ok, a rarely seen example of a rare architectural genre that might only exist here in glamorous dystopian l.a… mid century gothic.
see, when we think of scary gothic houses we tend to think of scary old victorian houses. crumbly and falling down with overgrown lawns and tattered curtains and scary old people potentially living inside and only oming out with rotten old shovels to bury dead cats in the backyard. whereas modern houses tend to be clean and pristine and filled with light and in no way scary or creepy.
but here we have: a scary and crumbly and falling down mid century modern house.
and, to be clear, what was probably once a really beautiful mid century modern house, with some great lines and amazing little details (like a tree growing through the roof by the entranceway). but now entropy has gripped this beautiful little mid century in it’s maw and is turning it into a scary gothic house that the kids avoid when they go out collecting unicef pennies at halloween.
and yes, it looks like it’s about to be renovated. and the entropy will be scraped off and once again there will be a shiny fancy beautiful million dollar mid century perched on a hill overlooking a canyon. or perhaps this is a superfancy art project that is too sophisticated for mere mortals, like me, to understand.
‘by perfectly recreating the effects of entropic degression we turn this bourgeoisie edifice into a landmark of de-gentrified situationist impermanence.’
sort of thing.
well, whether it’s natural entropy or fancy set dressed entropy it’s still a cool mid century gothic house with tattered curtains and raccoon ghosts floating from mid century room to room.
now i’m going to put on my low-rent grad student hat for a second. or a minute. or for however long it takes me to write about semiotics and from a low-rent grad student perspective. (oh, to be clear: ‘low rent’ meaning the quality of my writing, not the value of this real estate. i’m guessing this real estate is fairly pricey, as it’s in west hollywood).
when i was at uconn and suny purchase i really, really wanted to go brown and study semiotics. why?
- i love semiotics (before they stopped calling it semiotics…sniff).
- brown was fancy but progressive.
- my girlfriend at the time went to brown and lived on thayer st.
- i couldn’t afford brown.
- i probably wasn’t smart enough to go to brown.
- they stopped offering semiotics as a major.
so i was left as a lowly philosophy major at one of two state schools (both of which were great, go team(s)).
now i’ll be pedantic for a second, ok?
you might ask (or not), ‘what is/are semiotics?’ well, and in a very simple and grossly reductionist way, semiotics is/are the study of signs and symbols and the way in which we process them and give them meaning and respond to them.
most of what we experience is fairly neutral. a flag is really just some dyed fabric stitched together. but it can compel people to fits of rage or joy or loyalty or despair. but it’s just fabric. semiotics is, broadly speaking and applied to just about everything that triggers a reaction in us, the study of why people have emotional and intellectual reactions and responses to something like a flag, which is really just some colorful fabric.
but i don’t want to go on and on about semiotics (although if you corner me at a party i will talk to you for days about semiotics and they way in which all of our lives are spent (tyrannized, even) having ostensibly hard-wired reactions to things that are not in any way comprised of any inherent meaning).
but: this blog update.
here’s a house. or an almost house. which led me to ask some questions:
- is it being built or deconstructed?
- what utility does it have in it’s extant form?
- when we look at it are we seeing it for what it is or what it represents in terms of potential?
- how do we overlook what it actually is (a bunch of wood, cobbled together) and only see what it represents (a potentially finished house)?
- what amazing cognition is involved in extrapolating from a bunch of wood into a finished house?
- does it have aesthetic merit in it’s extant form, and if so what?
- see ‘7’.
it’s an interesting challenge, i think, to see this construction for what it is, divorced of any potential infused future utility.
it’s wood. kind of sculptural. defining a space, but without creating a space in a traditional, architectural way. it has no roof, it would be pretty crummy at keeping out bugs and wind. it wouldn’t be great at giving anyone a place to shower or sleep. but it’s still remarkable in and of itself. and can we judge a structure for what it is and not for what it represents and what it triggers in us?
someone might look at this and see a waste of resources. someone might look at it and see egregious socioeconomic inequality.
someone might look at it and see a place to eventually make popcorn and watch ‘30 rock’. or someone might look at it and see some odd post-modern sculptural land-art commentary on our predatory patriarchal rigid society. or none of the above.
ultimately, though, it’s wood. and some concrete. and some nails. but that’s not what i see, or, i assume, what any of us see.
and it’s fascinating that we see what isn’t so much more clearly and easily than what actually is. we see what’s represented far more than what’s actually in front of us.
and yes, that’s semiotics, at least from my perspective. and it can be applied to almost all of our conditioned emotional reactions. so says the college dropout blogger musician who really has no qualifications to be writing about architecture and/or semiotics. except that i like both.
i guess i have a presumptuous request/challenge: try to look at things (like this structure) for what they actually are. and when we
extrapolate and see things for what they represent (flags, republicans, saxophones, houses, globes, etc) it’s potentially interesting
to just become aware of the fact that we’re having a reaction to our own perception, not necessarily to the thing we’re observing or interacting with.
ok, first off: congratulations to eric garcetti and all of the people who worked on his campaign.
it was an odd mayoral election (i say as a new angeleno), as it involved: 2 smart and progressive democrats who were very good friends before running against each other.
normally an election is a campaign between polar opposites, like obama v. romney. this election was a campaign between two friends who, for the most part, agreed on most of the issues.
and moving on to buildings. or a building.
i drive by this perfect little mid-century house almost every day, and i’m always struck by:
- how nice it is (yes, completely subjective criteria. i mean, ‘nice’? that’s the best i can do? apparently: yes).
