It’s the end of an era of architectural criticism from Christopher Hawthorne, who announced via a column in this week’s L.A. Times that he’s leaving his position with the newspaper for a newly created role as Chief Design Officer for the Mayor of Los Angeles.
Years ago, then-coworkers Jessica Rubenstein and Kriston Capps produced a map of architecture critics and their respective full-time newspapers on the occasion of Inga Saffron’s Pulitzer Prize win for her work in the Philadelphia Inquirer (image reproduced below but also linked above—just in case). Although Hawthorne makes a strong case for preservation of the L.A.t Times’s architecture critic position in a recent interview with Curbed urbanism editor Alissa Walker, it remains to be seen whether or not the L.A. Times will continue to hold an architecture critic position.
One would hope that, at the very least, the retained position would serve as an editorial check on Hawthorne’s new role, which he descries as being “an effort to produce better architecture, urban design and what we once called ‘public works’ for Los Angeles.” [Hawthorne’s colleague, Carolina Miranda, assures him she’ll be calling him for comment.]
Hawthorne, for his part, wrote that he sees his mandate within the city government as one of ensuring high quality designs with low costs for the benefit of citizens: “If there’s one message I want to underscore in my new position, as I’ve tried to do in this one, it’s that good design, even ambitious design, can be a mechanism for efficiency. For saving money, not wasting it.”
Exactly five years ago, I wrote a short piece about Hawthorne, who had appeared on a local broadcast to lambast L.A. leadership on its failure to connect LAX to the rest of the city via public transit. Now, he’ll be tasked with working with the same leadership to produce better outcomes for the city. If his 14 years of service to the city by virtue of his architectural criticism are any indication, L.A. is in for a decade of prosperity, and, above all, good design.