CO Architects Promotes 21 for ’24

Los Angeles Firm Elevates New Associate Principals, Senior Associates, and Associates

CO Architects recently promoted 21 team members, including new associate principals Lauren Coles, AIA, CDT, LEED AP BD+C (left), and Jill Cheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C (right). UCI Health – Irvine Medical Center is a major new design-build project by Hensel Phelps + CO Architects. Images courtesy of CO Architects.

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LOS ANGELES: CO Architects, a leading national design firm specializing in healthcare, education, and research facilities, ended 2023 by promoting 21 team members at several levels.

Advancing to Associate Principal are Jill Cheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, and Lauren Coles, AIA, CDT, LEED AP BD+C. The firm’s new Senior Associates are Esther Chao, AIA, LEED GA, Emilio Todescato, AIA, Chikara Inamura, and Nazli Tatar. Team members promoted to Associate are Jiming Bai, Haley Becker, Kenny Chao, Joseph Chase, Simin Chu, LEED AP BD+C, Marissa Cuevas, Nick DiFalco, Zhiao Feng, Gina Harrison, Ophelia Yuting Ji, Kaiwen Ku, RA, Gabriel Lampe, AIA, Veronica Carranza Morataya, Sarah Palmer, and Megan Todd.

Jill Cheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, has more than 20 years of experience in planning, design, and project management. Her institutional projects include healthcare, higher education, justice, and K-12 facilities. A member of the firm from 2001-2017, Jill rejoined CO in 2020 to lead the day-to-day management of the UCI Health-Irvine Medical Center project. She earned an M.Arch. from Rice University (Houston) and a B.A. in Architecture from UC Berkeley.

Lauren Coles, AIA, CDT, LEED AP BD+C, has partnered with higher education and healthcare clients on a broad range of projects, from replacement medical centers to leading health-sciences education and research facilities. Since joining CO in 2015, Lauren has supervised the firm’s efforts to assist staff in earning architecture licenses. She is the current past chair of the AIA Los Angeles Chapter’s Professional Practice Committee. Lauren earned a B.S. in Architecture from Northeastern University (Boston).

Esther Chao, AIA, LEED GA, is a skilled project manager, planner, and designer who thrives on communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. Since joining CO in 2014, Esther has undertaken a range of higher education, healthcare, and science and technology projects for clients in California, Arizona, Texas, and Kentucky. She earned an M.Arch. from University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and a B.A. in Architecture Studies from UCLA (Los Angeles).

Director of Digital Design & Technology Chikara Inamura is a creative designer and technologist with more than 15 years of experience across scales and disciplines in the built environment. Chikara has led CO’s digital technology practice since 2021, innovating computational design and digital fabrication through collaboration. He holds a Master of Media Arts and Sciences from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge) and a B.Arch. from Southern California Institute of Architecture (Los Angeles).

Digital Experience Designer Nazli Tatar researches, develops, and integrates new customized digital tools that foster greater understanding and ownership of building designs. Since 2017, she has developed and applied a wide variety of new technologies to the design process and created user experience prototypes for the full range of CO’s projects. Nazli has an M.Arch. from UCLA (Los Angeles) and a B.Arch. from Istanbul Technical University.

Emilio Todescato, AIA, integrates the built environment with nature, context, and technology to create buildings that inspire, connect, and encourage exploration. His experience with CO ranges from developer-led tech campuses and research laboratories to higher-education research and teaching facilities to medical-education projects. Emilio earned a B.Arch. at University of Oregon (Eugene).

Jiming Bai is a tenacious, detail-oriented designer who embraces complexity in his work. Since joining the firm in 2019, Jiming has worked on medical education projects for Wichita State University and Mayo Clinic. He holds an M.Arch. from University of Southern California (Los Angeles).

Interior designer Haley Becker utilizes her refined design aesthetic and communication skills to fulfill each project’s vision. Haley joined CO in 2019 and has worked on projects for UC Riverside and Wexford Science & Technology. She earned a Bachelors in Interior Design from Illinois State University (Normal).

