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john dutton, 51 architect

ageist EDITORS | october 28, 2015

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Building A Better Future

It took most of his career, but architect, John Dutton finally got interested in space. Not in the Elon Musk sense, but in space's potential to foster community and connectivity. 

“When I was younger and I was working for people like Richard Meier, Renzo Piano, Santiago Calatrava, Thom Mayne, Morphosis and other people, I was very excited by the object, and how cool of an object you can make,” he says. “The older I get, the more I’m interested in the space between the objects, where people live and move and work and congregate and so forth, and how objects together create a place.”

The product of prestigious east coast universities (Brown undergrad, Princeton School of Architecture), Dutton was most excited by the potential of urbanism in his hometown of LA. He worked with Meier on the Getty Center, and later helped form the foundation of the Los Angeles Forum of Architecture and Urban Design. He’s won awards for his residential work, and designed the library for the Writer’s Guild and the headquarters of New West Records. 

“My interest in urbanism has always been there, but I think it grows more profound as I get older,” he says.

Most refreshing is the ability to go abroad with his students at the USC School of Architecture, and experience new cities in the way they would. Trips to Istanbul and, recently, Tokyo have been especially insightful. 

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“If I wasn’t learning, and if I wasn’t being provoked in so many subtle, different ways every day, I think I would fossilize,” he says. “To me, this is the profession that allows me to accept my insecurities and uncertainties and kind of voyage forward to see where it goes. I still don’t know. That’s the beauty of it.”

And as the voyage wanders into his next chapter, Dutton has been thinking about how he and his contemporaries will live. Together with Barbara Bestor, he’s in the process of starting Grey Gardens, an architecture firm that will build “urban, sophisticated, sustainable, and often mixed-use boutique housing” for a different kind of senior population.

"These people are living longer, they’re healthier, their habits and histories are much more, I would say, cultured and urban, and they tend to want to be more active,” he says. “Our parents often went to these institutions or these warehouses in the desert with cactus wallpaper and so forth and I think, you know, when you’re 65 now you’re not ready to do that, and …that wouldn’t be the destination of choice anyway.” We at Ageist agree.