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Christopher Hawthorne: The Latest Architecture and News

Christopher Hawthorne on the 2028 Olympics and LA Housing Shortage

The Midnight Charette is an explicit podcast about design, architecture, and the everyday. Hosted by architectural designers David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, it features a variety of creative professionals in unscripted conversations that allow for thoughtful takes and personal discussions. A wide array of subjects are covered with honesty and humor: some episodes provide useful tips for designers, while others are project reviews, interviews, or explorations of everyday life and design. The Midnight Charette is also available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

This week David and Marina are joined by Christopher Hawthorne, to discuss his transition to becoming the city's first Chief Design Officer of Los Angeles, how LA is preparing for the 2028 Olympics, strategies for solving LA's housing shortage, why multi-family projects in California often look the same, balancing community outreach and design, why Elon Musk's tunnel system is flawed, and much more.

City of Los Angeles Appoints Inaugural Chief Design Officer

© <a href=‘https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Att_building_LA.jpg'>Wikimedia user KennethHan</a>  licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/'>CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a>
© Wikimedia user KennethHan licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Recently, long-standing architecture critic for the LA Times Christopher Hawthorne announced that he was stepping down to take up the position of chief design officer for the City of Los Angeles in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s administration. According to Hawthorne, the role will involve raising “the quality of public architecture and urban design across the city — and the level of civic conversation about those subjects.” This dramatic shift from the question: what is the role of the critic and architecture criticism in shaping civic architecture?

Critical Round-Up: Snøhetta's SFMOMA Extension

Shoehorned into the narrow space behind Mario Botta’s 1995 building, the Snøhetta-designed new wing of the SFMOMA was forced to go where few museums have gone before: up. Rising 10 stories into the San Francisco skyline, the new building nearly triples the amount of existing gallery space and adds a new entrance into what is now one of the world’s largest buildings dedicated to modern art. As the museum is set to reopen to the public May 14th, the critics' takes are rolling in. Did the restrictive site inspire a unique design solution or limit the creative possibilities of the project? Read on to find out.

© Henrik Kam © Jason Chinn (Flickr: jasonchinn) © Henrik Kam © Iwan Baan + 7

Critical Round-Up: The Most Important Buildings and Events of 2015

The past 12 months have given us plenty to talk about: 2015 saw the opening of several marquee new museums, and the field took an introspective turn with the “State of the Art of Architecture” at the Chicago Biennial. Now it’s December, and that means it’s time for many critics to look back at the triumphs and failures of the year past and make predictions for the year to come.

To add to our own list of the most inspiring leaders, projects and people from 2015, we found what some of our favorite critics had to say, including Oliver Wainwright of The Guardian, Mark Lamster and Alexandra Lange for Curbed, the Los Angeles Times’ Christopher Hawthorne, and Julie V Iovine for The Wall Street Journal. Continue reading for a selection of just some of the buildings and topics which the critics highlighted as having the greatest impact on the architecture world this year.

Critical Round-Up: Diller Scofidio + Renfro's Broad Museum

After teasing the general public by offering the press and 3,000 lucky local citizens with a preview day six months ago, the Broad Museum has finally opened its doors. Designed by Highline architects Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, the museum took four years and $140 million to build, adding its presence to LA’s architectural Broadway, Grand Avenue. With its visually striking facade given the tough task of responding to its enigmatic neighbor, Frank Gehry’s perennially polarizing Walt Disney Concert Hall, the building was sure to attract the attention of the critics, and they rose to the challenge in their droves. Read on to find out what five critics thought of the building dubbed “the veil over the vault.”

© Jeff Duran - Warren Air © Iwan Baan © Iwan Baan © Iwan Baan + 6

The Indicator: When Architects Attack

When Christopher Hawthorne, architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times, gives a bad review there is the sense that he is essentially dismantling a building, chipping its façade apart, like breaking down some charade in defense of the public’s honor. Like a hired killer he disappears the architecture, but at the same time heightens its visibility in the culture.

This ability, to provoke in such ways, is precisely why Thom Mayne would like to bar Mr. Hawthorne from taking a crack at reviewing the new building he and his firm, Morphosis designed for the firm’s new offices.

On a recent tour of the new digs, Mayne, as reported in The Architect’s Newspaper, was overheard saying, “There are no good writers in Los Angeles” and “All local writers are horrible.” To add further insult, he wants a science writer to cover it. That should be a short review.

Christopher Hawthorne takes on the Boulevards

Screenshot via Los Angeles Times; "Atlantic on the Move" by Christopher Hawthorne
Screenshot via Los Angeles Times; "Atlantic on the Move" by Christopher Hawthorne

Christopher Hawthorne’s article “Atlantic on the Move“, published in the Los Angeles Times, covers the transitions taking place along LA’s boulevards and one in particular: the 5600 block of Atlantic Avenue. Hawthorne reveals the changes taking place that are “reversing decades of neglect” among LA’s roadways. Among those that have promoted a cultural association with Los Angeles: traffic, congestion and miles of roadways. The article covers the small steps that take place over time via minor interventions that combine to change the face of the boulevards to more pedestrian and bike-friendly spaces for alternative modes of transportation.

Read on for more after the break.