You Can’t Retire from Being Awesome

DESIGN BRIEF   |   April 2018

For 15 years, Lila Firouzfar has played a critical leadership role at MV+A. As an architect, a mentor, and a leader, Lila has contributed to the growth of our firm in a transformative way and has been an integral part of the expanded scope of projects that MV+A is working on today.

Lila joined MV+A in 2002 and became partner in just five short years. Lila’s exceptional technical and design ability has been a huge asset to MV+A and has solidified MV+A as a leader in retail and residential mixed-use design. Her mentorship and generous sharing of knowledge assisted in training generations of architects.

As Lila is due to retire in early May, today we celebrate her impact, her work, and the well-being she has brought to our studio, our staff, and to the built environment.



Above » Lila looking over details with Aaron on a Whole Foods project (2015).

A native of Iran, Lila studied architecture at the Ecole Des Beaux Arts in Strasbourg, France. Initially enrolled in school to pursue a career in painting and drawing, Lila’s passion for architecture grew. She changed her discipline and received a Masters in Architecture and Urban Design. As her joy of being on construction sites developed, so did her fascination with detailing. She finds great joy in seeing buildings rise out of the ground, as this is when buildings “get a personality”. Moving to the United States, Lila’s technical knowledge and tenacity assisted her in succeeding in a male-dominated industry. Her drive to succeed is emblematic of the spirit that makes Lila a role model and inspiration to all of us at MV+A. Known as “the go-to technical guy,” one of her favorite projects, the Tivoli Theatre, is an excellent example of Lila’s handiwork. A complex and visionary project, she explored the hidden details of the historic building and figured out how to tie the new construction with the old. The completed project brought a neglected building and neighborhood back to life.

Always sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm with the staff of MV+A has left a lasting impact. Lila’s mantra of, “If you work for it and put your mind to it, you can make it!” has inspired us all to work together and constantly strive to improve the quality of the work that MV+A takes such pride in.


First » Tivoli Theatre Project, bringing history and a neighborhood to life (2006). Second, Third » Feeling at home on a construction site visit in Cabin John – and always looking good in a hard hat (2018)!

Each of Lila’s projects has had their own unique challenges that benefitted from Lila’s technical and design capability, as well as her quick thinking and construction expertise. Woodland Park Crossing in Herndon, VA, completed in 2007, helped develop MV+A’s expertise and reputation in the design of mixed-use development. This residential and retail project features creative solutions for parking and construction that influenced MV+A’s work at Northgate in Falls Church, VA, Riverdale Park Station in Prince George’s County, MD, and Rodin Square in downtown Philadelphia, PA. These projects all had uncommon demands that benefitted from Lila’s keen attention to detail. Her active involvement during the creation of construction documents and her commanding presence in the field has been key to ensuring that the design intent of the project is carried through construction. Lila affectionately earned title of “The Enforcer” by consultants, clients, and contractors.


First » Smiling through the pain after completing MV+A’s Fit Company Challenge (2017). Second » Finishing in 1st place at Rehoboth’s Seashore Half Marathon (2017)! Third » Making planks look easy (2017). Fourth » Completing her 10th Cherry Blossom Run with some of the team (2017).

Lila ran her first 10-mile race in 2007 with the encouragement of another runner at MV+A. This ‘short’ race started her passion for running and led to her completing her first marathon, DC’s Marine Corps Marathon, in 2009. Since then Lila has competed in over 20 marathons, placing 1st in the Kentucky Derby Festival as well as the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon, and 2nd in “too many to count”, for her age bracket. Her most memorable races, and the most scenic, include the Scranton, PA, Steamtown Marathon, the Corning, NY, Wineglass Marathon, and the prestigious Boston Marathon (twice). In 2015, she traveled to Ireland to take part in the Dublin Marathon. To accomplish such impressive athletic feats, Lila pushes herself to work out every day, rotating between bicycling, swimming, elliptical, and of course, running. On Thursdays, she runs from her home in Bethesda, MD, to the MV+A office in DC. “It’s not exactly ten miles, but I make it ten miles.”

Lila’s enthusiasm and persistence motivates and inspires us every day, and her passion for well-being has led many employees to join together in events such as the Fit Company Challenge and the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run.

Lila’s dedication and competitive spirit will continue after retirement – she makes no plans to slow down. When asked if she will continue to train and compete in marathons, she responded, “Absolutely, and I might even try triathlons.”

Au Revoir, Lila! We’ll miss you!


Above » Celebrating our very own international woman on International Women’s Day (2018).

Lila’s leadership, mentorship, and example extend beyond architecture, where her fearless attitude and determination push us all to reach our full potential, and her remarkable knowledge of architectural detailing is a huge part of what makes MV+A a success. We are so thankful to have spent the last 15 years with her.

We can only imagine where Lila’s energy and joie de vivre will take her next.  We will most definitely continue to be inspired by her, and we will whole-heartedly continue to cheer her on!