Michael Folonis reacted with baffled delight when he was chosen to design the 50,000-square-foot, three-story UCLA Outpatient Surgery and Medical Building in Santa Monica. He had no background in health care. But his client, Randall Miller, an owner-developer who was constructing the building with the intention of leasing it to UCLA, simply told him that a good architect should be able to design anything.
Educated at SCI-Arc and UCLA, Santa Monica–based Folonis worked for Frank Gehry and Ray Kappe before starting his own firm in 1983. His residential, mixed-use, and preservation work of the last three decades expresses his loyalty to the legacy of California Modernists—buildings that use daylight as a material and strive to connect the interior with the outdoors. Perhaps because his portfolio does not include other medical buildings, the architect was able to bring an unencumbered approach and elegance to the UCLA center. “I needed to think about what this building means to people,” says Folonis. “What it means to me is: This is a very scary place. How can I change this experience?”