Project Quick Facts

Building Client

Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith

Structural Engineer

NAST Enterprises Corporation

General Contractor

Samitaur Constructs

Software Used


Structural Components

Steel Frame

Year Completed


Project Background

The Pterodactyl is a two-story office building built on top of an existing four-story parking garage in Culver City, CA. This extraordinary structure is formed by the intersection of nine rectangular boxes, built on top of or adjacent to each other, connected by an interior second-floor bridge and supported by steel columns extended from the parking structure beneath. The structure accommodates an open floor plan in the main office area including full height windows which provide spectacular views of the nearby cities.

"The simplicity that RISA provides created an environment that allowed the engineer to design something extremely complex."

— Hooman Nastarin, PE

About the Structure

The design of the structure was a collaborative effort between the architect and the structural engineer and as a result, RISA-3D was used extensively during the conceptual design phase. The project’s complexity also required the main structural system (created by using thirty distinct “ring” like steel frames) to be evaluated iteratively. These exposed elements carry all primary and secondary members and are showcased within the interior design. During this process, the engineer was able to model the stiffness of adjacent elements using springs in order to evaluate complicated load paths and solve structural problems one at a time.

How Were RISA Products Utilized?

Additionally, the ability to easily import data from Excel into RISA-3D allowed for the immediate adjustment of parts of the model when changes were made by the architect. This data exchange, along with the utilization of BIM models throughout the entire design process allowed the design team to work collaboratively leading to an enhanced level of accuracy, reduction of project costs and a more streamlined schedule.

Images 1-3: Tom Bonner Photography