Frank Gehry and the 10 Hottest Architects Changing L.A. Real Estate

7:00 AM 10/21/2016

by Mark Morrison

Home is where the art is, at least judging by the local casas created by Hollywood's top pros, who set the trends (outdoor rooms with radiant-heated floors, anyone?) without chasing them as these design leaders reveal what it takes to service their star clients (everyone from Hilary Swank to Mark Wahlberg).

Spencer Lowell

Thirteen years ago on Oct. 24, 2003, Frank Gehry's exhilarating stainless steel Walt Disney Concert Hall opened on Bunker Hill and took Los Angeles architecture to another stratosphere, becoming an instant L.A. icon in the process. Gehry, now 87, became the undisputed godfather of L.A. design among peers and proteges that include Ray Kappe, 89, Eric Owen Moss, 73, and Thom Mayne, 72. Their daring — Kappe's innovative homes, the futuristic facades of Moss' Hayden Tract in Culver City, Mayne's monumental Caltrans building — has helped L.A. shift to a world-class cultural mecca, from the newly replete arts district to the L.A. River's renewal (with Gehry's input). But these changes also raise questions about what form new developments will take. These post-Gehry architects are the ones most likely to make an impact on L.A. as it expands and evolves.

  • Barbara Bestor

    "My work has been described as modern with a bohemian edge," says Bestor, 49, and the description is apt for this Montecito nest on 160 acres built for Birdman producer John Lesher (sold for $6.86 million in July). "Barbara understands how you live in a space from the inside out," says Lesher. "I see places that look cool, but how do they make you feel?"

    Bestor's knack for delivering style and livability attracts such clients as Atlanta creator/star Donald Glover, Transparent creator Jill Soloway and Girls executive producer Jenni Konner. Both Duplass brothers have chosen the architect: Transparent's Jay to redo his Eagle Rock house, and producer Mark, who purchased a $4.44 million 2006 Bestor original. Bestor already had created Beats by Dre's dramatic 135,000-square-foot headquarters in a Culver City warehouse when president Luke Wood bought John Lautner's modern masterpiece, Silvertop, for a Silver Lake record of $8.55 million in 2014 and hired her to restore it. "Working for Hollywood is fun because you know the house will host some spectacular parties," she says, "so there's also more fun to be had for the designer!"

    Bestor followed up her art major at Harvard with a stint at the unconventional Southern California Institute of Architecture, after which a chance meeting with the Beastie Boys' Mike Diamond gave her entree to the L.A. music world (she later built him and his wife, director Tamra Davis, their Point Dume beach house). Last year she married TV writer-director Tom Stern, and they've merged families (she has two daughters from a previous marriage; he has a daughter and son) in a 1946 Silver Lake home.

    PROUDEST WORK The new nonprofit Silverlake Conservatory of Music (founded by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea) inside an old makeup factory on Hollywood Boulevard.

    MUST-SEE L.A. SITES Gehry's Nelson House in Venice. "I'd also take a boat ride around the Port of L.A. You see these amazing edges of the city."

    WHAT'S IN Separate media rooms for kids; tree houses.

    WHAT'S OUT Grand foyers.

    WHAT'S NEXT Progressive high-design housing "so this new dense city doesn't look like the old one."

  • Marc Appelton

    Appleton's Cali roots run deep: In 1925, his grandparents hired legendary Santa Barbara architect George Washington Smith to design a 12,000-square-foot Spanish colonial revival home (with an electric cable car to reach the beach). Appleton's designs include a 10,000-square-foot mansion for Richard and Lili Zanuck (sold for $20.1 million in 2012, then razed) and a redo of Hilary Swank's six-bedroom 1928 Mediterranean in Pacific Palisades after she bought it in 2007 for $5.8 million. A Harvard grad with a Yale architecture degree, Appleton worked for Gehry before opening his practice in 1976. He has been married to Joanna Kerns since 1994.

    MUST-SEE L.A. SITE Union Station in Pasadena. "It's only after one has lived in L.A. for a while that its secret riches are discovered," he says.

    BRING BACK "The art deco Richfield Building that graced downtown in my childhood."

