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Los Angeles

Los Angeles

"L.A. is the most interesting city in the country right now, because of what's happening with its urbanism, more than its architecture," states Christopher Hawthorne, who has been the architecture critic of the Los Angeles Times for three years. The city that became synonymous with sprawl has "hit the limits of its growth and is turning back on itself," he explains. "But it's not just getting denser; it's having to redefine itself as a city."

This redefinition is affecting everything from mass transit and highways to planning, housing, and architecture, says Hawthorne. "Part of the answer may lie in recapturing the city's past," when it had a successful network of streetcars, he suggests. Transit-oriented development is moving forward with projects such as a 1,200-unit housing complex by Arquitectonica wrapping around a plaza above the Wilshire/Vermont Metro station. "It isn't great architecture," says Hawthorne, "but it exemplifies a new kind of development for LA." A mural by the artist April Greiman covers a large part of the Wilshire Boulevard facade, prompting Hawthorne to call the building "the love child of the billboard and the plaza."