Christopher Hawthorne, longstanding architecture critic of the Los Angeles Times, will be leaving his post to become the first-ever Chief Design Officer for L.A., in a position specially created for him by Mayor Eric Garcetti.
His appointment is a beacon for the key role design is playing as cities grapple with Herculean challenges from homelessness to climate change. Los Angeles will join the ranks of few cities worldwide that now have a chief design officer, and the pioneering position will doubtless shape how other major cities in the United States approach design. (Helsinki is among the other cities that have instated a CDO role, with the appointment of Anne Stenros in 2016.)
As he shared in a formal announcement in the paper early this morning, titled “Why I’m Leaving the Times for a job at City Hall,” Hawthorne will take an expansive and progressive vision toward improving public works—a focus of his work, during his nearly 14-year tenure at the paper—through design competitions, public forums, and campaigns.
“In its basic outline, the job will resemble the other ‘chief’ positions in Garcetti’s administration, including chief sustainability officer and chief data officer,” writes Hawthorne, with an awareness of the new challenges that lie ahead. “In other ways, it’ll be something of an experiment, an effort to produce better architecture, urban design and what we once called ‘public works’ for Los Angeles.”
Long voicing reason and conscience for the city’s residents, developers, designers, and public officials, he’ll now be working from the inside to promote civic change—and continuing his work to engage “a more robust dialogue about architecture and planning.”
Hawthorne will reportedly begin the new position next month. Stay tuned for more.