Interview: Barbara Flammang, AIA

Architect Barbara Flammang, founder of Killefer Flammang Architects (KFA), will be the featured speaker at the AWA+D Holiday Party on Saturday, December 3, 2016, the annual fundraising event benefiting the AWAFoundation Scholarships. Read on for Joanne Jackson’s interview with Barbara, and join AWAF to hear her in person!


Joanne Jackson (JJ): Tell us about yourself: your background and education.

Barbara Flammang (BF): I grew up in the San Fernando Valley and I have such fond memories of riding my bike and building forts in the hills of the Sepulveda Pass, before the 405 freeway existed. I always like to make things from wood and clay and was encouraged to do those projects by my Mother.

The Valley was full of wide-open spaces and orange groves back then. To this day, my favorite places are in nature, in the great outdoors and I take a vigorous walk almost every day.

I studied history at UCLA and in my junior year, took an architectural history class taught by Tom Hines.  A loved it and a light bulb went off!  Professor Hines suggested that I visit Perloff Hall and look around the architecture school.

I graduated as a history major and went directly into the UCLA architecture masters program expecting to study history.  But I became more interested in the design studios and structures courses and I made the shift to architecture.


JJ: What about your career path?

BF: I started at Landau & Associates, a 10-person firm that was terrific and they gave me as much responsibility as I could handle.  After three years, I moved on to La Sala & Squire, another small firm that was a nurturing and positive work experience.

Wade Killefer and I met at UCLA architecture grad school and married in 1977.  Wade had launched a design / build practice right out of grad school with our classmate Scott Carde.  In 1980, I decided to take a chance, to go all-in together and I joined Wade and Scott.   We started with remodels and single-family homes slowly building our design practice.  I passed my licensing exams in 1982.

In the late 1980’s, we got a big break when a friend from Las Vegas introduced us to many of the movers and shakers in that area.  We designed several custom homes and did our first institutional work there – a library and a private school.


JJ: Can you share your experiences in balancing work / family life?

BF: Our daughter was born in 1981 and our son in 1984.  Wade and I made an  agreement that our partnership would always be 50/50, I’m pretty lucky in that regard.  We had a very dependable child care person who was with us for 21 years and she was an essential part of the equation.  But she had her own family so we made a commitment to be at home by 5:30 every night, in time to have dinner with our children.  It worked out well for all of us.


JJ: What do you think are your most significant architectural achievements?

BF: This year, our firm was awarded the AIA California Council Firm of the Year Award Winner.  We’ve built a collaborative, inclusive office and we work to serve our clients and the community.  I think that’s the basis of great design.  Over four decades, we’ve designed 15,206 residential units, 3,436 affordable housing units, 904 units for the homeless population on Skid Row, 18 school projects and worked on 11 buildings on the National Registrar of Historic Places.

One of the things I’m most proud of is the culture at our office: 55% of our staff is women and 50% of eligible staff is licensed.   We’ve created an environment where people, especially women, have been able to stay for years, working toward licensure and doing excellent work.


JJ: Looking ahead, what do you see in the future for architecture?

BF: I expect there will be more interweaving of the design and construction process, creating more integrated project delivery.

As a woman in the profession, I expect and hope to see a continuing improvement in the gender balance, more women in the field and at the top of the field, will be great.

In the short term, I’m off to Nepal to meet my daughter who is working for Oxfam, delivering relief to the locals.  It will be an adventure!