Building For a New Era: Alana Barber & Josh Kordasiewicz of Axon Architecture
“How could we evolve a historic landmark to become the destination hotel for travelers to La Jolla? The dream was big, and the motivation to achieve it was even bigger.”
Alana Barber and Josh Kordasiewicz of Axon Architecture are the talented force behind the careful restoration and evolution of Orli’s 1910-era landmark building, ushering it into a new, modern era. The team worked diligently to preserve century-old features, maintaining the integrity of the building’s original architectural character, while incorporating contemporary design elements to suit the needs of modern discerning travelers. We chatted with them about their inspiration, process, and their flawless curation of Orli’s new chapter.
When did you both discover your passion for architectural design and how did you get started?
Alana: Architecture is an application of design, and it comes to life as we understand the answers to a series of questions: What is it that we see that draws us into a space? How do you define what strikes you the most? Then there’s a livability factor that needs to be factored in: Does a design represent your aesthetic and energy? And if it does, can you see yourself in it, day in and day out? I started asking myself those questions at an early age and then began to uncover the answers as I was studying architecture at the University of San Diego.
Josh: I got my start in high school taking some drafting and design classes. I loved the combination of problem-solving and creativity that architecture offered. Renovation projects, such as Orli, are particularly fascinating to me due to the historical component of the property and my role in preserving the building’s original magic.
How did you get connected with Orli Co-Founders, sibling duo Hailey and Max Waitt?
Alana: Hailey and Max are likemy brother and sister. Hailey is my long-time best friend—we’re lucky to have grown up together and now get to work alongside each other. Hailey and Max are more than entrepreneurs; they’re visionaries with a true passion, drive, creativity, and dedication to what they set their minds to. We put a tremendous amount of thought into how we could execute something that would service their mission. How could we evolve a historic landmark to become the destination hotel for travelers to La Jolla? The dream was big, and the motivation to achieve it was even bigger. I’m excited to see what’s to come for the Orli brand and look forward to future collaborations.
What original features from the Irving Gill design did you preserve and incorporate into the new guest experience?
Josh: The Irving Gill-designed property always had a beautiful charm about it. We just needed to look at it in a new light for the modern guest. We were primarily inspired by the overall form and layout of Irving Gill’s creation, as well as his integration of clean lines and simple arches throughout.
We maintained the main entry and arrival sequence into the building. The lobby area was opened up for a more modern approach to the hotel and the flow we wanted to achieve with the new courtyard. The lobby stair—which is central to the building—was maintained and refinished to enhance the feel of the lobby. The bottom landing was turned to enhance the flow from the entry, and one side was opened up with a railing. The rooms themselves were updated with modern bathrooms, and the finishes were brought up to date to provide a clean, modern, finished look that didn’t exist before. The bedroom fireplaces were redone and incorporated. We raised the ceilings and removed soffits where we could to keep the open feeling in those rooms. The exterior remained largely unchanged. The original casement windows and transoms were restored and repaired to stay.
How do the new features complement the interior design ethos of La Jolla? Was there a collaboration process between you and Orli’s interior designer, Maddie Lord?
Alana: Maddie Lord was the driving force behind what you see inside Orli. Her creativity and passion for design are hard to come by. Maddie hit the nail on the head with this one. That said, our entire team complemented each other, brainstorming and inspiring one another. We had an ongoing collaboration throughout the process and a way of working through the challenges of bridging the historic architecture with something more functional and unique for the present day. Orli is truly The Jewel inside “The Jewel” that is La Jolla.
What story did you want Orli’s architecture to tell? How did you want guests to feel?
Alana: We wanted the guests to feel the authentic charm and comfort that this property brings—a home away from home. The unique touches give every room its own special vibe that guests can select from when booking. Orli is a place that feels so close to home in many ways and also like a complete getaway in others. A staycation, in all senses of the word. This property was initially built as a private residence, and I feel it’s as comfortable a stay for guests now as it once was for the homeowner, George Kautz.
What is your favorite space at Orli now that it’s complete?
Alana: That’s a tricky question! I love the uniqueness of each space, as well as the differences in each room. The courtyard has such a charm and peace to it, but the lobby is so cozy and inviting (not to mention fun and entertaining). It truly is a great communal space while still feeling cozy and quiet. I picture myself at Orli, grabbing a cold brew, sitting with friends or family, and playing a game from the cabinet. Heaven.
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