May Newsletter

AIA California Desert Tribute To Hugh Kaptur

**Celebrating Hugh Kaptur, AIA Emeritus**

In this month's newsletter, we are thrilled to pay tribute to one of our esteemed members and founder of the AIA California Desert Chapter, Hugh Kaptur. He is part of the renowned "Desert Dozen," a group of 12 architects instrumental in shaping Palm Springs into the Mid-Century Modern haven it is today, Hugh's legacy spans over six decades of visionary design and architectural innovation.

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Hugh's journey into architecture was marked by determination and talent. After studying at the Lawrence Institute of Technology, he embarked on a career that would take him from the drafting tables of General Motors to the sun-drenched landscapes of Palm Springs. It was here, during a fateful trip in 1956, that Hugh decided to make Palm Springs his home—a decision that would forever alter the architectural landscape of the region.

After a short apprentice period with of Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison, Hugh embarked on his own practice of numerous projects (more than 200 Built Projects in the area) that would define the Mid-Century Modern aesthetic of Palm Springs. From the iconic Impala Lodge to the residences of notable figures like Thomas Griffing and William Holden, Hugh's designs captured the essence of desert living, blending form and function with effortless grace.

Some of his most Notable projects are:

  • The Music Land Hotel (1967)
  • Palm Springs Fire Station #3 (1963)
  • Palm Springs Fire Station #4 (1974)
  • Purcell Residence (1934)
  • Steve McQueen Residence (1964)
  • Thaquitz Plaza, Now Kaptur Plaza (1971)

Beyond his architectural achievements, Hugh's dedication to the profession is evident in his longstanding membership with the AIA, dating back to 1968, and his role as a founding member of our very own AIA California Desert Chapter in 1985.

As we reflect on Hugh's contributions to our community, we are reminded of the enduring impact of his work. His legacy serves as an inspiration to architects, Designers and enthusiasts alike, a testament to the power of vision and creativity in shaping the world around us. Join us in celebrating Hugh Kaptur, a true pioneer of Palm Springs architecture and a cherished member of our AIA Califonia Desert Chapter family.


PD: Members of AIA California Desert will be sharing stories and pictures to celebrate our fouding members even further, please keep posted and follow us on social media for updates.

Photograph Credit: Palm Springs Life, Palm Springs Historical Society, Palm Springs Art Museum, Photos of Kaptur Plaza, Fire Stations #3 & #4 By Jorge Garcia

New Member Introduction

Nader Ghassemlou,

Associate AIA 

Objekt Studio


Javier Segura Villagran

Associate AIA

Javier Segura Design



Our New California Desert Chapter Members

Nader Ghassemlou, Assoc. AIA 

Nader, is an award winning designer and holds a Bachelor of Architecture from California Polytechnic University. He has more than 21 years of experience in the field of architecture in various firms including Morphosis, Gensler and independently with his own firm OBJEKT Studio. Notable projects include the single home residence, 2299 Molino, in Long Beach and the Alain Hirsch Construction Office Building of which Nader was awarded the AIA Award of Excellence in Design in 2013.

Nader was born in Tehran and now resides in Whitewater, CA. He also has a passion for photography and seeks to document his own personal experiences, to capture scenes and events as he sees them and to share with others the beauty and diversity of the world.

Javier Segura Villagran,

Assoc. AIA 

Javier Segura is an emerging Designer in the Rancho Mirage Area. Javier's work in the Historical Thunderbird Country Club has earned him a reputation for his meticulous attention to detail and innovative approach to design.

 Born and raised in Guatemala, Javier's Father was an architect, so he was exposed to the building process early on. Javier loved everything to do with the built environment, so, choosing a career path was easy. He studied Architecture at Florida Atlantic University and New School of Architecture and Design, from which he graduated with honors. During the recession of 2008 Javier moved to the desert and set up a design studio specializing in residential design. He has been practicing in the valley for 16 years now and have found a niche in Thunderbird Country Club.

Chiara Gregory,

AIA Associate

Chiara is Featured in our Member's Spotlight.

Toward AIA California Desert

40th Anniversary

AIA California Desert will be 40 Years in 2025!

