Chistopher Hawthorne, Architecture Critic
5:30 AM PST, December 2, 2013
NEW YORK — The mess at ground zero has been a collaborative production.
6:00 AM PST, November 25, 2013
Frank Gehry and Related Cos. have kissed and made up. Now we'll see if city and county officials bless the reconciliation.
12:00 PM PST, November 16, 2013
Now that voters have rejected a plan to save the Houston Astrodome, a marvel of engineering muscle and space-age glamour and easily the city's most important building, it would be easy to conclude that modern architecture has a major image problem in this country.
6:00 AM PST, November 5, 2013
HOUSTON — Forget Monticello or the Chrysler building: There may be no piece of architecture more quintessentially American than the Astrodome.
7:30 AM PDT, November 2, 2013
The new Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, designed by Zoltan Pali and the firm Studio Pali Fekete, is a work of architecture that arrives with a long list of storylines attached.
9:30 AM PDT, October 25, 2013
DALLAS — I hadn't been standing in Dealey Plaza more than five minutes when I watched a man dash out into the street to pose for a picture. He was heading straight for a white X in the pavement that marks the location of John F. Kennedy's limousine when the 35th president was fatally shot on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963.
5:00 AM PDT, October 2, 2013
The recent turmoil over the Grand Avenue redevelopment effort leaves a bunch of pretty basic questions unanswered.
5:30 AM PDT, September 14, 2013
It took me a few weeks to catch on, but the Getty's Pacific Standard Time Presents series, whose final shows come to a close Sunday and Monday, wasn't notable just as a wide-ranging reassessment of Southern California's postwar architecture.
9:47 AM PDT, September 21, 2013
In a lecture at Harvard in the early 1990s, the Spanish architect Rafael Moneo referred to Frank Gehry as a "noble savage."
1:30 PM PDT, September 12, 2013
Fall Arts Preview
When a major retrospective of Moshe Safdie's work opens at the Skirball Cultural Center next month, visitors to the museum near the top of the Sepulveda Pass won't just get to see the architect's designs in the form of models and sketches under glass. They'll also be walking through one of Safdie's most extensive projects: the Skirball campus itself.
5:00 AM PDT, August 28, 2013
Who knew James Corner, the landscape architect best known for his work on the acclaimed High Line elevated park in Manhattan, had such a picturesque streak?
11:00 AM PDT, August 9, 2013
HALDENSTEIN, Switzerland — The architect Peter Zumthor has arranged his personal and professional lives so that the divide between them is vanishingly thin.
1:00 PM PDT, August 30, 2013
It might be the most carefully hidden building boom in American architectural history.
6:00 AM PDT, July 4, 2013
For the last several weeks, the best way to try to understand Beverly Boulevard has been to head for a different boulevard — Wilshire — and the western end of the Miracle Mile.
6:00 AM PDT, June 15, 2013
NEW YORK — It's easy to imagine that "Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes," a vast, dense and beautifully installed new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, began as a kind of parlor game. You can almost picture the curators, Jean-Louis Cohen and Barry Bergdoll, brainstorming to come up with the most unlikely, counterintuitive thesis about Le Corbusier they could — and then setting out to defend it with straight faces, deep scholarship and a good deal of museological firepower.
6:00 AM PDT, July 24, 2013
This summer marks a moment of truth for the Los Angeles River.
10:00 AM PDT, June 29, 2013
The new architecture exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art — and we'll get to its ever-changing title in a moment — is the product of a museum in significant disarray.
3:05 PM PDT, July 19, 2013
A couple of major ironies are folded into the title of the big new architecture exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, "The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA."
5:00 AM PDT, May 1, 2013
At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, an acclaimed Swiss architect is hoping to pull off what an acclaimed Dutch one could not.
7:00 AM PDT, May 11, 2013
The new PBS program "10 Buildings That Changed America" is nothing if not efficient.
1:50 PM PDT, April 10, 2013
Paolo Soleri, an Italian-born architect who created a visionary prototype for a new kind of ecologically sensitive city in the remote Arizona desert four decades ago, only to watch the suburban sprawl he detested begin to creep near it in recent years, has died. He was 93.
5:00 AM PDT, June 7, 2013
Even when it was just an architectural glimmer in the eye of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, the desert estate where President Barack Obama will greet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday was never in danger of being confused with a mere vacation house.
