The founding partners of Pugh + Scarpa, the Santa Monica-based studio that won the 2010 AIA Architecture Firm Award, announced this week that they have parted ways. While breakups can be laden with conflict, Lawrence Scarpa emphasizes that their split has been cordial. “It has not been a nasty divorce, so to speak,” he says. “We’ve done it amicably.” 

Lawrence Scarpa, Gwynne Pugh, Angela Brooks
Photo © Joe Woolhead

Gwynne Pugh officially left the 22-year-old firm on September 1 to start his own enterprise, Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio. Scarpa remains at the helm with Angela Brooks, who became Pugh + Scarpa’s third principal in 1999. They will keep the firm’s name for the remainder of this year, but plan to change it to Brooks + Scarpa in 2011.

Pugh and Scarpa’s decision to split up, after leading the firm together since 1991, “was relatively quick, and happened over the course of the last three months,” says Pugh. “Larry kind of wanted to go his own way, and there were opportunities that I saw for going in a different direction than he was interested in, so it was a mutual kind of process.”

“It’s artistic differences,” says Scarpa. “I don’t see it as a hiccup or a left-hand-turn, or anything like that. It’s just part of the natural evolution of where I’m going with the firm.”

Scarpa hints that there will be some sort of new direction at the firm, but declines to provide specifics. “That will be forthcoming when we do the name change,” he says. “I try not to say too much, because it can only spiral out of control.”

At Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio, Pugh says he plans to broaden the scope of his work to include larger urban design projects. “Certainly, I’ll be continuing to practice architecture of the nature that we have practiced,” he says, “but also of interest to me is architecture in its environment. I’m on the planning commission of the city of Santa Monica, and I act as an urban design consultant to a number of cities, including Long Beach and San Diego. So, I’ll really be exploring that, and also working with developers to create architecture that’s more compatible with the environment.”

Pugh says he doesn’t currently have plans to bring Pugh + Scarpa staff members over to his new firm; however, he has hired a former employee who recently was let go. “Essentially,” he says, “I’m working at a smaller scale at this time.”