Stephen Kanner, who died earlier this year of pancreatic cancer at age 54, was something of an outlier among architects of his generation for the sheer volume and range of his output. Kanner in his 30s was designing the kinds of projects that most architects these days don’t land until they are nearing 60 — or even 70. With his colleagues in Kanner Architects, he produced expansive private houses, condominium projects, courthouses, guest cottages, rec centers, affordable-housing developments, retail outlets and even a gas station.
How and why a gas station, designed for United Oil at the corner of La Brea and Slauson avenues, turned out to be one of Kanner’s best-known and well-liked designs is among many fascinating threads running through a richly layered exhibition of his work at the Architecture and Design Museum until Jan. 16.
And yet what the show — impeccably organized by Kanner Architects’ Lincoln Tobier, Reuben Herzl and Danielle Cornwell, drawing from the firm’s deep archives — makes clear is that the gas station and a burger joint for in-n-out are themselves outliers. They are anomalies in the portfolio of an architect who (quite accurately) described himself as a “restrained modernist” and for the most part produced buildings that were straightforward and civic-minded in the great L.A. tradition of William Pereira, Welton Becket and Albert C. Martin — not to mention of his father Charles Kanner and grandfather I. Herman Kanner.