Business Spotlight

Dahl Architects, Inc.

A South Pasadena Institution
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Architect Steve Dahl shows one of the firm’s projects. Photos by Mario Boucher

Steven P. Dahl, Principal Architect and President at Dahl Architects, Inc in South Pasadena, loves his job and the diverse projects upon which his firm has had the pleasure of working. And it’s a long list of projects, at that.

Chances are, most locals have personally experienced Dahl Architects’ impact on the architectural landscape. Over the years its projects have ranged from the grand—think the Rose Bowl, Los Angeles City Hall, Crown City Brewery, Slaters 50/50, or Western Dental—to those smaller in scale, such as single-family home construction and renovations. Sports fans may be excited to know the firm has had its hand in the coming NFL Stadium in Irwindale.

What sets Steve Dahl and his firm apart from the others is his fierce commitment to the customer and their unique needs, including environmental and energy efficient technologies. “Each of these projects is special. For us it’s about trying to make our clients’ dreams come true,” said Steve. “No matter who they are, or how big or small the project.”

It all started over seventy years ago with Steve’s grandparents, Raphael “Van” Buren and Doris Livingston, who founded the firm in 1937. Both were architects (his grandmother, Doris, was one of the first women to graduate from USC’s School of Architecture) and artists and their influence can still be seen in the Dahl Architects office located on El Centro Street. Renderings of local buildings they worked on hang from the walls, as well as original artwork by Doris, Van and Steve himself. Steve fondly remembers playing with colored pencils in their studio watching them work. “I always knew I wanted to be an architect,” Steve said. His first design project in 1962, a doghouse, was just the beginning of an extensive career.

Steve took over the firm full time in 1989 and hasn’t stopped working since. For instance, he tackled Old Pasadena’s One Colorado Project Block Development and tenant improvements and the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel and Spa’s renovation of its historic “cottages.” Further, at last count the company has worked on 107 restaurants in Pasadena alone.

While Dahl Architects has achieved much success with commercial projects, residential projects remain the backbone of the firm’s work – and also where Steve derives great personal gratification. “It’s more the people than the project,” he said. “What seems like a small project to me can change a whole family’s life. It’s so cool to help people out.”

“It all comes down to our ability to really listen to our client and what they are looking for,” he said. “To put ourselves in their shoes.” For many, this is their first experience with a construction project. Dahl is committed to a process that is tailored to each individual homeowners’ needs. “We emphasize a very flexible, step-by-step educational process. We are happy if our clients are happy,” said Steve. And happiness is not having to worry about things like code requirements or zoning guidelines or hillside fire regulations. Dahl even takes on public hearings, acting as the homeowners’ representative for the approval process.

Over the decades, the firm has successfully executed countless residential projects. It’s fluency in the variety of architectural styles found in Southern California such as Craftsman, Mediterranean-Spanish, Italian, Monterey Colonial, Neo-Classic, Tudor, French, Normandy, Southwest, Adobe, and California “Ranch,” has helped it to not only authentically renovate existing homes, but to also seamlessly blend new homes into existing neighborhoods.

Dahl Architects achieves its prolific project output with a relatively small, tightknit team of six full-time employees and many long-term consultants. Steve is supported by a team of highly-skilled project managers, including his sister Tammie (Dahl) Kallen. His children, daughter Anna and son Adrian, also work at the longtime family business. “It takes a team to get it all done,” he said.

“I’m so grateful for the work I get to do,” Steve commented. “I hope to keep doing it for years to come.”

Dahl Architects, Inc. is located at 1134 El Centro Street in South Pasadena, CA 91030. For more information, visit www.dahlarchitects.com, call (626) 564-0011 or email info@dahlarchitects.com.

The Dahl Architects, Inc. Business Spotlight appeared in the print edition of the South Pasadena Review on 9.14.18. Support Local Business.

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