first off: pacific standard time presents modern architecture in l.a is up and running and certainly worth seeing, either in person or on the internetsmachine. here’s the link: pacificstandardtimepresents.org
secondly: i’m only including one picture in this update.
see, i was sitting outside and i was looking across the canyon and i noticed these three houses on the opposite ridge.
i see them everyday, but for some reason i was particularly struck by them today.
as you can see, there’s: a 1970’s castle, a spaceship, and an odd boxy modern house painted pink.
which is, all things considered, l.a architecture at it’s finest. or most random. or, subjectively, finest.
oh, and did i mention that there’s a mountain in the background?
and on the mountain you can find mountain lions and hikers and people riding horse’s in the middle of the city?
and people still think l.a is a terrible place?
a bizarre desert mountain beach suburban latino city filled with fantastically dysfunctional artists and musicians and writers?
a weird sprawling city where people sit in their backyards with their dogs and go on hiking dates when they’re not at the farmers market?
that sounds terrible? to whom, scrooge? dick cheney? pol pot?
oh, and people sometimes dismiss l.a for it’s sprawl, but as far as urban verbs are concerned isn’t ‘sprawl’ better than ‘sit’?
l.a might be a byzantine petri dish, but at least the things in petri dishes move around and do weird and interesting things.
here’s what i know: there was a period in the early 20th century when a lot of people in hollywood thought it was a good idea to build fantasy houses, borrowing liberally from spanish or mexican or norman or british or arabic architectural styles.
i don’t know if this period has a name, nor do i know if legitimate architectural writers/bloggers look at this period with awe and love or disdain and more disdain.
i also know that as a non-legitimate architectural writer/blogger i look at this period with awe and love, especially when compared and contrasted with the beige generic cat-vomit period that typifies a lot of l.a architecture from 1970 to 2013.
this particular house is clearly modeled on arabic/north-african architecture (i say ‘clearly’ because i’ve clearly seen arabic and north african buildings that kind of look like this house. so, ‘clearly’ is a completely subjective and non-academic term. to be clear). and it’s beautiful.
‘beautiful’ is also a completely subjective and non-academic term. but as i’m a self-proclaimed non-legitimate architectural writer/blogger i reserve the right to use terms that would be anathema to any legitimate architectural writer. like, ‘beautiful’, or ‘pretty’ or ‘generic cat vomit’.
maybe if this were my day job i’d be a little more academic in my criticisms. but i’m just a guy with a laptop, so: this building is beautiful and i love it and i wish the owners would invite me over to drink tea in those little bitty silver tea cups that you think of when you see a souk.
ok, i hope you had a nice weekend.
i mean, technically it’s attached to a building, so it’s tangentially architecture? right?
well, maybe i just have too broad an idea of what constitutes architecture, as i’ve included pictures of clouds and lizards on this site. but i’m a college drop-out, so what do you expect? an erudite and reasoned consideration of exceptional buildings? or pictures of lizards and graffiti? how about an erudite and reasoned consideration of lizards and graffiti? and buildings, too, on occasion.
i also have a really hard time spelling words with double consonants. like: ‘occasion’. is that right? it looks like it should have 2 ‘s’s’.
so: graffiti. you have to admit, this graffiti is pretty remarkable. and it defines and establishes the space, far more than the building upon which it’s been painted. the building itself is kind of egregiously unremarkable. it’s only the graffiti that distinguishes the building from the few million other generic buildings in l.a.
i especially like the scary blue baby doll playing bongos. and the scary clown.
see, l.a is a random city. or, rather, a city of randomness. and random things. and a twisted unicorn spaghetti approach to cohesion. and because l.a is random i believe it would be odd to make any attempt to either shoe-horn or force any notions of cohesion onto it. even if involving dangling participles. like the last sentence. sorry.
now, this building. house. bunker. it’s a random house in a random setting. it’s modern and kind of brutalist and boxy. it’s also grey, with dark windows. all well and good, but it presents a whole host of questions.
like, for instance, who wants to build a grey modernist box house on a desert hillside underneath blue skies and eucalyptus trees? i’m not saying it’s a bad choice, it’s just not necessarily the first choice many people would necessarily make when confronted with a building lot on a hillside surrounded by azure skies and eucalyptus trees.
i actually like this grey box house. it’s simple and austere and utilitarian and it makes very little sense in it’s site/context, but it makes perfect contextual sense in a sprawling urban environment that’s fantastically devoid of cohesion.
i mean, a house like this could’ve been anything. it could’ve been a beige hairball (as in: coughed up by a predator). or it could’ve been a norman castle or a spanish hacienda or a mies inspired rectilinear glass box or a lautner spaceship.
it could’ve been anything. and it’s a grey assemblage of boxes and dark windows. which is great, i guess. baffling when scrutinized, but great. cohesion is for sissies.
maybe that’s a new slogan for los angeles. along with: ‘los angeles, the first city of the apocalypse.’
p.s-i’m also including a picture of a giant cross with downtown in the background. it has nothing to do with this house. except that they’re in the same neighborhood. ok, thanks again.
and now a random one.
yesterday i went for a walk on my street and took some random pictures of random houses. plus a picture of a landscapers hat on a tweety bird doll in the back of a pick up truck.
all of these houses are perfectly nice, but on their own i probably wouldn’t be inclined to devote a whole update to one of them.
and i’m ashamed at the syntax in that last sentence. eesh, what, was i raised in a barn? my grandmother would be ashamed.
