What were the five most influential shifts in Los Angeles' architectural realm this year? It turns out they're not about pretty pictures.
Or at least that's the feedback we got when we took a poll to come up with this LA Weekly best of 2011 list.
Instead of touting singular designs, the answers of four influential architects were about building a better city — despite attempts by developers to water down architecture to boost profit and L.A. politicos convincing themselves that wrapping buildings in head-to-toe advertising billboards is Los Angeles' great cultural contribution.
Here are five picks for the most influential architectural shifts in L.A. this year
Architects: John Friedman and Alice Kimm, of John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects
Their pick: CicLAvia
Friedman Kimm's recent Graduate Aerospace Laboratories project, a wholescale insertion of an interior redo full of dazzling touches in a historic building on the Caltech campus, is a personal fave of ours.
Their pic for 2011? CicLAvia, the public events that shut down streets for traffic of the two-wheeled kind. “The bicycle is giving everyone a new appreciation of the city as a collection of architectural artifacts, and that's worth 10 new great buildings,” the partners told us via email.
Architect: Lorcan O'Herlihy, of LOHA
His pick: A new push for open space.
In 2008, O'Herlihy and developer Richard Loring did the unimaginable when they turned half of one of Loring's West Hollywood lots into a public park, and built the Formosa 1140 project on the other half. O'Herlihy grew up in Europe, where public places are supported as opposed to LA, where they're made from unwanted space.
But a new push to reclaim natural environment for the Los Angeles River and Mayor Villaraigosa's proposal to add fifty pocket parks to the city gives O'Herlihy hope. The question is, will Villaraigosa deliver or did he actually mean fifty press releases.
Architect: Neil M. Denari of NMDA
His Pick: SCI-Arc, the architectural school, purchases its downtown building.
Denari's international practice includes interiors for an airline in Japan and his HL23 which turned New York's building regulations upside down with aplomb. Closer to home, you may know him as the architect that tamed Ari Emmanuel (Entourage's thinly disguised Ari Gold), when he skillfully handled the interiors of Emmanuel's Endeavor Agency (since merged with William Morris) in 2005.
Denari initiated SCI-Arc's migration from the West Side to downtown in 2000 when he taught at the school and remembers the interaction between school players and mayoral staffers during the period. He observes that SCI-Arc's purchase of its building places a respected academic institution, focused on design, downtown permanently, where its proximity to city hall could influence policy decisions. Wealthy civic leaders have used culture to impact Los Angeles, he notes. SCI-Arc's academic, not-for-profit expertise could easily add to that dialogue.
Architect: Stuart Magruder, 2011 President, American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles chapter, of Studio Nova A Architects, Inc.
Pick: “The erosion of the 'commons'” — Occupy gets evicted.
Magruder once worked for architect Richard Meier, he of the Getty Museum and tony Hamptons clients. But when we called Magruder for his pick, he didn't hesitate to go gritty. “The real issue is what the eviction of all the Occupy movements means for the public square, the 'commons' as it were,” he said, noting via email how the public is being stopped from carrying out debates on public property. “Most stunning to me, was – after the eviction – the erection of a concrete and chain link barrier around the grounds of City Hall to keep people out,” he added.
Architect: Blogger's Prerogative
Her Pick: LACMA's creation of public space.
We only wish political leaders got architecture the way that LACMA's director Michael Govan does. Though Govan inherited BCAM, 2007's most expensive big box development, he rapidly generated an ongoing series of installations and building types to encourage public interaction. If you've dropped by the museum's free jazz nights you know how successful he's been.
Follow us on Twitter at @LAWeeklyArts