5:00 AM PDT, May 3, 2013
Frank Gehry has pulled out of a major architecture exhibition set to open June 2 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a move that could force the show to find a new venue or face the prospect of being canceled altogether.
10:35 AM PST, November 23, 2012
The protests that roiled Anaheim this summer had no regular home base, no Zuccotti Park or Tahrir Square. Instead, demonstrators angry over a series of shootings by Anaheim police marched on several days along Harbor Boulevard and a handful of other streets.
5:00 AM PDT, April 12, 2013
Will the Academy's big bubble pop before it has a chance to be built?
2:40 PM PST, January 8, 2013
Ada Louise Huxtable, the architecture critic who in two decades of writing for the New York Times became a powerful force in shaping New York City and was better known than many of the architects she was covering and certainly more feared, has died. She was 91.
June 10, 2012
PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia, the city that gave us Poor Richard, cheese-steak sandwiches and the American Constitution, just opened a new treasure: the Barnes Foundation, one of the premier privately assembled collections of painting in the U.S. with more dreamy Renoirs and searching Cézannes than in the whole of France.
6:40 PM PDT, May 16, 2012
On the boulevards
As Los Angeles' boulevards reassert their place in the public realm, the transformation along Atlantic offers glimpses of a new city identity taking shape.
May 13, 2012
The Portland Hop. I know, it sounds like a dance craze in 1937. But really, it's what you do when Southern California gets you down and you need to drink small-batch beer, eat Northwestern locavore meals and see bike commuters in the rain. My wife, daughter and I hit Portland, Ore., for a few days last August. Here's the report.
11:39 AM PDT, August 25, 2012
One of the most controversial moves in recent art-world memory, the relocation of the Barnes Foundation, has drawn the national press to Philadelphia where the venerated art institution opened its new building earlier this month.
January 8, 2012
Ricardo Legorreta, the architect who introduced Mexican modernism to a global audience and who brought his crisp, brightly colored aesthetic to downtown Los Angeles with a controversial 1993 redesign of Pershing Square, has died. He was 80.
August 12, 2011
September 11: A decade after
If you were expecting the National September 11 Memorial to turn out to be a visionary or uncompromising monument to human tragedy and architectural destruction, you probably haven't been paying sustained attention to the process that created it. And who could blame you? The rebuilding effort at the World Trade Center site has been marked by enough grandstanding, backbiting and power grabs, among politicians and designers alike, to push even the most dedicated optimist toward utter cynicism.
April 6, 2011
This week, Rizzoli publishes "Julius Shulman Los Angeles," a new book featuring a variety of shots taken in Southern California by the famed architectural photographer, who died two years ago at age 98. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne recently caught up with one of the book's co-authors, Sam Lubell, who is also West Coast editor of the Architect's Newspaper. What follows is a condensed version of their email exchange.
5:30 AM PDT, April 27, 2012
Talk about raining on your own parade.
June 3, 2008
As part of a high-powered campaign to promote Richard Neutra's 1946 Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, which it auctioned during its big evening sale of postwar and contemporary art two weeks ago, Christie's produced a glossy booklet on the house and its setting. Near the front was a quote from Neutra himself: "The desert is subject to an infinity of moods, some of them violent."
7:24 AM PDT, October 10, 2011
Anthony J. Lumsden, a prolific Southern California architect who helped develop new ways of wrapping buildings in smooth glass skins, accelerating a shift that reshaped skylines around the world, died Sept. 22 in Los Angeles. He was 83.
7:28 PM PDT, July 30, 2011
Standing atop a patch of churned-up dirt on a recent morning, James Corner was surrounded by mismatched palm trees, chipped sidewalks and sagging chain link: a typical slice of Southern California landscape caught unawares, hardly ready for its close-up.
September 4, 2011
Any skyscraper is a contradiction.
August 8, 2010
Everybody has an opinion about "Inception," and mine comes in the form of a question: Why are the movie's architectural settings, for the most part, so hackneyed?
March 21, 2010
ARCHITECTURE CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK
The two stories that have dominated the architectural press over the last few weeks -- the unveiling of a winning design for a new American embassy in London, and the death, in a downtown Los Angeles traffic accident, of the 76-year-old Austrian architect Raimund Abraham -- have more in common than just a spot on the calendar.
