Leon Whiteson, a Zimbabwe-born architect-turned-critic and novelist who wrote about architecture for publications such as Architectural Digest, the Toronto Star and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, died of cancer Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 82.
His death was confirmed by his wife, Aviva Layton.
Whiteson was architecture critic at the Toronto Star from 1980 to 1983 and the Herald Examiner from 1984 to 1988. He later wrote freelance articles on architecture and design for the Los Angeles Times and in 1989 was honored by the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects with its distinguished achievement award in the media.
He also wrote more than a dozen books, including works on Canadian architecture and the Watts Towers. He co-wrote "A Place Called Waco" (1999) with David Thibodeau, a survivor of the 1993 law enforcement siege on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
Whiteson's 1995 memoir "A Garden Story" was inspired by his unkempt Hollywood backyard which, as he cultivated it, he came to regard as a " 'green' novel — the horticultural parallel of the novel I was trying to produce." Weaving memories of his African upbringing, his Jewish-immigrant parents, his marriages and what it was like to live in "crazy-sensible L.A." during the 1992 riots, it earned good notices, including one in the New York Times that called it "partial but intense, more rumination than narrative."