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The State Architect's Corner

Photos of State Architect, Chester A. Widom, FAIA

Spring is a time of renewal and new beginnings. But because it also marks several significant anniversaries in the Division of the State Architect’s (DSA) history, spring is a time when I reflect on our history, our accomplishments, and our road forward.

Spring marks the 110th anniversary of DSA’s creation, and the anniversaries of the major 1933 Long Beach Earthquake and subsequent creation of the Field Act. Though DSA was originally created to oversee plans and development for state-owned buildings, the devastation of the Long Beach Earthquake in March 1933 gave us a bigger purpose. As a result of the Long Beach Earthquake, 230 school buildings in Southern California were destroyed or rendered unsafe for occupancy. Had the earthquake occurred during school hours, thousands of casualties—mainly children—would have occurred. California lawmakers took prompt action to enact the Field Act one month later, on April 10, 1933. DSA was given the crucial responsibility of protecting the safety of California’s schoolchildren and school staff by overseeing public school design and construction to ensure Field Act compliance.

We take great pride in our work, and the past 84 years are a strong testament to the effectiveness of the Field Act and DSA’s oversight efforts. As we all know, California has experienced many earthquakes since 1933, some of them catastrophic. Yet Field Act-compliant school facilities performed exceptionally well. No Field Act-compliant building has suffered significant structural damage in an earthquake and more importantly, there has not been one single loss of life or serious injury due to the failure of a Field Act compliant structure. Moreover, due to this proven record of success in seismic events, schools often serve as emergency shelters when other buildings are damaged by earthquakes. Of course, we can’t do it alone. Building and maintaining collaborative relationships with you, our clients and partners, is of the utmost importance to continuing our mutual success. To further this objective, we recently welcomed a new member to our team. Kurt Cooknick, Associate AIA, recently joined our office as Deputy to the State Architect. In addition to 13 years of experience in the practice of architecture, Kurt brings to DSA well-established working relationships with state agencies, the design and construction community, and our clients. Kurt’s knowledge and experience, developed over 21 years as the Director of Regulatory Affairs for the American Institute of Architects, California Council, made him ideally suited to join the DSA Team.

Our road ahead also includes better serving school districts and community colleges by addressing “bin time,” the period in which complete plan submittals must wait before being reviewed. In the past few months, we have decreased this amount of time from six to four weeks, and are exploring further process and system changes that may altogether eliminate bin time. We will finalize plans on implementing these changes in the coming weeks and look forward to sharing the details with you then.


Chester A. Widom, FAIA
State Architect


Digital Signature of State Architect, Chester A. Widom, FAIA