May 29, 2011
When it opened in 1956, the Capitol Records building was surrounded mostly by surface parking lots, making it easy to spot from the nearby — and brand-new — Hollywood Freeway. The cylindrical design for the building, by Welton Becket and a young architect in Becket's office, Louis Naidorf, played beautifully to its mobile audience and that wide-open urban landscape. The result was a 13-story tower with the confidence and allure of a major skyscraper.
August 18, 2010
John Chase, who as a writer and urban designer championed civic space and vernacular architecture in Southern California, finding poetry in stucco-clad apartment buildings, down-market modernism and overlooked corners of the urban realm, died Friday morning. He was 57.
January 17, 2010
Before we turn to an assessment of Aqua, a new residential skyscraper in Chicago, permit me a quick (and relevant!) detour to a sidewalk news conference in Lower Manhattan, held recently at the foot of the under-construction Beekman Tower.
August 24, 2010
The news that New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro has finally, officially been named architect of the new Broad Collection museum in downtown Los Angeles proves a couple of things quite clearly. One is that in a design competition as constrained and carefully controlled as the one Eli Broad has been running, a few big conceptual ideas dramatically presented — rather than an inventive treatment of a building's shape — can go a long way. Another is that a little flattery never hurts.
July 18, 2010
Along one edge of the old Ambassador Hotel site, where the Los Angeles Unified School District has been building a controversial collection of schools, there is a new park dedicated to the life and work of Robert F. Kennedy. Created by artists May Sun and Richard Wyatt and running parallel to Wilshire Boulevard, the park includes a series of quotations from Kennedy, who was shot and killed inside the hotel on a June night in 1968, and a few others.
April 29, 2010
It's a familiar recipe for urban revitalization in downtown Los Angeles.
March 6, 2010
Raimund Abraham, an Austrian-born architect known for his powerfully enigmatic drawings and fierce idealism, and whose narrow, blade-like 2002 Austrian Cultural Forum building in New York is among the most forceful pieces of architecture built in the last decade, was killed early Thursday when the car he was driving collided in downtown Los Angeles with a Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus. He was 76.
October 25, 2009
The Los Angeles architect Frederick Fisher, who turned 60 earlier this year, is anything but a doctrinaire designer or a dogmatic personality. His houses, museum galleries and other buildings have over the years been executed in a relatively broad stylistic range, reflecting his curiosity, his interest in context and place and the diverse tastes of his well-connected clients. On the website of his firm, Frederick Fisher and Partners, you'll find curtain walls as well as gables, mahogany a few clicks away from corrugated metal.
August 1, 2010
Thomas S. Hines, a professor emeritus at UCLA, is the dean of architectural historians in Los Angeles, the author of major studies of the pioneering modernists Richard Neutra and Irving Gill. In "Architecture of the Sun: Los Angeles Modernism 1900-1970," he has produced a doorstop-sized magnum opus: a massive but terrifically detailed distillation of his thinking on the city where he has lived and taught, with only minor interruptions, since 1968.
December 20, 2009
NOTES ON THE DECADE
Architecture, arguably for the first time in its history, found itself at the very center of American cultural and political life in the decade that is wrapping up. That centrality helped make stars out of architecture's top talents. With the aid of powerful software, adventuresome clients and, not least, a flood of new wealth and easy financing, it also produced a rush of inventive buildings, in styles stretching from fluid to wildly sculptural to neomodern.
July 31, 2009
"(500) Days of Summer" is a movie about obsessions -- gentle, often charming and non-stalkerish obsessions, for the most part, but obsessions all the same. Chief among them -- after romantic love, the subject that stands always at the heart of the story, its existence always up for impassioned, practically theological debate -- is architecture.
April 19, 2009
January 24, 2010
Apple is expected to unveil its much-anticipated touch-screen tablet on Wednesday morning. A few journalists see the device as a possible savior for the newspaper business. Me? I'm wondering how it'll affect the skyline.
May 31, 2009
At the new arts high school downtown, it has become nearly impossible to separate the substance of the architecture, by Wolf D. Prix and the Austrian firm Coop Himmelblau, from debates over cost overruns or questions about who will attend the campus when it opens in September.
March 1, 2009
Frank Gehry, who turned 80 on Saturday, is the most famous architect in the world by a healthy margin. He is also, arguably, the most significant talent in American architecture since Frank Lloyd Wright. His firm, Gehry Partners, has streamlined a process in which his free-flowing sketches are turned into digital designs and then into dazzlingly unorthodox buildings around the world.
