Category: Christopher Hawthorne

Justice Stephen Breyer, Zaha Hadid join Pritzker Prize jury

September 14, 2011 |  9:43 am

Stephen Breyer and Zaha Hadid
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will join the jury for the Pritzker Prize, architecture's top honor, Pritzker officials announced this morning. Joining Breyer on the eight-person jury will be architect Zaha Hadid, who won the prize in 2004.

Breyer reportedly has an avid interest in contemporary architecture, and in courthouse design in particular; he wrote the forward for the 2006 book "Celebrating the Courthouse: A Guide for Architects, Their Clients, and the Public." Still, he's a surprising choice. Typically, Pritzker jurors have been practicing architects (often Pritzker laureates, such as Hadid), critics or academics. It'll be fascinating to see how his presence changes the tenor of Pritzker deliberations or even the choice of winners.

The Pritzker Prize, established in 1979, is announced in early spring each year. This year's winner is the Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura


Critic's Notebook: Pritzker Prize jury keeps it minimalist with Eduardo Souto de Moura

-- Christopher Hawthorne

Left photo: Stephen Breyer. Credit: Steve Petteway / Supreme Court of the United State

Right photo: Zaha Hadid. Credit: Graham Barkley / For The Times

New Apple campus: A retro swan song from Steve Jobs

September 10, 2011 |  4:57 pm

The new Apple headquarters, planned for a site in Cupertino not far from the company's current digs, looks plenty futuristic: It's a sleek, four-story, ring-shaped building that Jobs himself, in an appearance before the Cupertino City Council, compared to a "spaceship." 

But buried beneath the otherworldly gleam of the building is a very old-fashioned approach to architecture -- and to city-building. The attitude of the campus toward the metropolitan region around it recalls quite clearly the suburban corporate estates of the 1960s, '70s and '80s.

Read more about the campus, designed by London's Foster + Partners, in my Critic's Notebook.


Architecture review: Feeling the void

Critic's Notebook: Post 9/11, symbolism of skyscrapers unchanged

--Christopher Hawthorne

Photo: A computer rendering of Apple's planned new campus. Credit: Foster + Partners /

Countdown to the 9/11 Memorial: Review roundup

September 9, 2011 |  4:04 pm

A close-up of the National Sept. 11 Memorial in New York
The Sept. 11 Memorial in New York, designed by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker, will open for the first time on Sunday, for a ceremony for family members of 9/11 victims and select others. The public will have a chance to see it beginning Monday.

As the first segment of the complex and deeply fraught ground zero rebuilding effort to be finished, its arrival has engendered a predictable flood of coverage and critique, some of which I'll attempt to round up here. (My own review appeared on Aug.12.)

Count the Washington Post's Philip Kennicott as among the most impressed by the memorial, which is anchored by a pair of sunken fountains marking the voids where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood. He calls it "an extraordinary thing."

Continue reading »

Ten years after 9/11, the skyscraper rises again

September 3, 2011 |  7:00 am


In the days and weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it became commonplace to hear pundits predicting the disappearance of the skyscraper -- as Mark Lamster points out here -- or at least that it might be a very long time before we started building very tall towers in great numbers again. Those predictions turned out to be about as wrong as they could be.

Thanks to oil money sloshing across much of the globe, a booming economy in the middle part of the last decade and -- most important of all -- a quickly urbanizing China, the skyscraper is back in a big way.

Another fascinating wrinkle in the story also has to do with China. During the 1990s and the early 2000s, as Chinese cities were expanding at a furious pace, the country could hardly import foreign architects fast enough. But now China is beginning to export its own skyscraper experts.

The eye-catchingly curvy Absolute Towers just outside Toronto, designed by the young Chinese architect Ma Yansong, are nearing completion at 56 and 50 stories tall -- a sign that China is now building other cities' skylines along with its own.

Read the Critic's Notebook on the rise of skyscrapers, post 9/11.

--Christopher Hawthorne

Photo:  The Absolute towers outside Toronto, by the Chinese architect Ma Yansong and his firm MAD Architects. Credit: Tom Arban/MAD

Reading L.A.: Norman M. Klein on our collective amnesia

August 29, 2011 |  3:32 pm

Bunker Hill and the Angel's Flight funicular, shown in 1962

A few caveats -- OK, a whole bunch of them -- before you pick up a copy of the 15th title in our Reading L.A. series. Norman M. Klein's "The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory," first published in 1997, is an ambitious book about urban growth and gentrification that often seems to be at war, or at least in a prolonged spat, with itself. It offers generous helpings of reheated Mike Davis. (Can you imagine a less tasty dish?) It experiments with form and point of view -- there is a 64-page novella, about Vietnamese immigrants and Los Angeles, in the middle of the book -- in ways that ought to have spiced up the proceedings but instead manage to make them even tougher to get through.

