Hispanic Architect In The High Life

Hispanic Architect Ismael Leyva has made a name for himself designing multi-story buildings, both inside and out.


Ismael Leyva a successful Hispanic architect but kike countless others before him, he arrived in New York City brimming with ambition and buoyed by the heady prospect of making his own way in its storied urban canyons. And like countless others before him, he quickly learned how contemptuously Gotham often treats wide-eyed newcomers.

The year was 1978 and Mr. Leyva—a year removed from having earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture in his native Veracruz, Mexico—saw New York as an ideal place to make good on his dream of designing high-rise buildings. As it turned out, that dream would be deferred a few years, however.

Hispanic architect Ismael

Like all foreign-trained and licensed architects, Mr. Leyva was first required to work for three years under the supervision of an architect that had been licensed in the United States. Only then could he sit for the grueling eight-part certification exam to become a U.S.-licensed architect in his own right. He was in effect forced to start over.

“The tough part of that situation was, after being an architect in Mexico, coming to New York and having to become a draftsman essentially. That was tough to take,” Mr. Leyva now says.

Nevertheless, he was determined to seethe process through. Mr. Leyva went on to pass his exam before landing first at Philip Birnbaum & Associates and later Costas Kondylis & Associates (the latter firm has since become Costas Kondylis & Partners).

Over nearly 15 years with those two firms, Mr. Leyva advanced steadily from drafts man to partner, and built a strong reputation for designing distinctive residential interiors that appealed to occupants and developers alike, leading him to open his own shop in 1996. Ismael Leyva Architects has since blossomed into a much-sought-after, full-service design firm.

“When I opened my own business my first commissions were for work with other architects, famous architects usually. I came to work with them because I had the knowledge of residential buildings. In most cases I was the designer of the apartments and the other architects designed the exterior of the buildings,” Mr. Leyva explains.

“Now about 50 percent of the jobs I’m doing are in association with other architects. On the other 50 percent, we’re doing everything, interiors and exteriors. My latest commissions have us doing everything.”

Mr. Leyva has collaborated with some of the world’s most acclaimed architecture firms, including Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie Architects; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; and Robert A.M. Stern Architects. Among the notable projects he’s worked on are:

•The Chatham, 32-story, 94-unit luxury condominiums tower at East 65th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan. Mr. Leyva was the residential architect in collaboration with Robert A. M. Stern.

•Time Warner Center, a 2-million-square-foot, mixed-use development overlooking New York’s Central Park. Mr. Leyva’s firm designed 203 condominiums within the two 55-story towers.



Hispanic architect Time Warner Building Overlooking New York’s Central Park, the Time Warner Center designed by Ismael Leyva Architects.


•State Street Tower in Chicago, a 70-storytower featuring a hotel, dining, conference, and recreational facilities, and luxury condominiums.

•The Millennium Towers in Jersey City, New Jersey, which house luxury residential units along with a restaurant, a light rail station, and retail space.

•The Park Imperial in New York, a 70-storymixed-use building that houses the head quarters for Random House. Mr. Leyva’s firm designed the luxury condominiums on floors 48 through 70.