By Diego Linares
Alexis Navarro has become a staple in the East Los Angeles College Department of Architecture through loyalty, passion and implementation of groundbreaking work.
The product of immigrant parents, Navarro said he struggled to find himself and make choices about what to do with his life.
“My working class background limited my vision, but slowly, I began to obtain a larger view of my potential,” said Navarro.
“This was my biggest challenge, to see beyond the limited circumstances I was raised in at home and the environment I grew up in.”
Navarro said that ELAC is where he found himself as a person, and now owes to the students as a professor.
Chair of the Department of Architecture, Michael Hamner, firmly believes that recognition Navarro deserves some for his continuous work at ELAC.
“Seven years ago, we had zero students at USC. Today, we have 17 active in the Architecture Program and graduated some 15 in the last five years,” said Hamner.
“In fact, the current number of students who have transferred from ELAC and are enrolled in accredited Architecture Programs, is over 50. That’s what Professor Navarro and the rest of us are extremely proud of.”
Navarro, an Alhambra High School graduate, is credited with changing the course curriculum for design at ELAC from a vocational-style department, of one similar to first and second year university models.
After graduating from ELAC in 1981, Navarro transferred to California State Polytechnic University, Pomona to receive his Bachelor of Architecture in 1984.
Between receiving his bachelor’s degree at Cal Poly, Pomona and master’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles in 1997, Navarro practiced architecture for 12 years and taught at ELAC as a construction technology adjunct professor for eight years.
In his 12 years in the field, Navarro was a project architect for The Museum of Tolerance and a team member for the Getty Center with acclaimed architect Richard Meier for six years.
According to Hamner, the architectural academia in their system was revolutionized upon Navarro’s return from UCLA.
“It was like a lightswitch,” said Hamner. “Our architectural digital course offerings are three times the size of any university curriculum and arguably the largest of any of the community colleges.”
In light of all the success, Navarro stays humble, giving credit to Hamner and the staff for their work in the department.
“For us here, it’s our life – this is it – this is what we’re about,” said Navarro about the department. “That’s why this program is so successful, because it’s a reflection of us. So, we have an extreme amount of pride. It’s a lot of work, hell yeah, but it’s something we do 24/7.”
Navarro added that the Department of Architecture at ELAC is going to work on continuing to bring famous architects for a series of lectures, like when internationally recognized architect Teddy Cruz came into ELAC Professor Orhan Ayyuce’s class last fall semester.
A bigger studio is also in the architecture department’s sights and Navarro said architecture students need a more spacious dedicated work area, since the students in the practice are constantly at their desks working.