when i was growing up in new york and connecticut i imagined california as looking like this. palm trees and architecture that looked nothing like the center hall colonials of connecticut or the tenements and skyscrapers of nyc.
and then when i first started coming to l.a i was amazed that this was a CITY but that people primarily lived in houses. and granted, many of the houses in l.a are kind of ugly and beige.
but then there are these perfect little jewel box mid century houses, reminding me of my post-adolescent l.a/california visions. and i guess one could argue that architecturally these mcm houses aren’t as arbitrary as norman castles or swiss chalet in the desert.
i mean, architecture like this opens itself to the outdoors but keeps the sun at bay when necessary. and it has the quasi-privacy screen, sort of saying ‘well, we like our privacy, but it’s ok if you peek a little bit’. the paradox of exhibitionist privacy.
i was out hiking today and i came across this perfect little a-frame house.
whenever i see perfect little a-frame houses i think of record producers in the mid 70’s reading about est and sitting in the hot-tub thinking about how best to record background vocals for the doobie brothers.
they seem quintessentially californian, the perfect home in which to make lentil stew for robert plant and melanie. which is odd. odd because with their super pitched roofs they’re designed for alpine climates where it snows 8 months out of the year. further re-inforcing the idea that almost all architectural vernacular in southern california is arbitrary. awesome, but arbitrary.
swiss chalets in a place where it never snows? down the street from normal castles and center hall new england colonials?
delirious los angeles.
so there i was, just walking around long island, and i found a house made out of a giant barrel. or, well, a house designed to look like a giant barrel. just sitting there happily in the middle of potato fields and hedge fund manager’s modest 15,000 square foot palatio-mansions.
i wondered to myself, ‘do they have flat walls? or is it like a wallace neff house where you’d be hard pressed to hang a picture?’ then i got jealous.
why do they have a barrel house in long island?
shouldn’t we have barrel houses in l.a?
we should. but alas, i don’t believe that we do. please prove me wrong. and/or build a barrel house.
contextually it’s nice to have a barrel house in the land of egregiously unsubtle 20,000 square foot hedge fund mansions. which is not to malign hedge fund mansions. except that they’re unsubtle. egregiously so. and huge. again, unsubtly so. but i guess the apocalypse needs gatekeepers, and the apocalypse gatekeepers need apocalypse gatehouses (20,000 sq foot mcmansions).
my benign apocalypse will have gatekeepers who live in happy little barrel houses. because i plan on having a happy apocalypse.
as some of you might know, i was born on 148th street in manhattan and i spent most of my life living in new york city. a few years ago i upped sticks(i assume that’s a camping figure of speech. i don’t know.) and moved to los angeles.
now when i come back to my neighborhood(east village, lower east side) i stay in a hotel and walk around, marveling at the fact that the neighborhood i lived in and drank in and bottomed out in for 30 some-odd years is so different from what i’d known.
still the same, but different. more different than the same, to be honest. it’s still a fascinating place, and i’m still really happy to come back to nyc. but it creates all sorts of cognitive, and vaguely existential, dissonance, being a tourist in the neighborhood i’d been living in and hanging out in since 1979…
today i walked around for about 5 minutes and took pictures of some of the buildings that didn’t exist a few years ago when i moved to l.a. and then i took a picture from my hotel window, realizing that about 75% of the buildings in the picture didn’t exist when i first moved to this neighborhood, full time, in 1989.
i guess one of my only architectural criticisms would be that most of these buildings could exist anywhere. they’re nice glass and steel boxes, but they’re still glass and steel boxes. new york, architecturally, always felt unique to me.
now, i say with some wistfulness, it’s uniqueness has waned a bit. i still love new york, the city of my birth and the city where i lived for most of my life. but as time passes and it becomes wealthier and more gentrified it starts to look a little bit more like any number of cities primarily populated by tall glass and steel boxes.
it’s still unique and remarkable. but i do miss the days when everything about new york felt utterly unique, and when it was a dysfunctional world unto itself. i guess as the dysfunction wanes it’s inevitably replaced with a quotidian functionality that’s a bit more conventional.
two architecture updates in one day. see, i’m not lazy. well, i’m sort of lazy.
the reason i’m including this is that i love these collapsing dilapidated ‘gods little acre’ shacks, and also that i love living in a city that is so odd as to include palaces and collapsing shacks, and also that i saw these shacks on my way home from visiting the palace. and i think that’s it.
l.a is just so weird. see, that’s part of a valid academic lexicon for an on-line discussion of the merits of urban architecture. weird. but it is. modern houses, mid century masterpieces, oddball palaces wherein jimi hendrix might have written ‘purple haze’, beige 1980’s horror houses, and tiny crumbly shacks like this.
sure, all cities are by definition kind of eclectic. but i just described the houses on one small street in my neighborhood.
p.s after taking these pictures i sat on the front steps with atticus finch and boo radley and had some coke colas while shooing flies.
