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Profiles in Design: NMA Architects’ Dave Mendro, Partner

NMA Architects Aspires to Match Design Styles with Individual Sites


Studio: 888 Linden Avenue, Carpinteria, nmaarchitects.com

Specialties: Architectural design of private residences, office complexes, and community spaces

Notable Projects: Custom homes, QAD Headquarters in Summerland, and the Discovery Pavilion at the Santa Barbara Zoo

Upcoming: Community Arts Center in Carpinteria

“We prefer not to have a style in mind,” said Dave Mendro of his firm’s open approach to new projects. “We pride ourselves with trying to come up with the perfect solution.”

Mendro understands the diversity of design projects partially due to his work on the Montecito Board of Architectural Review. When he first arrived in Santa Barbara in 1986, he was surprised how much local design review boards oversaw new development.

However, over the years, he has come to appreciate how it has improved and preserved the region’s architectural heritage. “Just take a drive down south to see what can happen with unfettered development,” he said.

NMA Architects is known for custom homes that range from traditional to contemporary. They have designed more than 50 beach houses along the coast, where they used the natural strengths of individual building sites, and the clients’ lifestyles, as a guide to the homes’ design.

Mendro admits that his firm’s unusual flexibility with style is not always the most efficient design practice, but it is this open-minded attitude that keeps him energized.

“We live vicariously through our clients,” he says. “They always bring some new problem to solve, so we are always learning from them.”

NMA Architects relied on these problem-solving skills while designing the QAD Headquarters in Summerland. They were asked to further the software company’s corporate culture by integrating design concepts that encouraged employee collaboration. Mendro’s team aimed to reduce the idea of the ego in the workplace by creating more equal space. “The focus was much more on creativity,” he says.

Mendro’s firm also takes the ideas of its own corporate culture seriously. “When the surf is up, the office might be quiet for a while,” says Mendro as he highlights their priority to offer a flexible work environment where employees can make time for their health and family.

However, personal balance isn’t the only balance they seek; they also hope to find balance between the work they do on public and private spaces. They designed the community-supported Discovery Pavilion at the Santa Barbara Zoo. “It’s fun to contribute in that way,” he said of the 2,300-square-foot classroom that now houses the zoo’s education program for kids and adults. Now they are working with the nonprofit Community Arts Center in Carpinteria to remodel an existing structure and design the outdoor area of an adjacent vacant lot.

Mendro hopes to continue to contribute to the community through his design work as an individual architect, and also more broadly by serving with his peers on the Montecito Board of Architectural Review. He says he hopes to provide a balanced view to design review and encourage the best in regionally built environments.



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