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A Collaborative Design and Delivery Process

The Memorial to Fallen Officers is situated in a public plaza at the new LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. Gensler designed the memorial pro bono.

In 2009 the Los Angeles Police Department unveiled the Gensler designed Memorial to Fallen Officers to honor the sacrifice individual officers have made for the common good.

The impact of the memorial’s design overshadows another story: the progressive collaboration that took place between Gensler’s design team and Zahner, the company responsible for fabricating the monument. Working to deliver the project on a tight budget and deadline, our team broke from the traditional design-bid-build process and began working with Zahner early on to develop a series of solutions that allowed the realization of this important piece of public architecture. The collaboration protected the integrity of the monument’s design, the quality of its construction, and reduced the final cost of fabrication by over one third.

A collaborative arrangement

Commissioned by the Los Angeles Police Foundation, the monument’s design was originally estimated to cost $1.2 million. But fundraising proved challenging in the midst of the recession, and our client asked us to find ways to reduce the cost of construction by one-third, without sacrificing design quality. To meet this challenge, Gensler’s Los Angeles team and Zahner’s Kansas City-based team streamlined the design-build process by using advanced building information modeling (BIM) and online collaboration tools.

Gensler’s digital model initiated the collaborative process.

Traditionally, an architect’s drawings are interpreted by a builder, who in turn produces drawings and materials for fabrication. Too often, under cost, schedule and constructability pressures, there are changes made by a builder who has limited to no understanding of the architect’s intent, resulting in an uncertain and often underwhelming execution of the work.

Our team avoided this pitfall by sharing a digital model of the monument with Zahner at the start of the process. Our two teams then held designer/fabricator charrettes at which we discussed details ranging from nuances in the design, the quantity of materials, and the specifics of the fabrication and delivery process. Over web based screen sharing meetings the teams remotely rotated and discussed the model, tearing parts away, and streamlining every element of the structure down to its core. Through this process, both parties could visualize the final product, ensure quality at every level of detail, and accurately estimate the cost of fabrication and assembly.

The inherent complexity of the layers of brass plates in the design required critical attention to detail for the fabricator. The BIM modeling allowed the two teams to visualize and model the monument down to the last screw and plan out an assembly strategy. Every wall component was modeled, numbered and water-jet cut from brass and aluminum. The pieces were hand assembled, aided by a numerically ordered process.

The design model transitioned over to Zahner, where constructability issues were worked out with Gensler and additional intelligence was added to drive the computer controlled fabrication equipment.


Zahner with Gensler ultimately decided to assemble the monument as a single piece in Kansas City, to further reduce cost and control quality. We set the wall’s overall dimensions so it could fit on a low-ride trailer safely fitting under every overpass as it traveled by truck from Kansas City to Los Angeles.

The final cost of construction was $750,000, a 37 percent reduction from the initial estimated cost. More importantly, the project-long collaboration allowed the teams to deliver a high-quality, high-impact civic monument that fulfills its mission to boldly honor the sacrifice of LA’s fallen officers and engage the community they serve.

David Herjeczki is a design director in Gensler's Los Angeles office. A design leader with a deep commitment to innovation and a passion for ideas-driven design, Herjeczki combines rigorous design investigation and technical innovation to shape high-quality projects for both institutional and commercial clients. Contact him at david_herjeczki@gensler.com.

Reader Comments (1)

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