Modern architecture in LA: a sneak preview of a new exhibition programme

Sunset Strip Los Angeles
(Image credit: J Paul Getty Museum)

Glamorous yet rough around the edges, LA has always attracted the daring, including in architecture. From simple modernist homes to shape-shifting civic design, this history of risk is about to go on view in the city's main museums, under the Getty Foundation-funded umbrella 'Pacific Standard Time Presents (opens in new tab): Modern Architecture in LA'. Here, we give you a sneak preview of its eleven exhibitions, including an ambitious Getty Foundation (opens in new tab) show focusing on vintage Ed Ruscha prints immortalising the beautiful banality of 1960s Los Angeles, from gas stations (pictured) and dingbat apartments, to every building on Sunset Strip.

Picture: 'Standard, Amarillo, Texas, 1962', by Ed Ruscha.

Writer: Carren Jao

Exhibition: In Focus: Ed Ruscha
Dates: 9 April to 29 September
Location: J Paul Getty Museum (opens in new tab), LA
Throughout his career, Ed Ruscha has found inspiration in the streets of Los Angeles. 'In Focus' zooms in on the artist's exploration of the city's urban landscape, which inspired some of his most iconic works.
Picture: Mock-up for 'Every Building on the Sunset Strip, 1966', by Ed Ruscha.  

Getty Museum, Los Angeles Ed Ruscha.


(Image credit: J Paul Getty Museum)

Exhibition: In Focus: Ed Ruscha
Dates: 9 April to 29 September
Location: J Paul Getty Museum (opens in new tab), LA
Throughout his career, Ed Ruscha has found inspiration in the streets of Los Angeles. 'In Focus' zooms in on the artist's exploration of the city's urban landscape, which inspired some of his most iconic works.
Picture: Contact sheet for 'Pacific Coast Highway, 1974-1975', by Ed Ruscha. 

Exhibition Los Angeles Ed Ruscha


(Image credit: J Paul Getty Museum)

Exhibition: In Focus: Ed Ruscha
Dates: 9 April to 29 September
Location: J Paul Getty Museum (opens in new tab), LA
Throughout his career, Ed Ruscha has found inspiration in the streets of Los Angeles. 'In Focus' zooms in on the artist's exploration of the city's urban landscape, which inspired some of his most iconic works.
Picture: '1018 S. Atlantic Blvd., 1965', by Ed Ruscha.  

Exhibition Ed Ruscha


(Image credit: J Paul Getty Museum)

Exhibition: In Focus: Ed Ruscha
Dates: 9 April to 29 September
Location: J Paul Getty Museum (opens in new tab), LA
Throughout his career, Ed Ruscha has found inspiration in the streets of Los Angeles. 'In Focus' zooms in on the artist's exploration of the city's urban landscape, which inspired some of his most iconic works.
Picture: '818 Doheny Dr., 1965', by Ed Ruscha. 

Exhibition Ed Ruscha


(Image credit: J Paul Getty Museum)

Exhibition: A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture From Southern California
Dates: 2 June to 2 September
Location: The Museum of Contemporary Art (opens in new tab), LA
'A New Sculpturalism' investigates the rise of radical forms in Southern California architecture. Starting from the wane of postmodernism in the mid-1980s, the exhibit offers the works of Eric Owen Moss, Thom Mayne and Franklin D Israel as touchstones to the city's expressive, experimental style.
Picture: Samitaur Tower, Culver City, California, 2008-2010, by Eric Owen Moss Architects.

Samitaur Tower, Culver City


(Image credit: ©Tom Bonner)

Exhibition: Overdrive: LA Constructs the Future, 1940-1990
Dates: 9 April to 21 July
Location: J Paul Getty Museum (opens in new tab), LA
Due to it nascent aerospace industries and influx of émigré influence, post-war Los Angeles was a laboratory for cutting-edge design. 'Overdrive' brings to light the bold structures that have shaped the city, from its shopping malls and theme parks, to freeways and airports.
Picture: LAX, Theme Building; perspective view, 1961. 