Celebrating 40 Years: A Look Back at Our Chapter's History

In preparation for our 40th anniversary, we are excited to share the history of our chapter, celebrating this significant milestone in the local profession.

In 1983, a group of dedicated local architects, designers, landscape designers, and allied professionals recognized the need for a new AIA chapter to better serve our community. They formally requested the establishment of the AIA/CDC chapter. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) accepted this request in 1984, approving the formation of our chapter.

On January 1, 1985, the AIA/CDC chapter officially began its journey as an independent entity. Since then, we have grown and thrived, thanks to the passion and commitment of our members. As we celebrate our 40th anniversary, we look forward to honoring our past achievements and embracing future opportunities to advance the profession in our local area.

This is an extract from the petition in 1984: 


“The two main centers of member population are diverse, as one might expect. 

The desert area is made up basically of resorts and small communities with an architectural practice that is comprised mostly of small offices working on residential and light commercial projects. The Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario area is urban in nature and architecture is practiced in that vain. The problems of architects and architecture are not being handled by our present chapter make-up. Distances, problems, solutions are simply too diverse and interest wains.” 


April 19, 2024

AIACDC/CODAC Casual Roundtable Session

We had such an amazing time engaging with students and professionals in our round table session. Huge thanks to the COD Architectural Club and our AIA California Desert members for coming together to support our future design professionals. The creativity and passion displayed in the student presentations were truly amazing!

Special Thanks to Mr. Bert Bitanga for all the assistance to the students in organizing this event.

AIA California Desert

***Member Spotlight***

Chiara Vitali Gregory, Associate AIA

Gregory Architects, Principal

Born: Italy

Years of Experience:16

AIACD: Why did you choose architecture as a profession?

Chiara:There was nothing else I wanted to do!


AIACD:Best project or most unique/favorite project?

Chiara: The design and construction of a booth for a design fair in Milan. I still remember the workers elevating my booth’s frame. It was like watching a tiny sketch come to life. 


AIACD: What is the most inspiring part of your job?

Chiara:The client needs / desires. They challenge my mind and push my creativity to be realistic.


AIACD: How do you think the architecture profession can improve?

Chiara: For example, what do you think we are doing right, and where do you think we need to be better? I don’t think architecture itself can be right or wrong. Design professionals are responsible for their work as any other job. Architecture has a strong social and civic purpose in nature. Architecture belongs to the public. We should try to invest more in this concept for everybody’s benefit.


AIACD: How do you think the architecture profession can improve?

Chiara: Architectural history for sure, being conscious of how architecture has evolved and where we stand right now is always a good starting point for any project.


AIACD: What is exciting about what you are doing now in the office?

Chiara: Making our firm grow! We are a young firm, but not new to the industry. We need to prove our ability everyday and we are more than excited to do it.

AIACD: What has been your greatest challenge working in this industry?

Chiara: The challenges go hand-in-hand with the different roles I find myself in. The real challenge is to be able to deal with a design problem and get to a resolution, whatever it is. 

AIACD: Share with us the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Chiara:Make sure that a concept, presentation, or drawing is clear. If anybody comes back with questions, it is because something is not well communicated or missing.  

AIACD: Do you have a special routine/habit you may do to get creative vibe flowing?

Chiara:  Sketching down the process helps me visualize.  Having a written route to follow helps me manage both the process and timeline, because I can always go back and check where I am. It improves the creativity to be more responsive in a timely manner and with more bright options. 


AIACD: What advice would you want to pass along to young professionals entering your industry?

Chiara: Don’t leave your background behind. With any new project, I am often questioning myself if I am melting my approach and design to the most convenient option or to a standard aesthetic. Then my Italian background takes action and I can see different facets of each choice. 

Gregory Architects

Octavio Rocha

Project Coordinator

o2 Architecture

Born: Mexico City. Mexico.

Years of Experience: 20+

AIACD: Why did you choose architecture as a profession?

Octavio: I am very attracted by the process of space generation through balanced forms, scale, light and textures.

AIACD:Best project or most unique/favorite project?