  • Steven Ehrlich

    Sliding 16-foot glass panels enable Ehrlich's concrete-and-steel Venice house to transform into a pavilion. "It's flexible — people want the ability to change their environment," says Ehrlich, 70, who fell for L.A. during a 1976 visit with his sister, costume designer Renee Kalfus: "I could feel the energy, melting-pot neighborhoods and potential of indoor-outdoor architecture." Today, his staff of 40 works from a renovated former dance hall in Culver City. He also has designed DreamWorks Animation's campus ("They always manage to incorporate a sense of fun," Jeffrey Katzenberg has said of EYRC) and the modern building in Beverly Hills that houses offices of Participant Media, Google and Pivot.

    NEXT UP A hotel-condo project overlapping the House of Blues site on Sunset Boulevard

  • Richard Landry

    "I would get bored listening to the same music all the time," says Landry, 59. "So one day it's jazz, the next it's hip-hop, then classical. I like variety." That's one way to explain why he's so at home working in different styles from Spanish colonial to modern without pushing any aesthetic of his own — except for high quality and attention to detail.

    The architect designed a 30,000-square-foot French manor on 8 acres in Beverly Park for Mark Wahlberg and wife Rhea Durham that includes a two-story library and lagoon-like pool. He is redoing the 13,890-square-foot Brentwood chateau that he designed for Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen after they sold it to Dr. Dre for a reported $40 million. Now Landry is building the couple a 14,371-square-foot mansion on 5.2 acres in suburban Brookline, Mass.

    Hollywood's go-to guy for big names who enjoy opulence, Landry has many high-powered clients, including Sylvester Stallone, Rod Stewart, Haim Saban and Full House creator and Fuller House executive producer Jeff Franklin. "What I love is Richard takes time to get to know his clients and turns their dreams into something they never dreamed of," says Franklin, for whom the architect has built another luxurious home in the West Hollywood hills.

    Though today Landry lives in a 4,000-square-foot Malibu modern he designed — he also owns a ski chalet in Mammoth and a cottage in Canada — he grew up in a small town outside Quebec before studying architecture at the University of Montreal and University of Copenhagen in Denmark. "I'd never seen a big house before," says Landry. But he learned. In 1987, he opened the Landry Design Group, and soon an Architectural Digest story on Kenny G's Seattle house "pushed us to a different level." Of his hybrid style, he says, "There's something about these houses: You look at what you can do to make them more appropriate to the way we live so they become something very special." 

    MUST-SEE L.A. SITE The historic homes of Hancock Park

  • Sharon Johnston & Mark Lee

    Johnston and Lee's form of minimalism is defined not by austere lines but by layers of circular shapes and bold cutout windows. The work "comes across as dynamic and restrained at the same time," says Lee. Built on a steep slope, designer Chan Luu's three-story Hill House in Pacific Palisades defies convention. They also created a 5,500-square-foot home in Brentwood for producer Laurie David and recently designed an art gallery on Steve Tisch's property. Johnston, 51, grew up in L.A., while Lee, 49, left his native Hong Kong for L.A. to attend USC. They met in graduate school at Harvard, opened their practice in 1998 and married that same year.

    MUST-SEE L.A. SITE Eames House in Pacific Palisades

  • Michael Maltzan

    Growing up in Levittown on New York's Long Island, Maltzan understood postwar sprawl. "That landscape that many found off-putting seemed very real to me," says the architect who studied at Rhode Island School of Design and Harvard before moving to L.A. in 1988.

    Maltzan, 57, worked as project director of Disney Concert Hall for Gehry before opening his own office in 1995. He built an art-filled residence for attorney Alan Hergott (who represents Brad Pitt) and his partner Curt Shepard. After dining there, Michael Ovitz asked Maltzan to design the 28,000-square-foot home where he hangs his Picassos. Since converting a staple factory in Queens to a temporary Museum of Modern Art, he has designed the Hammer Museum's Billy Wilder Theater.

    WHAT'S NEXT His design for DTLA's Sixth Street Bridge — named the "Ribbon of Light" and the largest bridge design in L.A. history — is set to open in 2019.