in any case here are some random and odd mid-century or mid-century inspired or just plain odd and random houses on my street. oh, and one moderne house, like a tiny ocean liner. and aforementioned tweety bird in a hat.
there are lots of other nice houses on my street, i just randomly decided to take pictures of these. nice mid century-ish houses baking in the hot march sun.
here’s a quick one.
i was hiking around my neighborhood earlier today and i saw this little house (well, it looks little from a distance, maybe it’s not actually so little up close).
it’s nestled bucolically at the base of some hills and forest, and is possibly inhabited by some benign grimm’s fairy tale character (assuming there are benign grimm’s fairy tale characters). which, of course, is nice. but which, of course, in most circumstances, is rarely all that remarkable. except in this case the house in question is about 1/2 a mile from the center of densely weird hollywood and about 1/4 mile away from one of the busiest freeways in the united states. which, as someone who was born on 148th st in nyc, still seems odd and strange and kind of magically remarkable. that there’s almost no delineation between the urban and natural in l.a, just some odd and random demarcations that rarely, if ever, make much municipal sense.
for instance: you’ll be driving down a street in my neighborhood and looking at a big expanse of trees or scrub brush and wondering: is that a park? is it part of the reservoir? is it someone’s property? is it brigadoon? is it where elephants go to plot the demise of their human overlords? can i hike there? will i get shot? and these are all equally valid questions.
quotidian urban sprawl juxtaposed randomly with relatively untrammeled nature.
oh, and sorry for the big-ish pretentious grad-student-y words, i didn’t have a lot of friends growing up so i spent my summers reading my mom’s books rather than playing outdoors with the normal children.
oh, a p.s/codecil to the update about the bridge…
chris nichols sent me this picture of the bridge when it was an actual bridge. apparently at one point it was a real, actual bridge, for real, actual trains. but given l.a’s less than amazing history as regards public transportation it’s now just a gathering of giant concrete pilings in the river.
poor l.a, always eating the best parts of itself.
here’s architecture and a bird.
first, the bird. technically it’s called a ‘turkey goblin’. actually technically and taxonomically it’s probably not called a turkey goblin. but my friend misty, with whom i was hiking, decided that it’s a turkey goblin. so, henceforth, turkey goblin.
and the architecture. or engineering. or, a bridge. or a part of a bridge. or, to keep this going, a bridge and some giant concrete pilings that look like they were supposed to be a bridge at some point but ended up as not quite a bridge.
i’m sometimes impressed by things that required unimaginable time and resources and energy and money to be built but were then never quite finished. as i’m assuming is/was the case with these very big concrete pilings built in the middle of the los angeles river. or maybe they serve a purpose, other than just being brutalist and photogenic.
the bridge serves a purpose. it was designed with a specific utility in mind, i’m assuming, and it now satisfies that utility, letting cars and people go from one side of the river to the other. but the pilings? giant and immovable? they just sit there, waiting for a railway bridge (i’m guessing) that will never materialize. like giant concrete miss havershams. just sitting and slowly succumbing to entropy and birds.
in other news: it was a beautiful day and you might have figured out that los angeles has a river (named, imaginatively, the los angeles river) and very few people seem to hang out at the river but it’s beautiful and covered in strange birds, like the aformentioned turkey goblin.
ok, i hope you had a nice weekend.
hi, i hope you had a nice weekend.
i’m going to state a sad and self-evident truth. which is: there are a lot of crappy houses in l.a. some of them are endearingly crappy. some of them are just crappy. and i’m not judging what goes on inside these crappy houses, as i’m sure that lots of smart and well intentioned and creative people do interesting things inside these beige crap palaces. but there are a lot of them. and it can be depressing.
in between the beige crap-shacks, however, there are some gems. like this house, by richard neutra (i think it’s by neutra…don’t skewer me if this isn’t a neutra house. someone said, ‘i think that’s a neutra house’, so i’m just repeating what i’ve been told…i’m ignorant. happily so).
it’s a perfect internationalist modern gem of a house, with just the perfect amount of goldilocks style entropy. long and sleek and rectilinear, with perfect little clerestory windows and even a couple of cats in the windows (not sure if you can see them in the pictures). oh, and i’m not implying that perfect mid century jewel box gems of houses need to have cats in the windows, but clearly it helps, generally speaking. little mid century cats, ideally, wearing glasses and smoking pipes and talking about the wonders of fiberglass.
it warms my heart that in between the beige crap-shacks of l.a there are these amazing little modernist wonders. and maybe as i become more enlightened i’ll be able to see the beauty and wonder in the beige crap shacks. but for now i just think they’re crappy. unlike this gem. which is the opposite of crappy.
first off: thanks to palm springs modernism week for organizing a whole bunch of great events last week, and also for asking me to come out and speak with frances anderton at the ace on saturday.
also on saturday i was able to visit the richard neutra ‘miller house’. palm springs is, of course, filled with remarkable mid century architecture, with this house standing as one of the best examples. simple and thoughtful and smart and interesting and practical and understated, it’s mid century desert architecture (as designed by a man born in the mountains of austria, of course) at it’s best.
palm springs fascinates and baffles me. it’s beautiful and it seems like a great place to live, even if it’s a desert furnace that without irrigation is probably incapable of supporting biological life for 2 or 3 months out of the year.
oh, and there are probably much better photographs of this iconic house, but, for better or worse, here are mine.