Year in Review: Christopher Hawthorne’s best of architecture in 2014

The Los Angeles River leading into the downtown area.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic

Here is Christopher Hawthorne’s look at the best of architecture in 2014.

Progress on remaking the Los Angeles River. The feds chipped in and momentum flowed; in a twist unimaginable even three years ago, river backers are now on Gentrification Watch.

San Rocco. The architectural journal, based in Milan, winningly says this about itself: “San Rocco is not a glossy magazine. San Rocco is concerned with relatively abstract, bitter subjects. Finally, the readers of San Rocco are a quite limited group.” Where do I subscribe?


“Deborah Sussman Loves Los Angeles.” An exhibition in Hollywood, curated by Barbara Bestor, Catherine Gudis, Thomas Kracauer and Shannon Starkey, showed the joie de vivre of Sussman’s multifaceted design work to great effect only months before her death at 83. RIP.

The commercial release of “Los Angeles Plays Itself.” Can hardly believe I’m typing this, but Thom Andersen’s brilliantly dyspeptic doc about Hollywood’s chronic inability to depict its host city without leaning on cliché is streaming on Netflix.

Groundbreaking for the Regional Connector. The most important of the five Metro lines now under construction, it will not only add three new stations downtown, including one near the Broad Museum and Disney Concert Hall, but smooth out kinks in the existing system so that passengers can travel on a single train from Pasadena to Long Beach and from Santa Monica to East L.A.

Fondation Louis Vuitton. OK, so maybe its real price tag, as rumored, carries a B rather than an M, but Frank Gehry’s ship-like, glass-wrapped new museum for the French tycoon Bernard Arnault is among the best buildings from the second half of his career.

“Constructing Worlds.” The Barbican’s exhibition on architectural photography was both rich historical survey and announcement of a contemporary sea change, as younger photographers break from the lucrative routine of shooting icons by celebrity architects.

Hipster preservationism. Apologies for the glibness of that phrase, but it’s tough to look at the reinvention of the Line Hotel in Koreatown (once a Radisson) and the Ace Hotel downtown (originally the United Artists HQ), to mention just two, and not conclude that the Millennial Generation deserves credit for seeing something in L.A.’s old buildings their parents and grandparents did not.

The Israeli pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Ori Scialom, Roy Brand, Keren Yeala-Golan and Edith Kofsk designed huge printers that etched Israel’s “Sharon Plan,” a precursor to controversial settlements, on beds of sand. Beautiful and pointed.


Menil Drawing Institute. In the last decade too many buildings have disappointed by being far less complicated than their tortured facades suggest; L.A. firm Johnston Marklee unveiled a design for a stand-alone Menil gallery that is far richer and more complex than it seems at first glance.

The worst: The museums left behind. The Folk Art demolished, Breuer’s Whitney jettisoned, Ciampi’s Berkeley abandoned, Botta’s SFMOMA disemboweled. All had their flaws; all were tossed aside too easily. (And no, I don’t put Pereira’s LACMA in that group.)