I am the author of Common Ground: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles (2022), published by Angel City Press. This book offers an alternative history of housing in Los Angeles: connected, mostly rental, centered on shared open space, from yesterday’s bungalow courts to today’s midrise complexes where neighbors can watch the sunset from the roof terrace. As multi-unit living becomes the only option for most people in an increasingly urbanizing Los Angeles, Common Ground makes the case for a contemporary SoCal lifestyle that is as alluring, stable and attainable as yesterday’s exalted single family home.

Frank Gehry, architect of the apartment building I have lived in for many years that inspired the book, calls Common Ground a “beautifully written…part architectural memoir, part call to arms."

Archival and contemporary images (photographed by Julius Shulman, Art Gray, Eric Staudenmaier, Caitlyn Atkinson, Cynthia Alex, Tim Street-Porter and many more) illustrate exemplary multifamily buildings by designers including Arthur and Nina Zwebell, Irving Gill, RM Schindler, Richard Neutra, Brooks + Scarpa, Koning Eizenberg, Lorcan O’Herlihy, Michael Maltzan, Shin Shin, Elizabeth Timme, and Design, Bitches.

Common Ground won the 2022 Gold award for best Regional Nonfiction from Foreword Reviews. It has been covered in many publications, including the New York Times, The Guardian, and the LA Times.

Common Ground was followed by Awesome and Affordable: Great Housing Now, for Friends of Residential Treasures: Los Angeles (FORT: LA). This year-long, new media project for 2024 attempts, with bold imagery and accessible language, to explain and elevate low-income housing in Los Angeles. It comprises monthly releases of "awesome" affordable buildings, a substantive glossary of housing terminology, and public events. I co-wrote Awesome and Affordable with David Kersh; together we work on other housing research and development projects. Find out more, here.

You can see more of my writing and editing in Architecture is a Social Act, a book about the work of Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA); Grand Illusion: A Story of Ambition, and its Limits, on LA’s Bunker Hill, based on a USC class I co-taught with Frank Gehry and his partners; and You Are Here, on the work of the late Jon Jerde. I have contributed to many publications, including Sierra magazine, The New York Times, and AD magazine, and I write a regular newsletter about design and architecture for KCRW.

From 2002 to 2020 I hosted DnA: Design and Architecture, a radio show and multi-platform exploration of design and the cityscape, aired on KCRW public radio station. DnA was described by Metropolis magazine as the "voice of the city." The radio show lives online as an 18-year archive of interviews with designers, builders, policymakers, critics and people whose lives are touched by the stuff we make. DnA regularly made “Best Of” design podcast lists, and the DnA series, Bridges and Walls, won the 2019 LA Press Club award for investigative reporting.

I still contribute stories to KCRW’s Greater LA, such as Wasted, a series exploring “neat solutions to the dirty problem of waste” in California. It won a 2022 Golden Mike award for Best Feature News Series Reporting.

For many years I produced KCRW’s current affairs shows Which Way, LA? and To The Point, both hosted by the incomparable Warren Olney. From Olney I learned about California history and politics, as well as media literacy, respect for facts, and an openness to competing ideas.

Now I produce and script podcasts and short films. I produced this video for the affordable housing developer Community Corporation of Santa Monica, and a video for Venice Community Housing, both in collaboration with the videographer Hans Fjellestad.

I have served as script writer for Rodeo Drive: The Podcast and Desert X 2019 and 2020, both for Lyn Winter. And I am developing a pet project called Goat Wisdom To Go. Scroll down for more information on that.

I help produce events, talks and exhibitions, primarily for Helms Design Center at the Helms Bakery District. We partner with design organizations including SoCal NOMA, Cal Poly LA Metro, Ilan Lael Foundation, LA Forum and many others. Since 2021 I have helped create these exhibits: Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture; In Harmony With Nature: The Architectural Work of James Hubbell; Low Rise, Mid Rise, High Rise: Housing in LA Today.

For the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in 2022, I co-organized Art for Earth’s Sake, a series of five public conversations about the art world and its environmental footprint – with speakers including the artists Glenn Kaino, Nancy Baker Cahill, Kim Abeles and Maru Garcia, the scholar Eric Avila, Bonnie Brennan, head of Christie’s America, and the architects Lance Collins, Kulapat Yantrasast and Fred Fisher (you can see my conversation with the architects, here).

Also in 2022, I co-hosted the Monterey Design Conference, with veteran MC Reed Kroloff; and I interviewed Moshe Safdie at a public event at the Skirball Cultural Center.

In collaboration with Alan Hess, the board of Palm Springs Modernism Week and multiple experts, I co-produce an ongoing series, “Stories Untold,” about Black, Asian-American and other under-recognized architects of the midcentury era.

In 2015 I curated Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change at the Annenberg Space for Photography – a film and display of images of resilient buildings by Iwan Baan, Stephen Wilkes and other leading photographers.
I teach a seminar on urban housing at USC and have served on reviews at USC, UCLA, Yale, UNLV, and SCI-Arc.

I am also passionate about teaching architects how to communicate their ideas to the general public, from writing jargon-free copy to engaging with multiple stakeholders.
Much of my work involves collaboration, which I love, and I have been lucky to work with many great partners.

One of those is Robin Bennett Stein, my partner in life, constant cheerleader and bracingly honest critic. One of his gifts is music, and he teaches (guitar) and spins, under the moniker DJ Caviar, with a knack for finding sounds that evoke a theme or style. So I like to have him supply the ambience at design events I’m involved with.
Honors include the 2020 ICON Award, awarded by LA Design Festival in recognition of “iconic women who have made an indelible mark on Los Angeles, culture, and society in general,” and the USC Architectural Guild's 2010 Esther McCoy Award for educating the public about architecture and urbanism. I was the SCI-Arc’s Honored Guest at its 2018 Main Event. I grew up in the UK but I came into my own in Los Angeles. After architecture school in London, I was sent by The Architectural Review to produce a 1987 special issue on the daring new West Coast architecture by Gehry, Morphosis, Eric Owen Moss, Hodgetts + Fung, and other talents.

I found LA so compelling that I moved here in 1991. Then, in April 1992, the region erupted over the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King. In response, KCRW launched the radio show Which Way, LA?, and I became a producer there in the late 90s. DnA followed on from that.

For the last 30 years my work has been about Los Angeles (discussed in this conversation at the Los Angeles Design Festival) and I am very involved with the life of the city and the region. I have served on the West Hollywood Design Excellence Review Committee and was a juror for the 2020 City of Los Angeles’ Low-Rise Housing Challenge. Currently I serve on the boards of Palm Springs Modernism Week, AIA/LA, and the Community Corporation of Santa Monica.

Goat Wisdom To Go, is a pet project in the pipeline. When the news broke in 2020 that I was leaving my staff position at KCRW after 22 years, I ran a tweet saying I would likely continue covering design and architecture, “unless I go start my fantasy goat farm.” The remark about goats got such a big reaction — clearly, a lot of us like goats! — that I decided the next best thing to becoming a goat farmer is to create a podcast in their honor.

The concept is to talk to a smart person — often on the older side, having garnered some wisdom that is worth sharing — about their lives and challenges they have overcome. At this point in life, they have acquired some of the goat-like ability to see through the miasma of overthinking that pervades human life and distill things down to the fundamentals, like munching on weeds while not doing much else. Goats also like butting heads, which I, a natural born Capricorn, am destined to do — with affection, of course.

© Copyright 2020-23 Frances Anderton
Image © copyright 2019 Kremer Johnson; Website: David Stein; Thank you to Tyrone Drake.