A+D ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN MUSEUM>LOS ANGELES GREATLY MOURNS THE LOSS OF STEPHEN H. KANNER, FAIA, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT (1955-2010).
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In Memoriam, Stephen H. Kanner, FAIA
Stephen H. Kanner, F.A.I.A., Los Angeles based architect whose optimistic take on Modernism, environmental sensitivity and commercial effectiveness made his work popular with clients, developers and passers by alike, died on July 2, 2010. The cause of death was cancer. Architect Magazine named Kanner architects one of the top ten award-winning firms in 2009.
Kanner presided over a successful firm that won more than fifty awards in recent years, with a significant national and international presence. His voluntary contributions to the architectural life of Los Angeles constituted almost a second career. Founder, chief fundraiser, chairman and guiding spirit of Los Angeles’ A+D Museum, a popular architecture and design museum that occupied temporary spaces for a decade, Kanner was thrilled when it opened in a new permanent space in April, 2010, on Wilshire Boulevard, across from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Kanner also gave much of his time to the local and citywide boards that regulate construction. He served as President of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2005.
Kanner was the third-generation to lead his family firm, Kanner Architects. Started in 1946 by I. Herman Kanner, the office became known for its breezily modern, commercially successful shopping centers, municipal buildings and public housing. Herman Kanner’s son Charles (called Chuck) took over in 1974, leading the firm to do more private housing and landmark buildings such as the East Los Angeles Courthouse. Stephen Kanner assumed the helm after his father’s death in 1998, often collaborating with his mother Judith Kanner, a writer and interior designer whose clients included Michael Crichton.
Born in 1955, Kanner grew up in Brentwood’s Mandeville Canyon, where his passions Modernist design, astronomy and tennis found ready focus. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in their B.A./M.A. program in 1980, having won the Bakewell/Brown and Wiehe prize for architectural drawing. His first job was with Boston-based Cambridge Seven Associates, working on the Baltimore Aquarium and the Basketball Hall of Fame. Kanner went next to Skidmore Owings Merrill as project architect on Universal City’s Texaco Tower and the Hughes Headquarters building in Marina Del Rey. In 1982 he acted as principal designer of the Suntech Townhomes in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Santa Monica, which won Kanner Architects its first National AIA Honor Award.
The A+D Museum, is Kanner’s legacy to the city of Los Angeles. It aims to promote progressive architecture and design in daily life through exhibits, public outreach and educational programs. Kanner also served six years on the Westwood Design Review Board, chairing it for the last three. He also sat on the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Design Advisory Panel. His commitment to promoting the careers of Los Angeles architects included organizing New Blood 101, a collaboration for architecture students and mentoring professionals; the 100/100 and LA25, all at the A+D Museum.
Kanner’s work has been the subject of two monographs, with a third, Kanner Architects Light and Space, due out next year. His designs have been featured in more than 100 magazines and journals, both professional and popular, and included in several dozen books. Kanner lectured widely in the US, in Europe and in Africa. He gave his time freely to act as critic and juror of student work in architecture programs in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
In recent years Kanner had joined forces with his 15 year-old daughter Caroline to design modernist rugs under the name “Kanner Studio Collection” which they hoped to expand into a line of home accessories.
Kanner is popularly known for buildings that have become Los Angeles icons: the United Oil Gasoline Station at Slauson and La Brea; the In-N-Out Burger Restaurant in Westwood whose bold red and yellow facades embodied its bent arrow logo, and a series of coolly elegant private homes which captured and framed the view in Malibu, Oakland, Sagaponac, NY, and the canyons of west Los Angeles. Kanner’s lifelong passion for modernist architecture was what Joseph Campbell called “a bliss.”
“I would say it’s a great place to practice architecture because, compared to other cities, there’s a higher percentage of clients with an open mind” commented Kanner in a 2006 interview with Curbed LA (lacurbed.com). In the recently completed Sunset Vine Tower, Kanner converted a vacant office building into a 63-unit residential structure where bathrooms and service areas are concealed behind projecting advertising banners whose revenue stream made the project possible.
A subtle wit fizzed through his work, as seen in the timber and glass restraint of The Hollywood, an apartment building whose underground parking garage is a riot of pattern and color. Kanner invited graffiti artists to coat it with the kind of work associated with New York subway trains. Kanner gave equal care to his many designs for the less affluent. These included Metro-Hollywood Transit Village and the recently completed 26th Street Affordable Housing for the Community Corporation of Santa Monica. Both of these projects won national, regional and local, AIA awards among others. “We don’t have money for fancy materials, but abundant light and air, which can make a huge difference in your living environment, are free, CCSM Executive Director Joan Ling told Architectural Record last year. These In the same article, Kanner commented “I was touched. People came over and actually thanked us for creating this place for them.”
Kanner’s buildings are found across the world, in shops for Puma, Armani, Quicksilver and others, as well as in office units near Silverstone, the UK home of Formula One Racing. The firm Kanner Architects will continue in the hands of its talented architects and designers. He is survived by his wife Cynthia Kanner, his daughters Charlotte and Caroline; his mother Judith Kanner; his sister Catherine Kanner, and her family Winston, AnnaKate and Rebecca Jane Chappell. They ask that donations be made in his name to the A+D museum in lieu of flowers (aplusd.org) where a memorial service and retrospective exhibition will be held Thursday, November 4th. More information to follow.