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Architecture in Los Angeles

July 23, 1988

While the front-page article on architecture in Los Angeles was timely, it failed to point out that what is going on in Los Angeles is not atypical (July 5).

There are similar issues impacting architecture in other cities across the country including the East Coast, from whence the designer labels come.

The first issue deals with sensitivity to scale. Recently, a large project designed by one superstar proposed for Columbus Circle in New York was superseded by another architect perceived better able to address the urban issues considered ignored by concerned critics.

The second issue deals with architectural style. Where is it? In 1984, as a design juror for Progressive Architecture's annual competition, I felt architecture was at a dead-end, and that new restaurants were more interesting than most major buildings. If that was true in 1984, architecture today is having a true identity crisis.

Third, and most important, The Times article focuses on high-rise buildings as objects as opposed to the urban context in which they sit. For this reason, Los Angeles and other Southern California cities tend to be judged on how they look from the freeway as opposed to how they work at the city and pedestrian scale.

Fourth, architecture is clearly more than high-rise buildings. Civic centers, institutional buildings, and the spaces not built are all part of design.

Finally, architects who create new high-rise buildings with distinctive tops alone will not create a better environment. City planners, design review committees, architects and developers must address the opportunities offered by each project to create a larger sense of urban landscape and add a sense of place to each of the urban centers making up Los Angeles.


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