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Stephen H. Kanner, FAIA: A Kanner Retrospective Exhibition


This exhibition presented over fifty projects by Los Angeles architect Stephen Kanner, FAIA. Arranged in reverse chronology, the show focused on the last ten years of his work, tracing a trajectory back to the architecture of his father Charles Kanner, FAIA, and his grandfather, I. Herman Kanner, AIA who founded Kanner Architects in 1946. Stephen Kanner’s architectural works included over three hundred commercial, institutional, and residential projects, most of which were in the Los Angeles area. He also designed homes in the Bay Area, Tennessee, New York, and Ghana, as well as 130 stores for PUMA in every major city in North America, Europe, and Asia. Having grown up in post-war Southern California and the son of visually sophisticated parents (his mother Judith is a writer and designer), Kanner had an innate understanding of the way form can affect mood and quality of life. Buildings, billboards, Disney’s Tomorrowland, the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Hollywood and its movies—all this—filtered through his grandfather’s legacy and his father’s daily work, helped develop Kanner’s sensitive eye for design, form, spectacle, and structure. Over the course of his twenty-five year practice Stephen Kanner explored various modes of architecture-as-visual-pleasure. When Stephen became a partner at Kanner Architects in 1983, he introduced the exuberant building designs that became known as Pop Architecture, i.e. building-as-sign. The best example of this is In-N-Out Burger in Westwood — an architectural interpretation of their red and yellow logo. Over time Kanner’s work moved away from image-based architecture towards buildings that stressed materiality, visual rhythm, and color, all the while retaining the humor and playfulness of his earlier work. This evolution can be clearly seen in the progression from his own 511 House to the Ross Snyder Recreation Center, 26th Street Affordable Housing, and the United Oil Gasoline Station which was completed in 2009.  

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