Kenny Chao’s talents include programming, design, and construction administration on impactful projects such as the new UC Riverside School of Medicine Education Building II. He interned at CO before joining full-time in 2020. Kenny graduated from Princeton University (New Jersey) with an M.Arch. He earned a B.Arch. from University of Southern California (Los Angeles).

Joseph Chase is skilled in communicating with design teams, consultants, contractors, and clients across complex healthcare and science and technology projects. He is also a mentor for CO’s summer program for high school students. Joseph graduated from University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) with a B.S. in Architecture.

Simin Chu, LEED AP BD+C, is an in-demand team member on higher education, healthcare, and K-12 projects. She is currently working on a new medical school for Rutgers University that will be a hub for innovation. Simin holds a Master of Design degree from Rhode Island School of Design (Providence) and a Bachelor of Engineering from Tongji University (Shanghai).

CO Architects relies on Marissa Cuevas to drive science and technology projects forward. Precise in her work, Marissa is a versatile team player who has contributed to CO’s San Diego office since 2019. She earned a B.Arch. from Woodbury University (Los Angeles).

Project coordinator Nick DiFalco skillfully balances responsibilities for the healthcare, civic, and education sectors. He has been an asset to CO’s projects since 2019, including Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and North Hollywood High School. Nick earned an Associates in Architecture from Mt. San Antonio College (Los Angeles).

Detail-oriented design talent Zhiao Feng is creative and insightful. He draws from a variety of project typologies, including urban planning and neurological research. Zhiao joined CO in 2020 and has an M.Arch. from UCLA (Los Angeles) plus B.Arch. degrees from Southern California Institute of Architecture (Los Angeles) and California College of the Arts (San Francisco).

Gina Harrison ensures that CO’s project documentation is incredibly detailed on healthcare, science and technology, and medical education projects. She joined CO in 2013 after earning a B.A. from UC Santa Barbara and returned in 2020 with a Master of Construction Management from Western Carolina University (Cullowhee).

Ophelia Yuting Ji has demonstrated impressive growth on a range of CO’s project types. Since joining the firm in 2018, she has worked on complex projects for Cedars-Sinai, Kaiser Permanente, LAUSD, and UCLA. Ophelia earned M.Arch. and Master of Landscape Architecture degrees from Washington University (St. Louis).

Kaiwen Ku, RA, brings a holistic approach to CO’s projects from her experience in landscape architecture and interior design. Kaiwen’s strong design and technical aptitude is evident in her work for UCI Health and Wichita State University. She has M.Arch. and Master of Landscape Architecture degrees from Washington University (St. Louis).

Talented designer Gabriel Lampe, AIA, translates ideas into striking built environments. His design approach is thoughtful and methodical, resulting in projects that improve the human experience and align with the clients’ vision. Gabriel earned an M.Arch. from from Washington University (St. Louis) and a B.Arch. from University of Michigan (Ann Arbor).

At CO since 1998, Veronica Carranza Morataya is a detail-orientated project administrator who has taken on many roles. She is a valued team resource who distills and organizes complex information to accurately track projects.

Senior Marketing & Graphics Coordinator Sarah Palmer is a thorough and adaptable marketer who diligently works to develop successful proposals, award submissions, and a strong social media presence. She joined CO in 2020 and has a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts (Amherst).

Megan Todd is a proven marketing and business-development professional. With a broad industry reach and the ability to easily connect with clients, consultants, and contractors, she is the face of CO’s San Diego office. Megan graduated from the University of Idaho (Moscow).

About CO Architects

CO Architects is nationally recognized for architectural planning, programming, and design in the higher education, science and technology, and healthcare sectors, and works with leading institutions from coast to coast. CO Architects’ specialized expertise includes transformative schools of medicine and health professions, advanced research and teaching laboratories, K-12 facilities, and innovative clinical facilities on higher education, healthcare, and urban campuses. The firm has been nationally and internationally recognized with more than 215 awards for innovative design and project delivery, including two AIA National Architecture Awards and AIA California’s Architecture Firm of the Year Award.

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