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Best Architects in California 2014

Since 1990 Architectural Digest has been naming the world’s preeminent  architects and designers to a select group know as AD100. An arbiter of excellence, this exclusive list recognizes establishment icons and enterprising trailblazers whose work is as inspiring as it is influential. These are the professionals who are shaping the way we live – one building, one house one room at a time. Here in this article we introduce you the best architects from California you can find at this very restricted group.


Appleton & Associates INC. Architects


Vernacular architecture fuels the varied work of Marc Appleton, who did a stint in Frank Gehry’s office before setting out in 1976 to launch his own practice – now with branches in both Santa Monica and Santa Barbara, California. Though his estimable portfolio comprises projects both grand (an estate on Catalina Island) and humble (a youth hostel in Santa Monica), Appleton ensures that his structures feel appropriate to their location, much like the 1920’s Spanish Colonial revival homes built in California by his idol, George Washington Smith. One of Appleton’s best-known work is his sensitive restoration of the historic Sandro Ysidro Ranch resort, whose low-key storybook cottages and stone buildings have enchanted generations. Employing steadfast materials like adobe, shingle stone, and stucco to neoclassical, Appleton says, aids him in “evoking a presence of the past”.



Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects


“Whether it’s a barn form, an industrial building, or a house with a modern aesthetic, we strive for maximum amounts of light and exposure”, says Howard J. Backen, a cofounder of California’s Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects. With offices in Sausalito and St. Helena, the firm has a deep portfolio of luminous, earthy, and stylish projects for local wineries, resorts, and restaurants as weel as vintners’ private homes. Farther afield, it has designed stores for Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma Home, and RH (formely know as Restoration Hardware). The group’s residential work, which mines regional vocabularies, eschews conspicuous bells and whistle. Some dwellings resemble beautifully restored 1920’s board-and-batten ranch houses, while others are graceful minimalist structures that seem to melt into the landscape.



Ike Kligerman Barkley Architects


The esteemed firm led by principals John Ike, Thomas A. Kligerman, and Joel Barkley specializes in historically inspired houses noted for precise cratfmanship and distinctive silhouettes. Reflecting a scholarly reverence for design history, the practice – which have offices in New York an San Francisco – adapts vernacular styles from Massachusets Colonail to Acoma Pueblo to Southetn Antebellum to create residences with a 21 century sense of light, space and luxury. Ike Kligerman Barkley’s institutional portfolio includes the susteinably designed modernist Ramble Living Well Center in Asheville, Noth Carolina. As architect Robert Stern wrote in his foreword to the 2010 monograph Ike Kligerman Barkley: House, the firm speaks “architecural langauges of the past with a sure command of grammar and syntax and rich vocabulary of form and detail”.



Laundry Design Group Inc.


Richard Laundry may be best know as a designer of statement homes – magnificent 21-century châteaus and modernist-style compounds among them – but the Los Angeles architect is just as proud of his more modest creations, such as a tidy crafstman-inspired lake house. “We don’t subscribe to any given stylistic influence”, Laundry says of his firm. “Our approach is always to achieve uncompromised functionality while reaching for an aesthetic that surprasses expectations”. That philosophy has served the practice well, evidenced by the enchanting dwellings it has created for clients like Gisele Bündchen and Tom Brady, Eddy Murphy, Wayne Gretzky, and Mark Wahlberg. One of the firm’s drawing board are a growing number of commissions around the world, including a columned neo-Trianon in Southest Asia and a massive modernist fantasa interlaced with illuminated water features in the Middle East.



Marmol Radziner

marmol radziner

Over the past two and half decades, Los Angeles-based Marmol Radziner has established itself as the go-to form for thoughtful upgrades to classic works of midcentury architecture, from its celebrated restoration of Richard Netura’s Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, California, to its expansion of a 1960’s Beverly Hills lair for photographer Steven Meisel. Equally compelling are the boldly modernist homes Marmol Radziner designs from the ground up, typically employing bluestone, cedar, schist, and stretches of glass that “extend rooms into the landscape”, says Ron Radziner, who cofounded the firm with Leo Marmol in 1989. The duo is now working on houses in Nova Scotia and California and an architecture-and-design center in Palm Springs Art Museum. And their well-regarded prefab division devises eco-friendly building systems that are raising the bar for modular residential design.



Michael Maltzan Architecture

Michael Maltzan

Specializing in what he terms “progressive, transformative experiences”, Los Angeles based architect Michael Maltzan champions avant-garde strategies for planning and construction. Whether designing museums, schools, housing for the homeless, or manses for VIPs, he brings three-dimensional form to enlightened thinking. In downtown LA, Maltzan is working on One Sante Fe, a sprawling development of residential and retail spaces interwoven with gardens and plazas that promises to make vibrant urban center out of a former industrial tract. In Canada he is designing the new Inuit Art and Learning Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. And in Beverly Hills he has conjured a glorious residence of laser-cut metal panels, dramatic angles, and shimmering reflecting pools to showcase longtime client Michael Ovitz’s astonishing collection of art and decorative treasures.



Richard Meier & Partners Architects

Richard Meier

This past fall Richard Meier celebrated the 50th year of his distinguished practice. Expanding upon a portfolio that includes such icons  as the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Rachofsky House in Dallas, the firm – wich as offices in New York and Los Angeles – recently completed a captivating private club in Shenzhen, China, and construction is wrapping upon on a 42-story luxury apartment tower in Tel Aviv. These projects remain trueto the Pritzker Prize winner’s signature aesthetic: arresting modernist forms, abundant glass (and natural light), and, of course, expanses of white. “The principles that guide us are not unique to period, style or context”, Meier says. “Whether we’re designing a museum, hotel, or residence, we strive to create works of beauty and elegance that enhance particular environments”



By: Bruno Almeida

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