Studio | SPF:architects
zoltan pali, zoltan e. pali, los angeles architect, los angeles architects, SPF:architects, spf:a

Founder and Design Principal Zoltan E. Pali launched SPF:a in 1995 with partner Judit M. Fekete-Pali. The firm has received over 100 national and regional design awards, including an American Architecture Award in 2014 for the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills and an AIALA Presidential Award for leading the executive architecture team on the $280-million renovation and expansion of the Getty Villa Museum.


Known for an elegant minimalist approach rooted in California modernism and honed over a 40-year career, Zoltan has designed projects in varying typologies and scales, from iconic cultural facilities and creative office buildings to multiunit housing, signature residences and public infrastructure. Notable projects include WE3 at Water’s Edge—160,000 square-feet of LEED Gold creative office space—and MODAA, a mixed-use live/work space in the heart of Culver City.

An LA native, Zoltan began his architectural career while a student at UCLA. Prior to founding SPF:a, he worked alongside prominent Case Study architect Jerrold E. Lomax, FAIA, who was one of the original LA12, a famed 1976 group exhibition that included Frank Gehry, Cesar Pelli, and Craig Ellwood.

Zoltan has served as a visiting professor and lecturer at the University of Southern California, and a visiting critic at both the Cal Poly Pomona School of Architecture and UCLA School of Art and Architecture. In 2005, he was inducted into the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows.

Founder and Creative Director Judit M. Fekete-Pali has been responsible for the strategic direction and artistic vision of the firm since its founding in 1995 with partner Zoltan E. Pali.

Their collaboration across a diverse range of projects has established the firm’s reputation as an experienced and thoughtful partner in both the design of new facilities and the renovation and adaptive reuse of historic structures. Recent examples include renovations of the Warner Grand Theatre and Pantages Theatre, each an iconic theatre designated by the City of Los Angeles as a Historic Cultural-Monument and restored to their original grandeur.

Judit has contributed to the designs of some of the firm’s most widely recognized work, most notably as the lead designer and developer for MODAA, a block-length mixed-use space in the heart of Culver City’s Arts District. Configured with flexible spaces equally attuned to living and working, the project was named Mixed-Use Project of the Year by the Los Angeles Business Council. In addition to receiving awards from the AIA and Southern California Development Forum, the building’s distinctive Art Deco inspired façade was designated by the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission as “Architecture as Art.”

As director of the MODAA Gallery—a platform for collaboration with the Los Angeles art and design community—Judit assembled exhibitions that featured the work of artists Charles Arnoldi, DeWain Valentine, Brad Howe, Lucas Blok, and architects Jerrold Lomax and William Krisel, among others.

Managing Principal Peter Erni oversees the administration and strategic growth of the firm. With a portfolio including education, cultural, residential, infrastructure, and mixed-use projects, the diversity of Peter’s work reflects varied and deep expertise as well as a belief in the power of architecture to transform experience, foster community, and shape culture.

Over the course of a 26-year career, Peter has held leadership roles in boutique design studios and large corporate firms, affording him a perspective on project delivery and practice management that leverages the strengths of both professional settings. He has extensive experience assembling and guiding agile, highly collaborative teams through all phases of project development and is adept at building consensus across diverse stakeholder groups. His expertise in design and construction is complemented by predevelopment and planning experience in educational, cultural, commercial, and residential development settings, underlining a philosophy of project stakeholder engagement with a view toward discovery and shared understanding of project objectives.

A Principal with HGA prior to joining SPF:a, he led the strategic growth of the arts, higher education, and community practice in Southern California, and with ZGF, led the renovation and adaptive reuse of the historic Spruce Goose Hangar in Playa Vista for Google. Additionally, he held senior leadership positions with Michael Maltzan Architecture and Emilio Ambasz and Associates after beginning his career with Pei Cobb Freed & Partners in New York.

Natalie May joined SPF:a in 2011 and was named an Associate Principal in 2021. During her tenure, she has contributed to a wide variety of projects, including the AIA|LA award-winning Water’s Edge 3, the Line Lofts at Las Palmas, Double Stick Residence, and the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. As a project leader, she is dedicated to promoting collaboration and coordination in order to deliver successful projects that integrate the client’s needs while executing the firm’s design vision.

Prior to SPF:a, Natalie held a professional internship at Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects in Culver City. She received her Bachelor of Architecture degree from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, a program recognized for its emphasis on building science. As part of her academic career she studied abroad in Florence, Italy for a year studying Architecture, Art, and Culture. Originally from Northern California, she has slowly grown to love Los Angeles but enjoys venturing out of the city for fresh air and open space. She has a passion for traveling abroad in search of good food, great wine, interesting architecture and hot weather—and prefers to explore by Vespa.

Selected Awards

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Team

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Our Practice

SPF:a is an award-winning firm specializing in the design of small- and large-scale works that touch both the private and public spirit.

Our practice is anchored in a rigorous pragmatic, holistic philosophy. We aim to uncover truths, pursue the unexplored, and challenge conventions in architectural and urban organization; we speak the language of our builders and engineers, and we have a strong culture of critique and communication.

We want to make things perform better, look better, and awaken their environment. And so we give care to our clients’ goals and investments and endeavor to balance them with our pursuit to enhance the human experience and our communities.

Our team is energetic, cooperative, and diverse. Together, our capabilities include all phases of project development, from research and conceptual design to schematics, design development, construction documents, bidding, negotiations, and contract administration.