FROM Christopher Hawthorne
What made architect John Portman's buildings stand out? The Westin Bonaventure hotel in downtown LA has been featured in several movies and TV shows. Its big open atrium and glass elevators have been the fictional site of chases, disasters, and presidential assassination attempts. They’ve been features of hotels and office buildings all over the world. The architect of the Bonaventure, John C. Portman, died Friday in Atlanta. He was 93.
The controversial project to rethink Detroit architecture Zago Architecture designed "A New Federal Project" as a conceptual approach to settling 68,000 refugees in Detroit. The project is part of "The Architectural Imagination" at A+D Museum in Los Angeles Photo by Avishay Artsy Behind the mute buildings that form the backdrop to our lives you can find heated debate -- about what those buildings should be like and who they should represent. Those questions lay at the heart of the controversial exhibition The Architectural Imagination . It first appeared in the US Pavilion at 2016's Venice Architecture Biennial, directed by Alejandro Aravena. It then went to Detroit and now it is on display at the A+D Museum in downtown Los Angeles. The exhibition was curated by Mónica Ponce de León, dean of Princeton's architecture school, and Cynthia Davidson, a writer and editor at an architectural theory journal called LOG. The pair picked 12 design teams -- three from Los Angeles -- from over 250 applicants and gave each team one of four sites on which to conceive a speculative programs. They directed the designers to "think imaginatively, not worry about budget. Don't worry about costs, don't worry about building regulations and zoning. Imagine what might be possible," Davidson said. This resulted in some highly imaginative schemes -- including a cluster of civic buildings to support a Syrian refugee resettlement program by Andrew Zago and Laura Bouwman; a tubular, blob-like Center for Fulfillment, Knowledge and Innovation on the site of the defunct Packard Plant by Greg Lynn; and a Zócalo in place of a strip mall by Pita & Bloom that drew its decorative inspiration from layers of peeling paint in the decrepit relics of industrial Detroit. Pita & Bloom's project "THE NEW ZÓCALO" is a proposal for the Mexicantown area of Detroit and is part of "The Architectural Imagination" However, the show drew a backlash from those, says LA Times Christopher Hawthorne, who felt "this was opportunistic. . . taking advantage of a struggling city and. . . imposing these visions of overwrought formal visions" on struggling neighborhoods. Davidson points out the reaction has been mixed -- and recalls Detroit's Planning Director Maurice Cox telling her "we had changed the conversation in Detroit."
Developers aim to fast-track big projects in LA Los Angeles is still in the midst of a major affordable housing shortage, yet residents will consider a measure in March that would temporarily halt big residential developments. It’s called the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. Before voters weigh in, some developers are rushing to get their projects approved in places like downtown’s Arts District.
Inside the LA River Master Plan It seems like people have been talking about revitalizing the LA River forever in order to turn those miles and miles of graffiti-lined concrete into a more usable public space. Now, it seems like it’s really starting to happen, though not everyone is happy. The design team working with architect Frank Gehry has launched a new website with information about a new and improved LA River - it’s called the LA River Index.
LACMA's Redesign in Venice The 2016 Architecture Biennale is underway in Venice, Italy, and its director, Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, has focused the exhibition, "Reporting from the Front," on architecture in a time of rising economic inequality. So what is a model of Swiss architect Peter Zumthor's proposed replacement for four buildings at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art doing in the show? Christopher Hawthorne explains.
Riding the Expo Line The last time Los Angeles residents were able to take a train to the beach, it was the Red Car in 1953. But on May 20, Angelenos will be able to board an Expo Line train in downtown LA and take it to downtown Santa Monica, just blocks from the pier. The extension was delayed for decades over safety, environmental and funding concerns. But now Metro, the train's operator, is hailing this and other subway extensions as a "transit renaissance" for the region. Is LA moving toward a less car-dependent future? LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, train operator William Smith, and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti Photo: Rob LaFond
Remembering Renowned Architect Zaha Hadid World-renowned architect Zaha Hadid passed away suddenly Thursday after suffering a heart attack at a Miami hospital. She was 65 years old. News of her sudden death shocked the architecture world. We’ll talk about the life and work of the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize.
The Los Angeles Development Fight Now we look at the issues animating the development debate with the incoming campaign director for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative and the architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times. They assess whether Los Angeles is ready to live in a more urban city or whether it still wants the single-family homes and two- and three-story apartment buildings of yesteryear.
