studio Pali Fekete Architects (SPF:a) is a Los Angeles based architecture firm specializing in clients and projects that require a high level of design sensitivity, technical expertise, and hands-on principal involvement. The studio houses an award-winning design team, and one of the world’s most accomplished technical documentation workshops.
SPF:a design awards range from Architecture Magazine’s Home of the Year Award (2003) to the AIA National Honor Award  for the design of the Somis Hay Barn. Projects range in size and scope from 5,500 square foot private homes to the 300,000 square foot Getty Villa Museum, and include education, preservation, residential, institutional, commercial, and health care facilities.
The SPF:a team is energetic, cooperative, and diverse. Currently 30 people strong, individual architect experience ranges from entry-level to over 24 years. Architects use a full complement of technological resources to produce rigorously accurate work, including the latest versions of computer-aided drafting and three-dimensional visualization software. Possessing a background and affinity for fine art and design, SPF:a principals have built a fully-modernized 2,200 square foot art gallery space into the firm’s corporate offices. MODAA (Museum Of Design And Architecture) regularly features the work of local artists, exploring the relationship and dialogue between art and architecture.
SPF:architects’ residential projects include a broad range of homes inside and outside of California. Residential architecture includes single-family, multi-family and mixed-use artist lofts.
SPF:architects utilizes a sophisticated technical documentation workshop to produce rigorously accurate construction drawings for commercial architecture projects. The firm also lends its commercial expertise to other architects in California that require highly-detailed architectural documentation.
SPF:a firmly believes and applies its belief that school architecture should catalyze the learning environment. SPF:architects’ design philosophy directly responds to the school’s unique programmatic requirements, incorporates California green standards, and applies modern principals of sustainable design and architecture.
SPF:a's principals consider performing arts and museum architecture a labor of love. The firm's performing Arts and museum architecture experience includes installing the latest in conservation, organics, and preservation laboratories, visitor centers, amphitheaters, historic building preservation, and cutting-edge environmental control systems.
SPF:a has collaborated on some of the most technically complex and culturally significant architectural projects in southern California. The firm’s reputation for rigorously accurate concrete drawings and use of sophisticated 3-D modeling has made SPF:a a partner of choice within the architectural community.
Zoltan E. Pali, FAIA is the creative energy and tireless driving force behind the firm’s award-winning design, and his signature is on every single project that bears the company name. A native of Los Angeles, California, Mr. Pali began his architectural career in 1978, and founded SPF:a seventeen years later, in 1995. His background includes a degree in Design from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and a depth of experience in the construction industry. Mr. Pali’s combination of award-winning design proficiency and his rigorous standards for technical accuracy in construction documentation constitute the foundation of SPF:a’s methodology and approach to every project.
Prior to founding SPF:architects, Mr. Pali worked for Vito Cetta Architects (VCA), Solberg & Lowe Architects, and as a sole practitioner collaborated with case study maestro and protégé of Craig Ellwood, Jerrold E. Lomax, FAIA. His early projects included multi-family housing structures, mixed use facilities, and challenging landmark projects, such as the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel renovation, the Santa Monica Museum of Flying and the award-winning DC-3 Restaurant. Early collaborative projects with Jerrold E. Lomax, FAIA included the 2,000 car Cedars-Sinai Parking Structure, the award-winning Benjamin Residence [GA-Houses 64], and an award-winning flagship retail store for Virgin Entertainment in Orlando, Florida.
In 1990, Mr. Pali joined up with partner Judit Méda Fekete, and five years later formed what is now SPF:a. The firm sets out to create a unique design footprint, incorporating the best in creativity, technology and resourcefulness. Within the first few years of its inception, SPF:a was selected as part of Los Angeles’ “New Blood 101”, and received the Architecture Magazine Progressive Architecture Citation Award. Under Mr. Pali’s stewardship, SPF:a was selected to sit on the judging panel for Architecture Magazine’s Home of the Year design awards in 2005, has won dozens of design awards, citations, and publications of its work over the years, and has received national AIA honors for design excellence. Among his many designs, Pali’s most decorated projects include the Oshry Residence, Somis Hay Barn, Flagship Virgin Megastore, Cotner Building, Central California Museum of History, Pantages Theater Restoration, Wildwood School, and the Brosmith Residence.
Mr. Pali has also touched numerous landmarks on the Los Angeles horizon. His combined passion for progressive design and his respect for historic buildings has earned SPF:a a role on the Greek Theater Renovation & Expansion, the Getty Villa Museum renovation and the Historic Restoration of the Hollywood Pantages Theater.
Pali has served as a visiting critic and at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona School of Architecture, the UCLA School of Architecture and the USC School of Architecture. He has guest lectured at the UCLA School of Architecture, the New York Architectural League, and the LA Urban Forum on topics ranging from general architecture to mixed-use building design.