October 11, 2009
Modern architecture is growing old. The groundbreaking designers at Germany's Bauhaus began building nearly a century ago. Many landmarks of midcentury Modernism, while somewhat younger, are also showing their age, their curtain walls taking on water, their cantilevers askew. And now the most recent examples of the style, late-modern buildings from the 1960s, are nearing the half-century mark.
June 28, 2009
The longstanding sibling rivalry between the two biggest members of the United Arab Emirates, always complex, has taken a remarkable turn in recent months.
February 15, 2009
The timing could hardly be better for "The Infrastructural City," a new collection of essays on Los Angeles edited by Kazys Varnelis, director of the Network Architecture Lab at Columbia University. A book with a title like that, unless written by Mike Davis or John McPhee, would typically have a tough time steering clear of the remainder bin. But in recent weeks, as the details of the stimulus package were being hammered out in Congress, the same few questions moved near the top of the political agenda not just in Washington but in cities around the country: In 2009, what is infrastructure, exactly? Is it just roads, bridges, train lines and tunnels -- the muscle and bone of the city -- or can we update that New Deal-era definition to include a greener, more flexible or even purely digital set of urban initiatives? If so, how best to integrate that new, "soft" infrastructure with the hard variety?
June 1, 2009
If nothing else, the debate over the fate of the Century Plaza hotel is a reminder that there is no preservation controversy quite like a preservation controversy in Los Angeles.
July 7, 2005
L.A.'S ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE
The private home vividly expresses the ideas on which Southern California was built. In this issue, we begin an occasional series on the architecture that defines the city past and present.
October 30, 2008
This is the first of two articles on the intersection of public transit, urbanism and architecture on next week's ballot.
June 21, 2009
If a city can be spectacularly quiet, this waterfront city-state has certainly qualified in recent months. Hundreds of abandoned construction cranes languish above Dubai's gated communities and beach-side developments and, most dramatically, up and down Sheikh Zayed Road, its high-rise spine. According to a recent estimate in the Middle East Economic Digest, projects worth a staggering $335 billion in the United Arab Emirates -- of which Dubai, with a population of about 2 million, is the largest member -- are stalled or have been canceled outright.
September 17, 2008
WHILE THE Venice Architecture Biennale remains the most anticipated and ambitious design show in the world -- not to mention the only one featuring cocktail parties in canal-side palazzi -- every edition is marked by a curious split personality. There is a core exhibition, organized by a single curator and displaying work by the leading names of the profession, and along with it a scattered collection of national pavilions filled with designs by mostly anonymous younger architects. Because the pavilions vary so much in quality -- and theme -- they always knock the central exhibition at least a bit off message.
November 30, 2008
Jorn Utzon, the Danish architect whose eye-catching, nautically inspired design for the Sydney Opera House overcame a series of controversies surrounding its budget and acoustics to become one of the most recognizable landmarks of the 20th century, helping to usher in the current era of buildings beloved for their daring and photogenic forms, has died. He was 90.
October 11, 2008
THE NEW Eli and Edythe Broad Stage at Santa Monica College, which will open officially tonight with a program featuring the mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, is a happily, even confidently unresolved piece of architecture. Rather than try to smooth over the gaps between its various architectural impulses -- and between its wide-ranging technical and programmatic requirements -- it seems content, for the most part, to leave them on display. It's not a bad strategy: The design gains some power from its all-over-the-map variety, and in fact it's in those spaces where it tries to hide its character or engage in a bit of architectural sleight-of-hand that it begins to falter most obviously.
September 27, 2008
RENZO PIANO'S original concept for the new California Academy of Sciences building in Golden Gate Park was elegantly simple: Slice out a huge, rectangular section of the park landscape, lift it 36 feet into the air and slide a new piece of architecture underneath. The floor of the park would become a green roof atop the facility -- a feature Piano dubbed "the flying carpet."
August 8, 2008
ARCHITECTURE IN THE NEW BEIJING
Last in a series
August 6, 2008
ARCHITECTURE OF THE NEW BEIJING
Fourth in a series on the changing face of China's capital.