Which Way, LA? The Question that Won't Go Away 23 years ago, the fires of the Rodney King riots were burning and the sirens wailing when KCRW first asked, WWLA? We've been through fires, floods, earthquakes and massive social, cultural and economic change. While this is the last program titled WWLA? the question still needs to be asked. We talk with a group of important and thoughtful people about what LA has become and about the challenges to be faced in the future…as we continue.
Is Los Angeles Still a 'City of Quartz?' In 1990, Mike Davis wrote City of Quartz, insisting that Los Angeles was not a west coast utopia, but a dystopia instead. Two years later, the Rodney King riots seemed to make him a prophet. His book is still used as a text for understanding LA history, even though Davis failed to predict the city's massive immigration. What did he tell us about economic inequality, race politics, the role of developers and architects — and community relations with the LAPD?
Making L.A.: The Built Environment One hundred years ago, Los Angeles was barely a city at all. Over the last century, it has blown up into a giant metropolis. And during all this rapid growth, L.A. has continued to struggle with an inferiority complex, questioning its own identity and place in the world. Are we a world-class city? Can we match those older and more sophisticated cities of the Northeast? Do we have great cultural institutions? We tackle some of these questions and more in our new series, Making L.A., which will examine how we can make L.A. more liveable. This is part one. Downtown Los Angeles Photo by Steve Devol
Who Is Leaving Los Angeles Because of Housing Prices? Housing has become so expensive in the LA Area that beaches, warm winters and cultural diversity aren't enough anymore to keep a lot of people from moving away. We hear from some who have struggled with staying and talk with regional thinkers about the loss of both young people and economic diversity.
Catching Up With the Broad Museum The scaffolding that shrouded downtown’s new Broad Museum during its construction was finally removed during the holidays. But some people are underwhelmed by the big reveal. One architecture critic compared the building’s facade to a giant cheese grater. Why don’t they like it and, more importantly, when will we get to see the interior? The museum was supposed to open months ago.
How Arcadia Became Known as the “Chinese Beverly Hills” An influx of Chinese wealth has transformed Arcadia, a once sleepy suburb just east of Pasadena, in recent years. Large, Mediterranean-inspired mansions have replaced modest ranch houses, and they’re selling for millions of dollars. But the story of Arcadia isn’t just about real estate; it’s a story of cultural identity becoming wrapped up in architecture.
Plans to Level LACMA Spark Debate Michael Govan is the enterprising Director of Los Angeles County’s Museum of Art. He wants to tear down four of LACMA’s seven current buildings and replace them with one, very unusual structure. It’s a one-story, dark monolith, with blob-like contours inspired by the La Brea Tar Pits. Govan’s second version of the plan, designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, would ooze away from the Tar Pits themselves and cross Wilshire Boulevard. It might include a mixed-used tower which might be designed by Frank Gehry.
A Last Stand for Grand Avenue? The Grand Avenue Project on LA’s Bunker Hill was first envisioned back in the 1960’s as a cluster of world-class cultural institutions along a broad, pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare. Ten years ago, architect Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall gave new life to the idea. Later, he designed a larger plan for the street that never happened. It was replaced by a downsized plan that recently was rejected by the Grand Avenue Authority, chaired by LA Supervisor Gloria Molina. The developer, Related, now has until early next year to come up with a scheme she likes better.
Lucia Micarelli: An Evening with Lucia Micarelli Violinist and actress Lucia Micarelli visits The Treatment to discuss her emotive performances as she prepares for PBS' An Evening with Lucia Micarelli.
George Saunders: Lincoln in the Bardo (Part I) Lincoln in the Bardo dramatizes a grieving President Lincoln as he visits the grave of his beloved son Willie, who died at age eleven. In the novel, the buried dead believe they're not dead -- "they're sick and refer to their coffins as "sick boxes."
Shaking up the USDA, 'The Beef Cookbook' and 'Tartine All Day' Peggy Lowe explains why Trump’s pick for USDA Secretary is rattling rural America. Dario Cecchini talks future plans for Chianti ramen, and Richard Turner shares cuts from “PRIME: The Beef Cookbook.” Writer Matthew Sedacca looks at the controversy behind liquid smoke. Jonathan Gold tries Chengdu-style dishes, and Elisabeth Prueitt of Tartine fills us in on the latest. Plus, chef Michael Beckman shares a recipe for cactus confit.