as it’s grammy weekend i thought i’d take some pictures of the iconic and legendary capitol records building.
well, i also thought i’d take some pictures of it because it’s a fantastic and fantastically anachronistic building, representing a time when record companies were huge and powerful and the music business was annually growing from strength to strength (even if the musicians themselves were routinely shafted in the process… oops, sorry had to get in a word for all of the musicians over the years who’ve been treated like dirty step-children while the executives at the record companies made tens of millions of dollars). but this building. it’s a great building, practically and conceptually.
it was designed (or so i’ve been led to believe) to look like a big stack of 7” 45rpm records, with a gigantic stylus (needle)pressing down upon the top record. everything about this has become amazingly anachronistic, as 7” records disappeared ages ago, and at this point the record business could be better understood as the i-tunes/mp3 business. no more records. no more needles (ironically there’s a needle exchange in the shadow of the capitol records building, but for a very different type of needle).
but the anachronism, as represented architecturally, is charming and amazing and endearing and chilling (in that it represents a dead and dying industry). a form that had great relevance when it was conceived and built now just looks like a super-cool round building with a big weird spikey thing on top.
i guess it’s also worth remembering that this building was a shining beacon when pop music was elvis and frank sinatra and the beatles. and now pop music is, well, it is what it is.
i won’t malign the state of pop music, specifically, but i will state the obvious: it’s not the beatles or simon and garfunkel or the clash or nirvana or alice in chains or marvin gaye or stevie wonder or bob marley or bruce springsteen or the rolling stones or rem, even though it once was.
it’s not idiosyncratic individuals who made challenging and beautiful and fascinating music that inspired hundreds of millions of people.
i won’t say what the world of pop music is. but i’m happy to state the obvious and point out what it isn’t, and what it used to be.
perhaps the demise of the record business has less to do with piracy and mp3’s than it does with the gaping maw that separates what the pop music world currently is as opposed to what it used to be.
sorry to be cranky, but music is precious to me and it breaks my heart to see it treated like trash. and, oops, the capitol records building is great architecture.
caveat, this is sort of a self-involved and potentially obnoxious architecture update, as it involves my house.
ok. one of the reasons i moved to l.a was to have more space. having lived in nyc for decades i had become very, very accustomed to living in very small spaces. and i like small spaces. but then l.a beckoned, with it’s promise of guest bedrooms and washer/drier rooms and guest bathrooms.
space. which, along with light and nature, is the most precious urban commodity (well, i guess friends and family and health could be included). but space.
many of my friends in nyc and london have an almost resigned, defeated, and fetishistic approach to space. i’ve seen new yorkers turn closets into offices (or in my case: a closet into a bedroom. i still sleep in a closet when i’m in nyc. granted, it’s a pretty comfy closet). i’ve seen londoners turn tiny attics into guest bedrooms. and so on. no effort is to small to increase the square footage of a new york or london apartment by even a few feet. and then there’s l.a, with it’s sprawling gigantic-ness and it’s HOUSES. people live in houses here. with guest bedrooms and space.
so, when we were renovating my house we got around to renovating one of the guest bedrooms. a beautiful bedroom overlooking hills and a lake. but when the house was done i realized that i already had a couple of guest bedrooms, and no desire to have more guests. so rather than have another guest bedroom i decided to have the strangest of urban luxuries: an empty room that has absolutely no purpose.
i know, it seems like an absurd indulgence. and i guess it is. but i have a room with no purpose. just a beautiful empty room. sometimes it gets used for yoga, sometimes people use it for meditating, sometimes people use it for sleeping. but most of the time it just sits quietly on it’s own, calm and empty, almost like my own james turrell room.
i hope i haven’t offended you with my empty room, or with these pictures of an empty room. i can see how new yorkers in particular would have a particular antipathy towards an empty room. which might be one reason why more and more of my new yorker friends are moving to l.a.
architecture pictures to follow soon this week, i promise.
