A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California

Museum of Contemporary Art
Installation view of A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. © The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
(Image credit: Brian Forrest)

On the surface, it feels like an age since California could lay claim to being at the cutting edge of architectural design. The Case Study series might have kick-started an aesthetic, but even though the style of long, low and lithe design persists, it's long since evolved into the default choice of creative-minded hedge fund managers, with price tags to match, rather than the low-cost homes they were originally intended to be. But scratch the surface, and there's an awful lot going on.

The thirty-eight firms represented at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art's new show, 'A New Sculpturalism', illustrate the sheer variety of scale and style that characterises contemporary Southern Californian design, from the world-conquering shapes created by Gehry Partners, Greg Lynn, Morphosis and Eric Owen Moss, to the innovative residential and cultural projects of Warren Techentin, RoTo, Coscia Day, Lorcan O'Herlihy, Brooks + Scarpa and many, many more.

Regular readers will be familiar with most of these names from Wallpaper* Architects Directories past; suffice to say there's still plenty of fire left in the Californian design community. On the evidence presented, it's not too much of a stretch to lay the credit (and the blame) for much of modern architect's formal adventurousness at the feet of the Californians, as the very analogue, hands-on deconstructivism of early Gehry and Owen Moss blossomed into a digitally designed landscape of swoops, curves, angles and extrusions that would have repercussions all over the planet.  

The show takes place in a classic Gehry-designed space dating from the early 1980s,  and will feature three specially-designed full-scale pavilions, by Atelier Manferdini, P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S and Tom Wiscombe Design, as well as models and imagery.

Bergamot Artist Lofts exterior view

Projects represented in the exhibition include the Bergamot Artist Lofts, Santa Monica, designed by Brooks + Scarpa Architects, 1999.

(Image credit: Marvin Rand)

Palms House exterior view

Palms House, Los Angeles, designed by Daly Genik Architects, 2011.

(Image credit: Jason Schmidt)

Samitaur exterior view

Samitaur, Los Angeles, designed by Eric Owen Moss Architects, 1996.

(Image credit: © Tom Bonner)

Interior of Bloom House

Interior of Bloom House, Southern California, designed by Greg Lynn Form, in collaboration with Lookinglass Architecture & Design, 2012.

(Image credit: Richard Powers)

Wild Beast Music Pavilion exterior view

Wild Beast Music Pavilion, Valencia, California, designed by Hodgetts + Fung, 2009.

(Image credit: Tom Bonner)

Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust view

Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Los Angeles, designed by Belzberg Architects, 2010.

(Image credit: Iwan Baan)

Exterior Study for Formosa 1140

Exterior Study for Formosa 1140, West Hollywood, by Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects, 2008.

(Image credit: Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects)

Formosa 1140 Exterior view

Formosa 1140, West Hollywood, designed by Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects, 2008. © 2009 Lawrence Anderson/Esto

(Image credit: Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects)

Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Caltech exterior view

Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Caltech, Pasadena, designed by Morphosis Architects, 2008.

(Image credit: Roland Halbe)

Alan-Voo House exterior view

Alan-Voo House, Los Angeles, designed by Neil M Denari Architects, 2007.

(Image credit: Benny Chan)

Sketch by Neil M Denari

Untitled sketch, by Neil M Denari Architects, 1996.

(Image credit: Neil M Denari Architects)

Drawing for 434 Apartments

Drawing for 434 Apartments, Los Angeles, by Saee Studio, 1989.

(Image credit: © Saee Studio)

Interior of Bobco Metals Co

Interior of Bobco Metals Co, Los Angeles, designed by VOID, 2004.

(Image credit: Benny Chan)

National Art Museum of China Exterior view

Proposal for the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC), west elevation, designed by Gehry Partners, 2012.

(Image credit: Gehry Partners)

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.