Client Spotlight: Alan Nissel | SPF:architects

Client Spotlight: Alan Nissel

Alan Nissel is a real estate practitioner and an expert in international property law. Alan serves as Managing Principal of Wilshire Skyline, a real estate firm in Los Angeles focused on ground-up construction projects, historic rehabilitation, and value-add repositioning.

In addition to being the key developer behind our much-celebrated Line Lofts, Alan continues to be one of our chief collaborators and is currently overseeing the development of two other SPF:a-designed multi-family projects.

Learn more about what Alan—and SPF:a—have in store for Los Angeles ahead.

Your background is in international law, how did you get your start in real estate development?

I love the study of law and spent a lot of time—likely too much time—collecting degrees from law school. While there, my favorite subject was international law. Of course, it is interesting because of its significance to world affairs but it is also fascinating because it is the only major legal system lacking a police force. How is international law enforced without a police force? Great stuff.

Throughout most of my postgraduate education in law, I worked in my family’s real estate business. I started as a bookkeeper and after about a decade in management operations, I began developing our properties in 2011—with Zoltan!

Wilshire Skyline is our family’s asset management company that oversees all real estate operations. Founded by my grandfather, Eugen Nissel, in 1973, it is now led by the third generation of Nissels. I began working for Wilshire Skyline the summer after graduating from law school in 1999.

What type of architecture are you drawn to? Are there any architects or styles you admire in particular?

It is very difficult to identify an architectural style or music genre as one’s favorite. However, because I really fell in love with design as a graduate law student in Helsinki, I would have to say “Scandinavian Minimalism” because of its reliance on natural materials, its functionality, and, of course, its incorporation of light.

If I had to point to one architect, I’d say Alvar Aalto (Finland, 1898-1976).

The Line Lofts is your first ground-up construction—what was it like building something from zero? And what was it like to collaborate with Zoltan and the SPF:a team on this project?

The Line Lofts, residential development, los angeles architecture, modern apartment building, corrugated metal and plaster facade, modern residential architect los angeles, top residential architect los angeles, residential architect los angeles

Ground-up construction was fun and actually a whole heck of a lot easier than historic rehabilitation. I learned about the importance of the right team, including design, construction, and project management. With the right team, ground-up construction is a beautifully creative process that can reward developers with stable, long-term income from a legacy asset.

The Line Lofts, modern studio bedroom, residential development, los angeles architecture, modern apartment building, enclosed balcony design, atrium balcon, residential architect los angeles, best residential architect los angeles, top residential architect los angeles, modern residential architects los angeles

I would divide working with Zoltan and SPF:a into two parts: before and during construction.

Before construction, working with SPF:a is like designing a dream. The process is organic, cooperative, iterative and without question my favorite part of working in real estate. I love it.

Building the dream in construction, of course, is often a challenging process, with much finger-pointing and heated heads. The ability to rely on a trusted design partner like Zoltan Pali, who is determined, at every step of the way, to “keep the dream alive” and to be a loyal partner is the reason why I keep coming back to SPF:a for more.

The Line Lofts has been recognized with numerous awards and from an architectural perspective the building is successful. But what about for the occupants who are there day in and day out? As someone who is part of the management team, what has the response been from the building's users?

It is great to receive external validation such as design awards. But, of course, we design residential buildings to be lived in by humans. The Line Lofts in particular was designed to be a fully-amenitized building. Like a custom home, it was curated by SPF:a to have morning coffee and work areas, daytime health and leisure areas, evening pre-gaming areas, etc. So it is rewarding to see not only how often the spaces are used and reused by residents but also how well the construction materials are holding up.

Residents love living at The Line Lofts, which explains why the building has one of the lowest unit turnover rates in our entire L.A. portfolio.

You are working with SPF:a on two other developments in Los Angeles, what can you share about their designs and how they differ from The Line Lofts and your other projects?

Zoltan, as everyone knows, never designs the same building twice—in fact he designs each building multiple times! Each property is different. The two developments that we are working on now in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles are each designed to be situated exactly where they are.

One is on a visible corner overlooking single-family homes, so SPF:a designed it as a place of transition from low to high-density residences (an aerial view of the site can be seen below). The other is in the middle of a block but straddles the boundary of two cities: L.A. and Beverly Hills. SPF:a is designing this project with the idea of incorporating the various design and zoning elements in its environment. The result is a highly modulated and brightly lit building that will surely stand out in that crowd.