2012 Fellow Kevin Daly, FAIA

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The Practical Magic of Architecture: 2012 Fellow Kevin Daly, FAIA

Photo by William Staffeld / © Cornell University

Kevin Daly, FAIA’s architecture is based on the belief that architecture has the power to transform the everyday built environment. His work interweaves innovation in technology and fabrication, economy and livability, materiality and form.

Over his twenty-year career, Kevin Daly has defined a design process that upholds the practical magic of architecture—an alchemical conjunction of craft, materials, and form. Bolstered by abundant research, he has demonstrated the benefits of advanced, unconventional building technology in works that are consistently recognized in publications and awards and range from public schools, custom residences, and university buildings to affordable housing.

Camino Nuevo Charter Academy High School, Los Angeles, photo © Tim Griffith

A woodworking-focused design/build practice that Daly founded during his college years was influential as he explored the craft of building and went on to begin his career in the studios of Hodgetts + Fung and as a designer at Frank O. Gehry and Associates. At their offices, he witnessed a depth of understanding of material processes, a willingness to improvise, and the ability to find poetic potential in everyday urban conditions. Daly has carried those lessons into projects of all scales, from residential to institutional. Since founding Daly Genik in 1990, he has incorporated these idioms and broadened their potential to establish his own artistic voice.

Art Center College of Design, South Campus, Pasadena, photo © Benny Chan/Fotoworks

Daly is particularly recognized for reclaiming and transforming sites characteristic of the postwar city, turning generic background buildings into models of community identity. Noted architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff, writing about Daly’s inner city charter schools, claimed they are some of “the most inspiring projects built in Los Angeles in years” and models of “a thoughtful, low-cost work of architecture that embodies the kind of civic purpose and progressive ideals that so many public institutions give lip service to but rarely fulfill.” The decade-long series of five projects for Camino Nuevo Charter Schools has garnered numerous awards, including the 2003 Bruner Foundation Gold Medal and a 2010 Honor Award from the AIA, was featured in Newsweek, Architectural Review, Metropolis, Architectural Record, and The New York Times, and is considered a model for urban schools by organizations as diverse as the N.E.A., the L.A. Unified School District, and the National Charter School Association.

Harvard University Art Museums Art Center, Cambridge, MA, rendering by Daly Genik

Projects by Kevin Daly express his belief in an architecture that performs on every level: environmentally, structurally, economically, and aesthetically. The interrelation between technology and sustainability is evident in the Art Center College of Design South Campus, where Daly designed one of the first North American installations of an ETFE skylight system, now a national case study in the integration of high performance building systems with formal objectives. Likewise, at both the Tahiti Affordable Housing and at the Edison Language Academy, environmental strategies operate holistically, with site plans that exceed natural lighting and ventilation parameters while simultaneously managing water resources to create environmentally responsible public buildings. For Daly, sustainability concerns physics rather than features, allowing the architect to bring structure, program, and form together.

Tahiti Housing Complex, Santa Monica, photo © Tim Griffith

Kevin Daly has established a critical practice that is nationally recognized, while simultaneously engaging the profession as well as the local community. Almost every project has been published nationally or received awards for design excellence. He has served on numerous AIA awards juries, won the first AIA/LA Firm of the Year Award, held distinguished university chairs at Berkeley and Michigan, and is a regular faculty member at UCLA. Through this teaching experience, he fosters a next generation of architects across the country. He has a strong belief in creating an architecture that is within the reach of everyone, and he consistently donates his time and expertise to pro bono efforts such as USC’s Center for Sustainable Cities and the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center. Daly’s practice is the embodiment of architecture that is surprisingly optimistic, inherently innovative, and intrinsically pragmatic.

This article is drawn from Kevin Daly’s AIA Fellowship submittal. Photos of Kevin Daly courtesy of Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art, and Planning.

Valley Center House, San Diego County, photo © Grant Mudford


Daly Genik

Daly Genik was established in 1990 by Kevin Daly and Chris Genik, with their primary focus on residential and community-based projects. The studio has grown steadily and now has twenty employees. The two principles, have built a unique partnership which engages both the built environment and academic research.

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