LAX, Theme Building; perspective view


(Image credit: The Luckman Partnership)

Exhibition: Everything Loose Will Land
Dates: 9 May to 4 August
Location: MAK Center for Art and Architecture (opens in new tab), LA
Known for its freewheeling sensibility, Los Angeles became home to architects and artists alike searching for new ways to express their respective art forms. 'Everything Loose Will Land' explores a time when artists and architects intermingled methodologies to create art that was architecture and vice versa.
Picture: Jef Raskin, inventor of the Macintosh computer, pictured with his 'Bloxes' (circa 1970), used as building blocks for walls and furniture for the offices of the likes of Google and Twitter. Image: courtesy the Estate of Jef Raskin.  Accession: Raskin Archive

Everything Loose Will Land Architecture


(Image credit: David Wing)

Exhibition: A Confederacy of Heretics: The Architecture Gallery, Venice 1979
Dates: 29 March to 7 July
Location: Southern California Institute of Architecture (opens in new tab), LA
For several weeks in 1979, Thom Mayne's home turned into a temporary gallery where emerging architects like Frank Gehry, Michael Rotondi, Coy Howard and many others found their voice. 'A Confederacy of Heretics' examines the pivotal role of this ephemeral space in shaping contemporary architecture in LA.
Picture: Seven of the architects who participated in The Architecture Gallery, from left to right: Frederick Fisher, Robert Mangurian, Eric Owen Moss, Coy Howard, Craig Hodgetts, Thom Mayne, Frank Gehry.

Seven of the architects photo


(Image credit: © Ave Pildas)

Exhibition: Windshield Perspective
Dates: 18 April to 23 June
Location: A+D Architecture and Design Museum (opens in new tab), LA
The exhibition recreates a drive down a short, dense street in Los Angeles. While most drivers fail to take note of what actually lies outside their windows, 'Windshield Perspective' attempts to highlight the character of the built environment that has slowly encroached this part of the city: messy, disorderly, yet vital.

Windshield Perspective


(Image credit: A+D Architecture and Design Museum)

Exhibition: Outside In: The Architecture of Smith and Williams  
Dates: 13 April to 16 June
Location: Art, Design & Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara
Despite more than 40 awards and numerous projects published, the post-war California work of partners Whitney Smith and Wayne Williams have remained under the radar. 'Outside In' highlights the firm's success in selling modernism to a growing middle class and the subtle ways they've introduced landscape into architecture.
Picture: Community Facilities Planners office (South Pasadena, California), 1958. 

Community Facilities Planners office


(Image credit: Jocelyn Gibbs)

Exhibition: Stephen Prina: As He Remembered It
Dates: 7 April to 4 August
Location: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (opens in new tab)
What happens when Rudolph Schindler's built-in furniture is removed from its original context? Artist Stephen Prina recreates the custom furniture from two 1940s Schindler homes, paints it bright pink and re-stages it inside the museum.
Picture: 'As He Remembered It' (detail), by Stephen Prina, 2011, installation view at Secession Vienna, 2011. © the artist; courtesy of Galerie Gisela Capitain, Colgne, and Petzel Gallery, New York. 

Stephen Prina: As He Remembered It


(Image credit: Wolfgang Thaler)

Exhibition: Technology and Environment: The Postwar House in Southern California
Dates: 11 April to 12 July
Location: W Keith and Janet Kellogg University Art Gallery (opens in new tab)Cal Poly Pomona (opens in new tab)
History has a way of simplifying a narrative. In 'Technology and Environment,' another strain of the modern tradition inherent in the works of Rudolph Schindler, John Lautner and Ray Kappe is unveiled, stretching beyond the Case Study-style, flat-roofed steel boxes iconic of the era. The exhibition includes newly constructed models, drawings, photographs, many of which are available to the public for the first time.
Picture: The living room of Ray and Shelly Kappe House by Ray Kappe, Pacific Palisades, 1966-1968. 

The Postwar House in Southern California


(Image credit: Cal Poly Pomona)

Exhibition: The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA
Dates: 9 June to 15 September
Location: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (opens in new tab)
A museum examines itself with 'The Presence of the Past.' Alongside a historical view of the LACMA's architectural evolution, architect Peter Zumthor is asked to re-think the museum's east campus using his previous major commissions as entry points.
Picture: Kolumba, Art Museum of the Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany, 2007, by Peter Zumthor. 

Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA


(Image credit: Roland Halbe)

Exhibition: A. Quincy Jones: Building for Better Living
Dates: 25 May to 8 September
Location: Hammer Museum (opens in new tab), LA
Photographs never quite come close to the actual experience of walking through a space. In the first major retrospective of architect A. Quincy Jones, the Hammer Museum commissioned enlarged photographs of the underappreciated architect's key projects to impart his design's expansive spaces and efficient layouts.     
Picture: Schneidman House by A. Quincy Jones, Whitney Smith, and Edgardo Contini, 1946-1950.  courtesy of Hammer Museum

Quincy Jones Building for Better Living


(Image credit: Jason Schmidt)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).