WEHOville is proud to introduce you to the new voices of our community who serve on our Commissions and Boards. Commissioner Lombardi is one of two at-large members on West Hollywood’s most prestigious Commission.
Michael grew up in Albany, New York and graduated Penn State University with a major in Architectural Engineering and speciality in lighting. After graduating from Penn State he began his career in New York City. One of the projects he had the opportunity to work on was the redevelopment of the World Trade Center.
“It was a truly special experience to be part of the rebuilding of lower Manhattan. In particular, working on Santiago Calatrava’s WTC Hub (“The Oculus”) was a once in a lifetime experience. I started out building some of the 3D model lighting calculations as an intern in 2006, and after working on the project for over 8 years, it opened in 2016 – a full decade after I had first touched the drawings.”
Seven years ago he moved to West Hollywood landing a new position as an associate at the Sean O’ Connor Lighting Company. www.seanoconnorlighting.com He began as a designer associate and was soon promoted to senior associate and recently became an associate principal.
We met over Zoom and Michael reflected on one of his first inspirations to be part of the Planning Commission. He had just moved to West Hollywood from New York City. His job at Sean O’Connor Lighting had a project in front of the Beverly Hills Planning Commission. The conversations went back and forth between the council and the principals. Michael invited the Council to meet at the premises and figure out a solution.
“Lighting is not something that you feel in a presentation,” he said. “Lighting is mysterious. You can’t touch light. But you definitely experience it”
The City Council met at the site and collaborated on the solution.
The small town boy from Albany, New York, grew up reflecting on the stories about his grandfather. His grandfather was a project manager working on the master plan for the development of the campus for the State of University of New York at Albany.
“He would tell me stories about the project and I would say he got me interested in architecture and design as early as I could walk. The campus was ‘classical yet space age’, brutalist style architecture by Edward Durell Stone.”
One of Michael’s architecture inspirations is the late Edward Fickett.
“Fickett is the unsong hero who was the ‘people’s architect’ because he was not afraid to build homes for the middle class. He built homes and apartments with his distinctive Mid-Century touch that were affordable and open with vaulted ceilings, and plenty of daylight to bring the outside in.”
Michael described architecture and lighting as if it were a symphony orchestra.
“I love Mid-Century all around, but the other aesthetic that I like is Japanese architecture across history but contemporary Japanese architecture in terms of lighting. It has the integration of soft, diffused light. If you think of Japanese paper lanterns — buildings can be an extension of that as well. Spaces will glow and glow into each other and appear to glow from within. Embracing naturalness and imperfections within design as well. Having this austere minimalism that is associated with Japanese minimalism.”
At this point a tear touched my eye as if I had witnessed the brilliance of Beethoven.
It was clear throughout our interview that Michael was soft spoken and reserved. He called it “quiet architect syndrome.”
“We all have obstacles in life and I have learned to think of it as a strength. If you walk into a room with 100 percent intensity, where are you going to go from there? How do you get someones attention when you really need it? “
“I like to think of myself as a creative thinker and a problem solver. As Planning Commissioner, I ask: How can we build smarter? I believe it starts, first and foremost, with listening to the community to understand their needs and concerns. WeHo is a place where all are welcome, and I want to make sure we provide a space to listen and advocate for our diverse needs. I hope that we as a city continue to focus on design sustainability, including the creation of more green spaces. Encouraging development that activates the street level experience is also important, creating interaction between buildings and the community, and offering spaces for people to meet. This has the added benefit of ensuring safe streets and neighborhoods.”
“It is also worth noting that we cannot dismiss the permanence of architecture. What we build today will likely be here longer than each of us, which is why we need to encourage projects to be smart: sustainable, forward thinking, and well serving to the community. I hope to create a dialogue with developers and designers to ensure projects achieve the best possible outcome. West Hollywood is a creative community, and I hope to inspire individuals to put their best foot forward.
As a Planning Commissioner Michael has agreed to serve on two of the most important Planning Division Sub-Committees.
“By the time it gets to the Planning Commission the project is mostly baked so I’m excited to work in the design review subcommittee to help in the process.”
He also volunteered to work on the Sunset Blvd. billboard sub-committee where he can use his expertise to balance the billboards lights and the residents concerns.
Michael lives Center City with his partner of three years Matthew Brinkmoeller.
“Matthew has been an amazing influence in my life. He works at the Los Angeles LGBT Center and is Associate Director of Foundations and Institutional Relations. I cannot think of anyone more intelligent, kind, and committed to diversity and inclusion. He challenges me every day to be a better person, and is one of the best listeners I have ever met.”
Traveling is one of Michael’s favorite things to do when he can find the time and is not working. He has spent time in Paris and London, Istanbul, Tel Aviv and more. He also lived in Rome for a short time.
And one final question – Do you think that developers should be allowed to donate to Planning Commissioner’s who are running for City Council?
His answer was straightforward, “No”. During his interviews with City Council members one queried, “Are you going to run for City Council?”
The magnitude of the responsibility had not yet set in. He didn’t quite realize how important this job was until he got here.
“I live a very private life and am in no way a politician. I’m just passionate about design and creating community. Though I have hesitations about being featured in a WEHOville article, I understand that the community may want to know who I am and understand my values. I also want to let residents know that I am available to hear their needs and will always remain accessible.”
‘Thank you Commissioner Lombardi for your sharing yourself with all of us !