  • Leo Marmol & Ron Radziner

    It's no coincidence that soon after Marmol and Radziner restored Richard Neutra's fabled but forgotten Kaufmann House in Palm Springs during the mid-1990s that the desert city reclaimed its stature as a ring-a-ding-ding resort town — and a mecca for midcentury modernism. The fanfare that house received put Marmol Radziner on the map.

    "This was probably the most important redesign of a midcentury house that had been done," says business manager John McIlwee (his clients include Jane Lynch and Maura Tierney), who, with his partner, DreamWorks Animation exec turned theater producer Bill Damaschke, subsequently hired Marmol Radziner to restore two midcentury homes: the 1962 Garcia House in the Hollywood Hills, which they bought from Vincent Gallo, and a five-bedroom Rancho Mirage ranch house built in 1977 by Welton Becket (who designed the Capitol Records building).

    Marmol Radziner has restored other notable midcentury homes: Tom Ford's Richard Neutra in Bel Air and a 1952 Cliff May in Brentwood now owned by Ed O'Neill. They did an extensive remodel of a 1950s Beverly Hills home for Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher that the actress still owns, and also designed a Rustic Canyon modern now owned by Bradley Cooper. 

    The architects, both 55, met at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and seem like a study in contrasts: Marmol's family emigrated from Cuba to the Bay Area, while Radziner was raised in Encino by parents who were Dutch Holocaust survivors. They formed their partnership in 1989 and operate from a former Fox postproduction space in West L.A., where they also design interiors, furniture and even a jewelry line.

    WHAT'S IN Outdoor rooms with radiant flooring, says Marmol.

    WHAT'S OUT Vessel sinks, says Radziner.

    MUST-SEE L.A. SITES DTLA's historic Broadway movie theaters, Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House in Los Feliz

  • Lorcan O'Herlihy

    When the first project O'Herlihy built — a modern house for his mom and dad, Oscar-nominated actor Dan O'Herlihy — won kudos, "that was helpful for me to get my career going," he says. In L.A., O'Herlihy built West Hollywood's Habitat825 condos, once home to The Biggest Loser's Bob Harper; former entertainment attorney Rich Roll's Calabasas home; and renovated late architectural photographer Julius Shulman's 1950 steel-frame house. Born in Dublin, O'Herlihy studied at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, helping I. M. Pei with his glass pyramid at the Louvre along the way. Today he's designing a 28,000-square-foot downtown Art Share L.A. museum.

    WHAT'S NEXT Says O'Herlihy: "We have to provide a place to live for those who are less fortunate," like his 26-unit MLK Supportive Housing that will foster community with a rooftop patio and green spaces.

  • Zoltan Pali

    L.A. culture vultures know Pali's restoration work: the landmark Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park and the Getty Villa in Malibu. He also reused the 1930s Italian Renaissance-style Beverly Hills Post Office by Ralph C. Flewelling as an entrance for his ingenious Wallis Annenberg Center. His luxurious residences are cherished by Beverly Hills' Tyler Perry, musician turned realtor Don Caverhil and, soon, producer Gavin Polone. Born in L.A.'s Chinatown to Hungarian parents, Pali, 56, studied design at UCLA. He and his wife, Judit Meda Fekete, founded Studio Pali Fekete Architects in 1990 and have two sons — Ezra and Renzo (for Italian architect Renzo Piano, with whom he was to convert the Art Deco May Co. building into the Academy Museum until Pali left that project in 2014).

    MUST-SEE L.A. SITES "The view from the rotating bar atop the Bonaventure" and the 110.

  • Patrick Tighe

    "I am proud of our diversity," says Tighe (pronounced "tie"), whose work ranges from high-end residences such as the million-dollar remodel he did for Nina Montee Karp and her husband, pediatrician-author Harvey Karp, in Pacific Palisades to a postproduction space for the U.K.-based Moving Picture Co. in Santa Monica. Growing up in Lowell, Mass., Tighe, 48, studied architecture at UCLA, and worked for edgy firm Morphosis before opening his own shop in Santa Monica. Cantilevered rooflines, perforated metal cladding and the latest tech are his hallmarks.

    MUST-SEE L.A. SITES Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. And "there is nothing like hiking or biking in the Santa Monica Mountains," he says.

    WHAT'S IN "People are craving their personal sanctuaries in the form of gardens, bathrooms, bedrooms and exercise areas."