Alcorn & Benton Architects of La Jolla designs community knowledge into its local projects

Alcorn & Benton Architects in La Jolla takes on many types of projects, from commercial and institutional to residential.
Alcorn & Benton Architects in La Jolla takes on many types of projects, from commercial and institutional to residential.

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La Jolla’s Alcorn & Benton Architects has been offering clients a variety of design services for years, using its community knowledge to strengthen its planning power.

The Girard Avenue firm is led by James Alcorn and Paul Benton, who combined their decades of architectural experience and separate offices into one company in 2010.

Paul’s son Andrew, an architect who has worked with his father since 2003, said Alcorn & Benton has experience with all types of properties.

On the commercial and institutional side, “we do commercial buildings, mixed-use buildings, tenant improvements,” Andrew Benton said. “Right now we’re working on a few hotels in La Jolla” and taking on facilities work at area universities.

The firm’s residential endeavors include single-family and multifamily homes and work with homeowners associations for restoration, renovation and facilities, he said.

Alcorn & Benton's projects include this Brooks Bros. location in La Jolla.

“The first step,” Benton said, is to meet with the clients and figure out what’s called “the program, the needs of the project.”

After the program is clarified, Alcorn & Benton will go into schematic design. For a single-family home, that involves “where the view is, what they want, room adjacencies” and other components,” he said. “That basically formalizes a floor plan, the general size of the building and some of the aesthetic options.”

“Then we go into design development, where we start figuring out where ducts are going to go and mechanical rooms and all those other things, and then we work through the working drawings or cutting construction documents,” Benton said.

The firm then works to acquire building permits and helps negotiate with contractors. “And then eventually the building is built,” he said.

The company also does construction administration, he said, which means “we observe the progress of the work and make sure the contractor is working, that the work conforms with the contract documents and make sure that in general, things are done the way that they’re supposed to be.”

In addition, Alcorn & Benton reviews billing documents to “make sure that the client isn’t paying for services that have not yet been rendered,” and helps adjust plans throughout the process as needed, Benton said.

Benton said his favorite projects are “the challenging ones” in which he has to put things together “in a way to make it all work harmoniously and still have a good appeal.”

“I’ve been doing some laboratory work at [UC San Diego] that has a lot of equipment involved in very small spaces,” he said. “Researchers do their work in a certain way and we try to accommodate that. Fitting all those functions into the space in a way that makes sense and still complies with all the codes and everything else is challenging, but I really enjoy it.”

What makes Alcorn & Benton special, he said, is that “we’ve got a lot of experience in the community. There’s been a long history of a lot of good and successful projects” in La Jolla. “We get a lot of buy-in from the community on our projects.”

“Most of La Jolla is subject to the local coastal permits; coastal reviews are very common. We do those with pretty good efficiency,” Benton said.

And with Paul Benton being both an architect and a civil engineer, “we bring a lot of the engineering thought into the architectural design process, which brings some efficiencies,” Andrew Benton said. “We can often improve the design.”

Alcorn & Benton employs a team of eight people, with architects licensed in various states and countries.

“Everyone has different backgrounds and a different set of experiences,” Andrew Benton said. “Everyone brings something different to the table. You just learn something new every day or a different approach to things.”

“Ultimately,” he said, “everyone works toward a better project. ... When at the end of the day the client’s happy, you know you’ve had a positive impact. ... It’s very rewarding.”

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