Bruce Arita is a forensic architect and the Property Loss Consulting practice leader for Thornton Tomasetti’s Western U.S. region. With more than 35 years of experience in architectural design and forensic investigation, he has served as architect of record for public and private buildings and project developments of various sizes and complexity throughout the United States. Bruce has been the lead investigator for numerous assignments for which expert investigation, consulting and sworn testimony have been required.

Who are you and what do you do at TT?

I am a registered architect in the United States and I have been operating as the Chief Operating Officer for the PLC practice at Thornton Tomasetti  Since last year, and the Western Region Practice Leader for 7 years before that.

What made you want to become a forensic architect?

I’m an architect, and over the course of my 35-year career I have developed Forensics skills in investigating building failures. So, why did I want to become a forensic architect? Well, I wanted to be an architect from a very young age. I loved drawing and designing buildings, so from the earliest days I knew that I wanted to be an architect. I went to school, got my degree and ultimately got licensed in California. I went on to develop my own practice and then joined Thornton Tomasetti as a Forensic investigator.

What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?

I think it’s being able to pull together very complex, programmatic needs by clients and collaborating with them with physical design solutions and opportunities, and then seeing them built.

If you weren’t a forensic architect what do you think you would be?

I would be teaching architecture… there’s a theme here! I actually taught architecture for about 9 years, part-time, while I was practicing as an architect. I loved it, and it’s probably what I will do after I retire.

What do you do to relax away from work?

Not ironically, I love wood work. I love doing things with my hands and building things. I have a workshop, and anything that needs a power tool, I love doing. I like to screw, drill, cut… it’s just very relaxing to me.

 Is there anything else that you have built?

Well, most of the house renovations we have had, I’ve done. The fireplace mantle, building furniture, all of the crown molding and finishes in the house. Most of the house finishes pretty much, I’ve done. We also built a big deck in the back with raised planters and sort

What would be your dream project?

Well, it would have been different 25 years ago, but today, I think a dream project would be to investigate the failure of an iconic building. A fire or something that went wrong with something very famous, like a museum or something that I have never worked on before. So, a challenge technically, as well as something that people are aware of and trying to bring it back to normality. That is on the investigation side, but like I said, 25 years ago it would have been to design that building. I’m in a different place right now.

Tell us something about yourself that people wouldn’t know?

I have been involved in architecture since 1977. In that period of time, over the course of all those years, I have probably designed one of everything, except a hospital and a high-rise. So, the diversity of work types I’ve been involved in is pretty broad.

The other is, that in my forensic career, which started in 1999, I and my company have investigated andprepared the repair  documents necessary to reinstate probably over 10,000 homes or condominiums. I have investigated most of, if not all of these personally. I have a very deep technical understanding of building failures, residentially and commercially.

Where do you come from and where do you live?

I’m of Japanese/American ancestry, so both my parents are Japanese. My grandparents were born in Japan and came to this country, so I’m third generation Japanese. I was born in southern California and I’ve always lived in the area. I now live in Irvine which is more commonly known as Orange County.

What’s the best and worst thing about where you live?

The best thing is actually the worst thing, they’re both the same. So the best thing is that in Irvine, where I live, it’s very quiet and perfect for a family. It’s a suburb and after 9pm everything closes, meaning that it’s safe, very quiet and serene. This is also the worst thing too because there’s nothing going on! So when I travel and come to New York or London, it’s inspiring to see places that are alive and, from an urban perspective, active and vibrant.

What’s your favourite food/drink?

I love Thai and Italian food, but I would favour Italian first. I lived in Florence, Italy for a year during my last year of school and this is where I developed my love for the food. I don’t even like Japanese food as we had it morning noon and night. My favorite drink is a dirty martini, no olives, with Tito’s vodka preferably. The rational for no olives is that olives take up volume.

What’s your favourite building or structure?

My favourite building is the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla California which was built in the 1960s, with the original portion of that development being designed by Louis Kahn. I think it is the most magnificent building, at least in California. It’s really phenomenal piece of art that you have to experience it in person.Photo credit: Salk Institute via photopin