July 6, 2015
AWA+D was honored to partner with Dwell on Design to bring our members and guests this year’s annual programming event – The Rise: Building Downtown LA. Erika Heet, Dwell Magazine’s Los Angeles Editor and Dwell on Design’s Editorial Director, was a big part of the event’s planning and success. We’ve been curious to learn more about the background and talents of this multi-faceted practitioner who’s been on the publishing side of design for more than 20 years so we asked her to step in as our July Industry Spotlight. Read on to learn more about this local star!
1. Biographical Information
I was born and raised in Southern California and studied English at UC Berkeley and always knew I wanted to be a writer. I wrote for and edited the Berkeley Fiction Review while at school, and did a lot of poetry readings. I got a job in advertising right after college and I hated it. Then I got lucky and was passed a research and writing assignment for Bon Appetit magazine that a friend had too much on her plate to take on—this was in 1993. I was then recommended for a job in the research department at Architectural Digest at Conde Nast; I started there in 1994. What a first job. I never had to be anyone’s assistant, never fetched coffee or gathered faxes (the hot new communication choice back then), and I was flung into the top publishing company in the world with access to great writers, seasoned editors, and the holy grail—the Architectural Digest library.
I have since written for or been on staff at Interiors, 1stdibs Introspective, Robb Report, and Dwell, where I am currently Los Angeles Editor and Editorial Director of Dwell on Design, America’s largest design event, where I curate the onstage and educational content, artist exhibitions, outdoor cinema (architecture and design films), and Modern Family pavilion, which hosted hundreds of kids and parents over the course of the show.
2. Why did you want to become a writer focused on design?
My love for architecture and design stemmed purely from my time at Architectural Digest—I began as an assistant, rose to senior editor, and spent 8 rewarding years there.
3. Who have been your greatest influencers? Why?
Architects like Richard Meier and designers like Axel Vervoordt for their raw talent and huge strides in each of their genres, Shigeru Ban for his insistence on designing for the underserved in the community, and the great architecture writers—the late Brendan Gill and Ada Louise Huxtable—whose deep understanding of their subjects and unmatched voices still shine through in their work.
4. What do you feel are some of your most important achievements?
Earning the respect of my fellow writers and editors, even while leading a staff of them, working with the wonderful architect Shay Zak on his book, and writing and editing for fantastic publications: Architectural Digest, Interiors, 1stdibs Introspective, Robb Report, and Dwell. And, of course, my children.
5. What are some of the insights of being a woman in your occupation?
Luckily in publishing we don’t have the same crises in representation as the architecture field, which I see changing for the better, but not quickly enough. So from a writing and editing standpoint, it is crucial for us to publicize the great female architects working today.
6. What excites you creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Great writers. People who dedicate their lives to others. Justice. Nature.
7. What do you think/hope your occupation will look like in 10 years?
I hope we have even more platforms to showcase the important work of both emerging and seasoned female architects in particular.
8. What role, if any, do/have you played in AWA+D and what is the importance of the organization in your life?
I would love to be an honorary member someday! We were smart enough to ask Frances Anderton to come to Dwell on Design Los Angeles, where she let us know AWA+D might be interested in using the show as a forum for the annual symposium, which I attended and was really impressed by the caliber of the speakers and timeliness of the topic of downtown L.A.’s renaissance. Securing AIA accreditation for the session was another deserved accomplishment I was very glad to shepherd.
9. What advice would you give the graduating class of 2020?
Find your voice, and never underestimate the importance of collaboration and mentorship. Don’t burn bridges; the world of women in architecture and design is a small one, and you never know when you will need to call in a favor or help a fellow professional out.
10. Any final thoughts or words of wisdom?
It’s a cliché but stay true to yourself and the work you believe in. Don’t be afraid to be a little controversial. Own it.