Reader, I skimmed the novella.

Continue reading »

At long last, some measurable progress at ground zero

August 11, 2011 |  4:25 pm

There have been moments -- many moments -- when it seemed the rebuilding effort at the World Trade Center site might never be finished. But next month, to mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a significant portion of the rebuilt area -- the long-awaited and much-altered memorial to the victims -- will finally open.

PHOTOS: 'Reflecting Absence': The September 11 Memorial

Designed by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker, the memorial, as I make clear in this review, hasn't escaped the deal-making and sometimes maddening course of compromise that has marked the rebuilding process as a whole.

But at its heart, the memorial has come through at least somewhat intact. And at ground zero, that is saying quite a bit.


Critic's Notebook: Neutra's Kronish House in the cross hairs

Critic's Notebook: Shifting horizons in Santa Monica parks design

--Christopher Hawthorne

Above: The September 11 Memorial consists of two 30-foot deep pools in the footprint of the original Twin Towers. Credit: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times 

Reading L.A.: D.J. Waldie's spare, poetic 'Holy Land'

July 31, 2011 | 12:04 pm

"If Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo had collaborated on a study of an archetypal American postwar suburb, the result would be D.J. Waldie's visionary history and memoir of Lakewood, California."

So begins a review by the University of Michigan's Robert Fishman of "Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir," the 14th title in Reading L.A.

Waldie's book, published in 1996, is unlike any other book in our series -- and, for that matter, unlike any ever written on the architectural and civic makeup of Southern California. In 316 brief, numbered entries, some just a sentence or two long, some written in the first person and others in third, Waldie relates the history of Lakewood's first major post-war suburban housing development, and of his own family's history there, in the modest house where his father died and where Waldie still lives.

Continue reading »

How landscape architect James Corner got his start

July 30, 2011 | 12:30 pm

Corner James Corner, whose urban-design firm Field Operations is designing a pair of highly anticipated parks in Santa Monica, has emerged in recent years as one of the most prominent landscape architects in the world. But every designer has to start somewhere, and in Corner's case inspiration for a career creating big-city parks came in the form of a childhood that provided access both to urban grittiness and wide-open nature.

After Corner and I visited the site of the new parks earlier this month, he told me about growing up in a town that was just outside Manchester, England, but also close to the famed Lake District.

"You could say that there's an interesting collusion there in my childhood: a sort of tough working-class urbanism in Manchester juxtaposed with some amazing wild nature," he said. "Because of how close we were to the mountains and lakes in the Lake District, I did a lot of rock climbing and outdoor activities. And also enjoyed the city as a real city person. So this combination of nature and city is perhaps an influence."

A Critic's Notebook on James Corner's recent work and his firm's plans for Santa Monica.

--Christopher Hawthorne

Photograph: James Corner in Santa Monica. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Reading L.A.: Charles Jencks on Frank Gehry, Thom Mayne and the rest of the L.A. School

July 29, 2011 |  9:00 am


If Mike Davis' seminal "City of Quartz," which we encountered last month in Reading L.A., is a bleak study of Los Angeles on the brink of the Rodney King riots, our next title is a surprisingly sunny take on the city in their immediate aftermath. It also ranks as one of the most pleasant surprises in this reading marathon for me, a thoughtful, sharp-minded book that includes some of the best descriptions I've yet encountered of the work of Frank Gehry, Eric Owen Moss, Frank Israel, Thom Mayne and Michael Rotondi — the core of the so-called L.A. School, whose members burst into prominence in the 1980s.

Published in 1993, Charles Jencks' "Heteropolis: Los Angeles, the Riots and Strange Beauty of Hetero-architecture," is in short a far more elegant and concise book than its awful mouthful of a title suggests. Jencks, an American-born critic who now lives in London and is often credited for coining the term "postmodern architecture," is a longtime admirer of Gehry and the rest of the L.A. School. In "Heteropolis" he lays out a careful, detailed series of arguments about how their work evolved.

Continue reading »

Carmageddon, something we can all agree on

July 12, 2011 | 11:02 am


Any time I write about mass transit and freeways in Los Angeles I brace myself for the inevitable backlash in the form of displeased emails and phone calls. (No subject is more contentious in Southern California.) Tuesday morning, though, after my Critic's Notebook on this weekend's coming Carmageddon appeared in the Calendar section, I am happy to report that the email is running strongly in favor of many of the ideas laid out in the piece.

It's early, of course. Things could change.

Meanwhile, check out my Reading L.A. post on David Brodsly's "L.A. Freeway," a book whose wisdom about mobility in Los Angeles holds up quite well three decades after it was published.


Reading L.A.

-- Christopher Hawthorne

Photo: An L.A. freeway interchange at night. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times 


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.