August 22, 2008
ON SECOND THOUGHT
Everyone has had the experience of disagreeing with a critic, but do critics ever second-guess themselves? We asked Calendar's critics whether there are any reviews they regret. One in a series of occasional articles.
June 7, 2008
Renzo Piano, the Italian architect who designed the New York Times tower on 8th Avenue at 40th Street in Manhattan, made a point of keeping the building transparent at ground level. His goal, he said before the building opened last summer, was to avoid the forbidding, fortress-like appearance that marks other post- 9/11 towers in Manhattan. He wanted the final product to look inviting.
July 29, 2008
OF THE three buildings that make up architect Welton Becket's original Music Center on Bunker Hill -- the Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion -- it is the smallest of the group, the Taper, that can make the most credible claim to true landmark status. The decorated drum of a design, its exterior wrapped in a lacy precast relief by Jacques Overhoff, is among the most finely detailed and conceptually coherent buildings of Becket's long and varied career, during which his firm seeded Los Angeles with a number of its most recognizable pieces of architecture: the Capitol Records tower, the Beverly Hilton, the Theme Building at LAX (with William Pereira, Charles Luckman and Paul Williams) and the Equitable tower on Wilshire Boulevard, among countless others.
July 14, 2008
If there is a single big idea driving "Between Earth and Heaven: The Architecture of John Lautner," which opened Sunday at the Hammer Museum, it's that Lautner needs to be rescued from his own hardened reputation. Most museum retrospectives begin with an effort to dust off or polish up the historical record. This one, at times, feels like a full-on rehabilitation campaign.
April 27, 2008
UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute, or CNSI for short, is the first Los Angeles project by the New York-based architect Rafael Viñoly. It is something of a stealth building. Its broad, low façade, overlooking the Court of Sciences near the southern edge of the UCLA campus, has a modesty that borders on the bland.
August 30, 2008
In 1960, after John F. Kennedy decided to move his convention acceptance speech from the brand-new Sports Arena to the larger Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum next door, he addressed a crowd of 80,000 from a stage that seen through 21st century eyes looks innocent and modest, if not clumsy. On the front of the lectern, just beneath the microphones, was a simple sign, its capital letters as skinny as Kennedy's tie, reading "Democratic National Convention." Below that, a large painted eagle spread its wings.
August 5, 2008
ARCHITECTURE OF THE NEW BEIJING
Third in a series on the changing face of China's capital.
June 30, 2005
What sort of image comes to mind when you hear the phrase "green architecture"?
May 27, 2008
From the start, the Beaux-Arts house in San Marino that Myron Hunt designed for Henry and Arabella Huntington was marked by a level of ambition far beyond the merely residential. The couple always envisioned it as much as a place to show off their growing fine art collection -- and frame their worldliness -- as rest their heads. Not long after moving in, in 1915, they began making plans to turn their estate over to the public after their deaths.
May 19, 2006
Architecture is the slowest of the arts, by far: It often takes a full decade for a building to go from sketch to ribbon-cutting, a journey that can be pushed off course by zoning officials, fussy clients and the laws of gravity. But in "Sketches of Frank Gehry," director and first-time documentarian Sydney Pollack manages to make his own art form look like the sluggish one.
August 12, 2005
The 1970s and 1980s were an odd, freewheeling and sometimes combative golden age for Los Angeles architecture. During those two decades, a handful of young designers, each trying do his own thing with as much stubborn independence as possible, managed to come together as a loose band of self-styled mavericks.
September 10, 2006
Compared to other cities its size, Los Angeles has always been short on icons of public architecture; when one falls out of commission, as the Griffith Observatory did 4 1/2 years ago, we notice the absence all the more.
May 9, 2005
You've probably heard by now that the Wynn Las Vegas is something of a rarity: a new hotel and casino on the Strip that doesn't have an architectural theme, the way the Venetian, the Paris, the Luxor and countless others do. But it turns out the Wynn does have a theme — just a very odd one:
April 21, 2008
When Mark Rios takes the microphone Tuesday evening at a public hearing inside Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, he'll be presenting two very different designs for the new civic park downtown. The first is what his Los Angeles firm, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, calls a "base" plan, for which the projected $56-million cost is already in hand -- paid by Related Cos. as part of its deal to develop a commercial project with Frank Gehry across Grand Avenue from Walt Disney Concert Hall. The second is an "enhanced" version showing what might be possible with an infusion of new funding.
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