His personal contribution to the surrounding community includes pro bono design services and fundraising events for the Shakespeare Festival Los Angeles (a creative literacy program for undeserved youth of Los Angeles) and Artstorm (an art park concept designed to provide graffiti artists with a legal and positive outlet for practicing their design talents).
Judit M. Fekete serves as the managing principal of the firm, overseeing its strategic direction and maintaining the firm’s rigorous reputation for quality as President and CEO. Ms. Fekete’s unique background juxtaposes the complexities of large-scale commercial architecture with refined taste and understanding of the arts. After joining forces with Zoltan E. Pali, FAIA in 1990, Ms. Fekete formed SPF:architects in 1995 and collaborated with Pali on the firm’s numerous award-winning architecture projects. As the firm's architect-developer Ms. Fekete started the development company that built SPF:architects’ new mixed-use headquarters in Culver City, California. Her leadership involved the development, arranging financing, obtaining entitlements, managing and oversight of all construction activities. The block-long, mixed use facility houses SPF:a’s architectural offices alongside a full-service art gallery, café, and live-work lofts. Ms. Fekete’s role includes oversight of MODAA (Museum of Design Art and Architecture), which explores the symbiotic relationship between art and modern architecture through seasonal events and artist exhibitions.
Ms. Fekete has been particularly instrumental in SPF:a’s technological advancements and other unique service offerings. Her architectural contributions to the firm have led to publication in Architectural Record [the Orlando Virgin Megastore] and GA Magazine [Benjamin Residence, Sharpe Residence, and the Smith-Loring Residence]. She has also played a key role in the firm’s recent design successes such as the 1999 PA Citation Award given by Architecture Magazine for outstanding un-built work on the boards.
Ms. Fekete received her training in arts and architecture in Pecs, Hungary [birthplace and hometown of the famed designer and architect, Marcel Breuer]. Her Arts Degree master and mentor, Ferenc Lantos is presently one of Europe’s premier modernist artists and art educators. Upon completing her Arts and Architecture studies in 1981, Ms. Fekete worked for two architectural firms in Hungary, and in 1984, Ms. Fekete opened her own firm where she designed and built the interiors of retail stores and renovated historically significant residences [plantation homes built in the 1800’s].
Upon arrival in the United States in 1987, Ms. Fekete worked for several firms where she adapted to the American system of construction, and managed the seismic upgrading of un-reinforced masonry buildings and the planning and design of multi-family housing projects. As an independent project engineer, Ms. Fekete performed work for Morley Construction coordinating with sub-trades on the UCLA Powell Library Seismic Upgrade and Reconstruction and the Calabasas Water Treatment Facility. She also worked for Lomax-Rock Architects, where she participated in the award winning San Francisco Virgin Megastore project, a 30,000 square foot three-level retail store within an existing 1920’s masonry department store. In 1989 Ms. Fekete joined The Randy Washington Group [formerly Vito Cetta and Associates-VCA] in Los Angeles, California, and managed the construction of large-scale multi-family housing and commercial projects.
Responsibility. Responsibility is the foremost character trait that we need to embody as architects. Our responsibility to the public, to the client, to future generations, to the environment and to ourselves is paramount. It is this sense of responsibility that drives our design intentions and our design aesthetic. It is our view that this responsibility goes beyond attaining technical superiority but that it must also include poetry.
While the world of architecture these days often seems like a place of fads, fashion and formalism, SPF:a is less interested in theoretical issues than we are in the basic factors that define how space is made, how light is harnessed, how a building’s mechanical system works, how materials join together, and so on. We don’t have a design agenda, but rather we allow and seek what ought to be the true agenda of a project. In our view, this requires an idea or concept derived organically from the program, site, client and technical issues. It is our job to find the “solutional poetry” inherent in every design project.
While this may sound ordinary, our work is testament to the fact that SPF:a continually attempts and succeeds in the re-invention, re-tooling, and re-thinking of predictable solutions while balancing the tried and true elements of what makes sense for a building. What makes our work stand out is its bold and simple geometry coupled with a near obsessive level of detailing. We have built a practice by consistently maintaining a vigil of design excellence, inventiveness and timelessness.
So “architecture” in our view is no lofty profession with “gods” and “masters” to be revered and sanctified; it is the basic human act of building and organizing our world into a better place. We are first and foremost problem solvers, and through solving a problem creatively, we hope to approach something that we as humans later consider art.
To us, the design process does not stop at the sketch paper level. It continues down the line through to project completion. Every screw, every attachment, every diffuser location, every lighting control, every life safety device is a design decision. The key to a successful building is integrating all systems into a cohesive and buildable design. Seemingly unrelated disciplines must work together in cohesive partnership, and the architect must successfully captain the ship in order to achieve design and building efficiency.