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Off Franklin Avenue, not far from architect Stacey Hooper’s home, is a severed tree trunk used as a bench. One day, Hooper noticed that somebody had planted marigolds inside the cavity. She wrote a poem about it, about the fragility and beauty of life, and design. In that tree-trunk — ignored by most passersby — Hooper observed not just a delicate ecosystem, but a microcosm of her profession and its relationship to the world.

Hooper, project designer for The Broad Institute for Stem Cell Research about to break ground on the USC campus, has earned a reputation as an expert on “glass curtains,” the double panes of glass on the outside of buildings that, when filled with air, absorbs sound and creates heat. Hooper’s become something of a green architect with a healthy distrust of fraud by so-called green product manufacturers. Her latest building will have an oxygen-generating roof garden that drinks recycled ground water.

Hooper may be singularly focused and goal-oriented, but the winding road she took to L.A. reveals both her free spirit and a holistic-rather-than-compartmentalized view of life. Back in Illinois during the hard times of 1992, she paid her way through the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by working public service jobs.

“I was sent to the Kraft plant and devised plans on how to replace spaghetti machines with macaroni machines.”

Wanting a little bit more out of life, she followed a friend to Seattle, where she eventually found work on a range of projects, from the Port of Seattle cruise ship terminal to a light rail station. She came to L.A. by herself in 2002, living for a year with a friend’s cousin, before moving in with filmmaker/musician Paul Feldman in a small co-op they bought near the base of the Hollywood Hills — and that tree trunk.

 

Photo by Kevin Scanlon