- how lofty (literally) it is, as it’s built up above the street so as to have great views of everything.
- how there are so many reasonably compelling mid-century houses in l.a that it’s possible to drive by one every day and barely recognize how nice it is.
as per usual: i know nothing about this house other than that it’s in my neighborhood and it’s really nice and it probably has amazing views. and that l.a is an endlessly byzantine laboratory for modernism, in all of it’s good and bad and other forms. i would consider this house to be modernism in it’s good form(s).
maybe i’ll go out tomorrow and find some less benign examples of contemporary architecture in l.a.
and again, happy new mayor day.
one of the reasons i moved to los angeles is because i wanted to spend more time looking around the gigantic west. because, to state the obvious, the west coast of the u.s is very different from the east coast.
i grew up on the east coast, and the east coast is great, but it’s generally fairly small and cute and subtle. then you go out west and everything is gigantic and un-subtle. the east coast has cute colonial towns. the west coast has bizarre sprawling megalopolises. the east coast has hills. the west coast has giant mountains. and when i moved to l.a i vowed to explore the weird and beautiful and baffling areas around l.a. and top of my list (well, near the top of my list), was mt baldy.
like many people i first heard about mt baldy when leonard cohen moved there, to live at a zen monastery near the top of mt baldy. i assumed that mt baldy was some remote and mythical place, far, far away from los angeles. but, as is often the case, i was wrong. mt baldy is an hour away from l.a.
so today i drove up to mt baldy with some friends. we drank coffee at the mt baldy lodge. we had sandwiches in one of the 18,000 state park hiking/camping areas. and i took pictures of this little stone house.
i took pictures of this house because it’s perfect. it might not be architecturally significant, but it fits into it’s landscape about as perfectly as a house can ever fit into a landscape. and even though its an hour away from los angeles in 2013 it feels as if it’s fallen through a time portal (as does, fantastically, most of mt baldy) from 1935.
it doesn’t employ new or cutting edge building materials or building techniques. it wasn’t inspired by marcel breuer. but it’s amazing and perfect in it’s own way.
so, here’s a little stone house surrounded by trees in the middle of mt baldy.
here’s random. or, rather, a random day in dysfunctional l.a.
3 different houses/things.
1-pickfair. i guess that pickfair deserves it’s own update, as it’s a pretty remarkable, monstrous, huge, strangely beautiful, ostentatious, emblematic, storied, oddball house. but, i’ll be honest, i felt kind of creepy and exposed taking pictures of this house as beverly hills residents drove by giving me baleful and withering looks. so i took a couple of pictures and tucked my figurative tail between my figurative legs and escaped the intimidating stares of the scornful beverly hills residents who were scorning me. or so i thought.
maybe they were just looking. scornfully. in any case: i felt like a creepy interloper. which, in fact, i might be. then i took a picture of a:
2- modern house across the street that looked kind of cool. i received fewer nasty looks while doing this. then i found myself in highland park where i took pictures of:
3-these amazing metal dragonflies that make no sense to me but are huge and strange and great.
and i maintain that they’d look really good mounted on the top of pickfair, using their disco ball eyes to stare at the beverly hills residents who were staring at me.
and, an aside, doesn’t ‘pickfair’ kind of sound like the name of a suburban supermarket?
in any case: gigantic pickfair, cute little mid century house across the street from pickfair, and some gigantic metal dragonflies in highland park.
i’m not sure where my love of abandoned buildings comes from. or, syntactically, i’m not sure from where my love of abandoned buildings comes. in any case: i love abandoned buildings.
when i was growing up i used to spend hours and days:
finding abandoned buildings.
breaking into abandoned buildings.
wandering around abandoned buildings.
the abandoned buildings i played in as a child were all relatively old and victorian (which made them even creepier and fantastic). whereas l.a tends to have abandoned mid-century buildings, like this amazing, abandoned hotel. at least i think it’s a hotel. or was a hotel.
now it’s just a big, abandoned, beautiful modern building either waiting to be rescued from entropy or quietly observed by weirdos like me as entropy ravages it further. all the while writing run-on sentences, which i also love.
this particular abandoned building piques and keeps my interest because it clearly as at one point was a brand new building filled with mid century hipsters and swingers doing mid century hipster and swinger things (involving cocktails and lava lamps and prescription medication, one assumes). and now it sits moribund, with great lines and great bones, but moribund.
some buildings (old victorians, etc) seem like they were old when they were new. other buildings (mid century, etc) seem like they were designed to be forever new and futuristic, which makes their inevitable slide into entropic dissolution even more jarring, and strangely beautiful.
like abandoned space stations, almost. which, possibly, this is.
ok, have a nice weekend.
ok, i’m including this in my oddball architecture blog for a few reasons…
- i think it’s a really beautiful video (as made by my friend colin rich).
- with clearly no objectivity i like the song a lot (as made by mark lanegan and i).
- it’s all based in and around los angeles (salton sea, joshua tree, and the angeles national forest).
- it’s kind of an entropic love letter to los angeles and the desert around los angeles.
- there are lots of buildings in the video (even if some are very far away…)
oh, and i highly highly highly recommend watching it full screen, as it’s really beautiful.
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.