in the meantime, a map of l.a that shows, pretty clearly, the gigantic-ness (which is a real word, according to me) of los angeles.
it perhaps helps to understand l.a in terms of it’s sprawl and it’s size. in some ways l.a would make more sense to the world (and, well, to me) if it were considered more of a county, containing about 100 or 200 smaller cities and towns, than a city proper. but as a city proper it’s fascinating and baffling and odd and utopian and dystopian all in equal measure. which is a big part of why i live here.
ok, i’m a little bit ashamed.
see, the other night i was invited to john lautner’s sheats-goldstein house. and, unfortunately, i didn’t bring my good camera. mea culpa.
so, unfortunately, i couldn’t take pictures worthy of such a strange and beautiful and iconic house.
but i took pictures. not great pictures. but pictures.
i mean, the truth is that it’s a house/property that’s been documented thousands of times, usually by photographers with good cameras and the time to do the property justice.
i was at a party, it was crowded, and i basically had an old point and shoot digital camera.
but enough excuses, here are some pictures of the sheats-goldstein house, including the new tennis court which actually seems more like a landing pad for benign alien space ships.
ps-you could always do a google image search of ‘sheats goldstein house’ to see daytime pictures of the house as taken with a good camera..
if someone put a gun to my head and said ‘pick your favorite architect from the 20th century’ i would probably pick eero saarinen. which is not to malign any of the other remarkable 20th century architects. but i’ve always loved eero saarinen.
one of my favorite things about flying in and out of d.c is being able to see dulles airport, which was designed by eero saarinen in the late 50’s.
so, as i was rushing to get to my flight on sunday (unfortunately i had to leave d.c early)i stopped to take some pictures of what might be the world’s second most beautiful airport (the first would be eero saarinen’s twa terminal at jfk, or so i believe).
so here are a few pictures of the world’s most beautiful airport as designed by my favorite 20th century architect.
in flying to d.c for the weekend i was lucky and ended up with a window seat. so even though i’ve flown back and forth over the western united states lots and lots of times i decided to take some pictures.
see, having grown up in cute and provincial new england i’m still amazed at how vast and alien the american west is.
ok, i’m hoping that your delicate sensibilities are not frayed by today’s random architectural update.
see, l.a has strip clubs.
i mean, most cities have strip clubs.
but l.a, or so it seems, is especially known for it’s strip clubs.
so, regardless of whether people are pro strip club or anti strip club, i’ll state the obvious: they exist and they hold a storied and prominent place in l.a’s urban landscape.
i don’t want to get too grad-student-y or semiotics-y in my discussion of strip clubs, but one of the thing that fascinates me, especially about the outside of strip clubs, is that with very little information they present all sorts of random and illicit narrative possibilities to anyone who happens to be walking or driving by.
by way of example: when was the last time someone drove by a dry cleaners or a sushi restaurant and wondered: ‘wow, i wonder what’s going on in there RIGHT NOW?’
strip clubs are a trigger. for some people they trigger moral outrage, for some people they trigger proustian memories of their pre-sobriety idiocy (ahem), for some people they trigger loneliness, for some people they trigger lust, for some people they trigger fears of neighborhood property devaluation, etc.
but they’re a powerful and significant trigger (or, if we were at brown in 1984, signifier).
which is why i’m including this particular strip club facade.
see, it’s so minimal.
a white front, no windows, and a generic helvetica sign.
but yet it still triggers a reaction when you look at it.
i mean, imagine if it said ‘sol’s office furniture. come on in for bargains.’?
would it trigger any sort of reaction above the banal ‘huh, i guess they sell office furniture.’?
so, personally i’m fascinated by the meaning we attach to such a generic and neutral facade.
granted, most of l.a’s strip clubs don’t present themselves in such a reductionist and neutral way.
but that’s why i took pictures of this one, as it’s part of l.a’s landscape and it’s banal and common but it still illicits (word play intended because i’m dweeb) a strong reaction from anyone walking or driving by.
ok, i’ve rambled on enough.