Octavio: Southridge Uno. The home is located above Palm Springs in the community of Southridge—an exclusive 1960’s hilltop neighborhood developed during the heyday of Palm Springs’ Midcentury Modern experimentation.

AIACD: What is the most inspiring part of your job?

Octavio: The moment where projects translate from paper to fruition taking advantage of every design opportunity.  


AIACD: What skills have you developed in your architectural journey that you have been able to applyinto other aspects of your life?

Octavio: Enjoy and focus more on processes and not only on the final results.

AIACD: Who or what are your inspirations for architecture?

Octavio: Mid-Century Modern Architects and Artists.

AIACD: What is exciting about what you are doing now in the office?

Octavio: Have the privilege to collaborate on several projects during all phases of design and construction.

AIACD:What do you like to do when you are not working?

Octavio: A good and rewarding hike.

AIACD: How do you balance your work life with your outside passions?

Octavio: Architecture & Design are a constant in our lives, no need to separate from other passions.

AIACD: What would be your dream job or a project you'd like to work on?

Octavio: I would love to work on a large scale project such as an airport.


AIACD: What has been your greatest challenge working in this industry?

Octavio: Understanding the many forces that drive the final outcome of a project. 

AIACD: Share with us the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Octavio: "God is in the details" Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

AIACD: Do you have a special routine/habit you may do to get creative vibe flowing?

Octavio: Not really, the creative process is never linear.


AIACD: What advice would you want to pass along to young professionals entering your industry?

Octavio: Continue to show up and be diligent.

AIACD: In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues architects will face in the coming years?

Octavio: New design challenges arising from climate change.

AIACD: If you had a message you would like to share with AIA California Desert, what would it be?

Octavio: Thank you AIA California Desert Chapter for your continuous support.!

o2 Architecture

AIA Conference on Architecture & Design 2024

Washington, D.C., June 5–8

The premier #AECindustry event of the year is coming to Washington, D.C.

Plan to experience D.C. through a range of #architect-led tours that give you conference-only access to projects

AIA Conference on Architecture & Design 2024
Kathy's Message

Design Awards 2024 AIACD/AIAIC

Entries are due May 31, and the Awards Gala is planned for July 10. We invite projects of all types.

Submitt Projects Here

A Note From our President, Kathy Friedle...


Greetings AIA California Desert Members,


Here’s how I can tell without looking at the weather app that summer is coming: the festivals are over, the snowbirds have gone, there is less traffic between our valley cities, and the mountains are a little less green. Fortunately we know the drill…get things done early in the morning, hydrate, and head out on a vacation if you can!


I’m so happy to report that we had our first COD student round table with AIA professionals and architecture students. This was an experiment and I’m proud to report success! For the professionals, it was fun to be back in the design studio (note: drafting tables and slide rules are still around!). For the students, it was a great opportunity to present their work and do some networking. What personally impressed me was the wide body of work and design styles of our members. We all come from an architecture background, but our career paths have taken us in all sorts of directions. Sending out a big thank you to our professionals who shared their work and time: Geoffrey Gregory, Chiara Vitali Gregory, Octavio Rocha, Nader Ghassemlou, Shaun Harris, and Todd Verwers. Congratulations to our first AIA CD Student Board Member, Molly Glaab, who graduates this year and is going on to Cal Poly Pomona in the Fall. She's one to watch for sure!


A few reminders:

·        Send Jorge content for Instagram. We’d love to share your beautiful work…and it’s free advertising for your business. 

·        Don’t forget to enter the AIA IC/CD Design Awards…let’s show off our fab desert designs. Deadline is 5/31/25.

·        Stay tuned. This summer we will continue our Thirsty Thursdays. Come and join us for a cold beverage and some mingling.

·        We are always looking for new members. Tell your co-workers (and vendors) about us!

·        AIA National convention is coming up (June 5-8, 2024). Stay tuned for highlights in next month’s newsletter.


Summer, here we come!  

All the best,


Kathy Friedle, Assoc. AIA

President, AIA California Desert


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73733 Fred Waring Drive, Suite 203, Palm Desert, CA 92260 


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