DnA: Design and Architecture is a radio show I hosted on KCRW NPR station from 2002 to 2020. Over the years DnA grew into a multi-platform exploration of design and the cityscape 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.

I still contribute stories to KCRW’s Greater LA and Press Play. A DnA-produced series, Wasted, aired weekly in early 2021 on KCRW’s Greater LA and is now available online. It was sponsored by the California Arts Council, and explores neat solutions to the dirty problem of waste in the Golden State. Think packaging and food, construction and e-waste, even human waste. The series started with plastics, and a young designer's effort to get all the plastics out of Barbie's Dreamhouse.

I am currently working on a video to mark the 40-year anniversary of the influential affordable housing developer, Community Corporation of Santa Monica.

I also produce and script podcasts. They include Rodeo Drive: The Podcast and Desert X 2019 and 2020, as well as a pet project in the pipeline called Goat Wisdom To Go. Scroll down for more information.

I am currently writing Common Ground: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles, a book about multifamily dwellings centered on shared social space and common amenities, that offer a lifestyle quite different from that of the much-mythologized single family home. Common Ground, to be published by Angel City Press in fall 2022, surveys pivotal multi-unit buildings in L.A., from low to high rise, low cost to luxury, dating from 1910 to today and ranging from bungalow courts, courtyard housing, garden apartments and apartment-hotels to the lofts, coliving and courtyard-based, mid-rise affordable housing of today. The illustrated book features designs by Irving Gill, Rudolf Schindler, Richard Neutra, Arthur and Nina Zwebell, Arthur and Alfred Heineman, Paul Williams, Victor Gruen, Brooks Scarpa, Michael Maltzan, Koning Eizenberg, Lorcan O'Herlihy and many more. Common Ground is inspired by many happy years living in an apartment building in Ocean Park, designed in 1962 by Frank Gehry. It is informed by longtime reporting for KCRW radio station on the highly charged issue of housing in L.A., where multifamily is now the dominant residential option and, at its best, can offer a delightful variant on the California dream.


Other writing includes, most recently, To Build or Not to Build?, about the construction industry's carbon footprint and how to alleviate it, through building more, with greener technologies, or by building less. It was inspired by 2021's Pritzker Prize winners, Lacaton and Vassal. Other writings include Architecture is a Social Act, 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 written for many publications, including The New York Times, LA Times, The Guardian and design journals, including Dwell, Metropolis, and The Architectural Review.

I produce events, talks, salons, and exhibitions for the Helms Design Center at the Helms Bakery District, in collaboration with Angela Anthony. The focus is art, design, architecture, and land-use in Los Angeles.

I have spent many years moderating public conversations about design and pressing issues including housing, climate change and transportation. I have shared the stage with luminaries including Jony Ive, Elon Musk, Frank Gehry, Elizabeth Timme, Paula Benson and Daniel Libeskind.
I have curated exhibitions, including Sink or Swim: Designing for a Sea Change at the Annenberg Space for Photography in 2015. This was a film and display of images of resilient buildings by Iwan Baan and other leading photographers.

Most recently, I organized, with Stephen Phillips, Low Rise, Mid Rise, High Rise: Housing in LA Today, a pop-up exhibition of housing in the pipeline in Los Angeles shown at Helms Design Center in summer of 2021.

I also co-curated the 2010 California Design Biennial at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.
Following the civil unrest of 1992, KCRW launched the current affairs shows Which Way, LA? and later To The Point, both hosted by Warren Olney. I became a producer of those shows and worked with Warren for 15 years.

Warren was the voice of fearless and fair journalism. I learned from him invaluable lessons in media literacy, a non-ideological approach to news and current affairs, and an openness to competing ideas.
Teaching is a passion; I have been an adjunct teacher and sat on student reviews at USC, UCLA, Yale, and SCI-Arc, and at New Roads High School. I am especially keen to share what I have learned about communicating design ideas to the general public. 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 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. The DnA show regularly made “Best Of” design podcast lists; and its series Bridges and Walls won the 2019 LA Press Club award for investigative reporting. I grew up in the UK but I came into my own in LA. After architecture school in London, I was sent to LA by The Architectural Review to report on the daring new West Coast architecture by Gehry, Morphosis, Eric Owen Moss, Hodgetts + Fung, and other talents.

I moved here in 1991 and 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 (hear more about that in this conversation at the Los Angeles Design Festival).

So I am very involved with LA's development. I am currently on the West Hollywood Design Excellence Review Committee, a new member of the Modernism Week board and a juror for the City of Los Angeles’ Low-Rise Housing Challenge.


Goat Wisdom To Go, is a pet project in the pipeline.

When the news broke 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 2020-21 Frances Anderton
Image © copyright 2019 Kremer Johnson; Website: David Stein; Thank you to Tyrone Drake.