Historic preservation inspires art lover Nancy Johnson Sanquist

Nancy Johnson Sanquist is a software technology executive who is a vice president for Manhattan Software with offices in Boston and London. She has worked in the field of corporate real estate and facility management technology for 25 years and has written extensively and lectured on the field in North America, Europe and in Asia-Pacific. Nancy has also taught a course on the topic at the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate in the University of San Diego Graduate School of Business.

Before this career, she was a leader in the movement for protecting neighborhoods and buildings, teaching the first course on historic preservation for UCLA and serving on the board of the L.A. Conservancy, Watts Towers, Hollywood Revitalization and the RM Schindler House.

She holds a B.A. from UCLA and an M.A. from Bryn Mawr College, both in the history of art, and an M.S. from Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture in historic preservation. She is on the Del Mar Village Association board of directors and is vice chairwoman of the Form Based Code Taskforce in Del Mar.

What brought you to Del Mar?

I met my husband when he was exhibiting his architectural work at the historic Schindler House in West Hollywood where I was on the board of directors. I lived in L.A. in the mid-'80s. After a few years of commuting back and forth to visit him in Solana Beach, we married and I chose to live in Del Mar as it reminded me of where I grew up in Princeton, N.J., only with a much better location on the ocean.

What makes this town special to you?

Del Mar has one of the most unique topographies in the world as evidenced by the picky Torrey pine, which only chose two locations in the world to grace the landscape. And what a place they chose with this incredible combination of hills, open spaces and extraordinary beaches. Add to this a main street corridor meandering parallel to the ocean and hills, and you have a village that should rival any on the Pacific Coast.

What might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

I would be living in a progressive community that passed the Form Based Code to preserve the wonderful character of Del Mar while enhancing the economic viability and pedestrian experience in the downtown.

There is a new mixed-use building on the City Hall site with well-designed spaces the community can come together in and have meetings and get-togethers.

There is now a residential and retail condominium project on the Garden Site with an award-winning modern green design similar to the first one the past developers brought in before it was thrown out for “local” talent.

Buildings have been upgraded and retailers are fighting to get the best spaces in town. There is premium parking for our golf carts in front of these new stores, and lots of new open space for local art and music events.

What inspires you?

Growing up it was my amazing parents (Mother is approaching 101) who inspired me to be curious and explore the world and to seek whatever I thought I could do no matter what physical disabilities I might have. Now it is my husband who inspires me.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom would you invite?

I would invite an incredible group of artists and collectors I know, which includes Betsy Wyeth, Dr. Porter Aichele, Fritzl Janschka, Richard and Jane Levy, Duston Spear, Jon-Marc Seimon, and Quincy and Margaret Troupe ... sorry, it had to be nine.

What you are reading?

I have a couple of books going, but my favorite is “The Cone Sisters of Baltimore. Collecting on Full Tilt.” Jane Levy (dinner party attendee) is a relative of Claribel and Etta Cone who, with Gertrude Stein, were early collectors of Matisse and Picasso in the 1920s and who gave me the book. Another dinner guest, Dr. Porter Aichele, art historian, is currently on a Frick grant in NYC researching Etta Cone for her new book and discovering all sorts of amazing new information.

What is your most-prized possession?

That has got to be our art collection, which consists mostly of artists who are friends of ours, as well as work by Andrew Wyeth, Ed Moses and Brice Marden. Included in this collection is a large amount of ceramic work by Dora de Larios who just had a retrospective in the LA Craft & Folk Museum and was a good friend of my family.

What do you do for fun?

Traveling and exploring the world with my husband, but most of that is up and down our amazing coast. We now live part of the time in an apartment in the Casa del Herrero in Montecito, a National Landmark property on 40 lushly landscaped acres. Once a year, we stay at the Charles Moore condo in Sea Ranch ... a community planned by Lawrence Halpern and still part sheep ranch.

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

This would have to be shaping an entirely new field of work called facility management. It was a concept that emerged in the 1980s and we created a new management discipline around the planning and management of corporate, institutional and government real estate.

I worked with a group of architects from UCLA creating a venture-backed software company to create new tools for FM and, at the same time, an industry group formed called the International Facility Management Association. Because of my teaching experience, they sent me around the world introducing this new discipline. Today that group is 19,000 strong, and I was given the honor of being one of the first female “Fellows.”

What is your motto?

One of the most amazing experiences in my life was with Porter. We were standing on a balcony in Erdman Hall on Bryn Mawr campus and looked down the moment Georgia O’Keefe, who had an exhibit of her work in the building, met the architect, Louis Kahn. All she said was “it works,” meaning her art worked on his magnificent concrete walls. A quote borrowed from Mr. Kahn explains my philosophy of life:

“All material in nature, the mountains and the streams and the air and we, are made of Light which has been spent, and this crumpled mass called material casts a shadow, and the shadow belongs to Light.”

It is that Light I seek, no matter what I attempt to do.