ok, i promise that at some point soon i’ll go out and find a building that’s not abandoned or crumbly or crumbling.
but i love abandoned and crumbled and crumbly and crumbly buildings.
i love their entropy. i love the narratives behind them, that at one point they were new and occupied and looked after and then slowly(or quickly)they succumbed to neglect and entropy, taking on new occupants(raccoons, usually).
this abandoned crumbly building is kind of odd for a few reasons.
one reason is that it’s fairly new. another is that it actually is comprised of a few architectural elements that someone at some point gave some thought and /or attention to. another is that it’s abandoned but still in pretty good shape, at least as evidenced by the healthy and thriving homeless community based
ok, those are the only odd things that stand out to me. apart from those things it’s just another building in hollywood waiting to either further succumb to entropy or be torn down and replaced with something new and exciting, like a parking lot or a giant taco bell.
and i promise, my next architectural update will involve something that actually has conventionally agreed upon architectural significance. i promise.
ok, so i live in los angeles, an urban environment filled with remarkable and iconic architecture. i mean, within a few miles of my house there are neutras and schindlers and lautners and wrights and more mid century houses and art deco buildings than pretty much any other city on the planet. so what, as a weird architectural blogger, do i do? take pictures of abandoned buildings and, as is the case today, a korean presbyterian one room church. why? i’m not sure.
i love the iconic architecture in l.a, and i try to take pictures of iconic buildings every now and then. but for some reason i’m more interested in the accidental architecture, the buildings that we drive by and never give a second glance.
again, i really love l.a’s remarkable and beautiful architecture, it’s inspired art deco and mid century houses and buildings. but it’s these odd and ignored little buildings that make me love the randomness of los angeles. the houses and buildings that hover just on the vaguely wrong side of entropy, untroubled by too much attention (ironic, sort of, as i’m giving them what could be seen as the wrong kind of possibly patronizing hipster attention).
so, a korean presbyterian one room church. architecturally unremarkable. but stark and strange and remarkable in what it says about los angeles. a-that l.a is still possessed of enough cheap real estate that korean presbyterians can rent a cheap little one room house for their crumbly church. b-that there are korean presbyterians(korea seemingly quite far away from scotland and the land of john calvin). i grew up being dragged to presbyterian churches in connecticut. they didn’t look like this. c-that los angeles is a true and bizarre and baffling melting pot of ethnicities and cultures and religions and architectural styles.
this crumbly korean presbyterian church is in east hollywood, a neighborhood populated largely by armenians, latinos, people from thailand, hipsters, scientologists, coyotes, old actors, russians, azerbaijanis, young actors, koreans, shaggy palm trees, jacarandas, and etc and etc and etc.
the accidental and effortless diversity here is both amazing and baffling. and that’s probably why i love crumbly korean presbyterian churches in the middle of an armenian latino thai hipster neighborhood where coyotes sit under street lights at 3 a.m. l.a only makes sense when you stop expecting it to make sense.
i’ve spent the last few days with wayne and the flaming lips and all of their amazing friends and girlfriends. and family and students and etc etc in oklahoma city. it does make me sort of long for life in a small city filled with nice people where everything is 15 minutes away from everything else and there’s no traffic…
one of the most amazing things that wayne and co. have done in oklahoma city is ‘the womb’. an old factory/garage that they’ve colonized.
a giant vagina.
a huge damian hirst spin art painting on the ceiling.
lots of disco balls.
tons of props and lights and offices and storage.
a silver pillow structure.
more disco balls.
number of the beast silver balloons.
it is, in short, vaguely akin to doing drugs without actually doing drugs. and this was during the daytime. i could imagine entering the womb at night and not leaving for a month. the pictures only give about 1/100th of the sense of what it is. and that it’s in oklahoma city, the capital of the most conservative/republican state in the country, is even more amazing.
hi from nyc.
i was walking around thinking, to myself, ‘hm, what should i take pictures of? i mean, in terms of buildings. for people to see.’ and then i thought, self-involvedly, ‘why not take pictures of my apartment and studio?’ so i did. and here they are. well, some of them.
first, some history:
i’ve been in this building in little italy since 1992 (i’ve been on this block since 1990…). in 1995 i bought a small storage space in the building and hired an architect named nick durrie to design and build a home and studio for me. here were the issues:
- i didn’t have much money
- it had no skylights or plumbing
- nick didn’t have anywhere to live
so nick kind of designed and built the space while he was living in it as a construction site. and it’s very idiosyncratic and unique.
we had to remove a huge, beautiful beam from the ceiling, so he chopped it up and turned it into the stairs/ladder. we needed kitchen lights, so we went to chinatown and bought 2 lampshades for $10. we needed another ladder, so we walked to bond st and bought a ladder for $5 from a salvage place. and etc.
it was all done sort of spontaneously and inexpensively, but it turned out beautifully and it’s still where i stay when i’m in nyc (and it’s where i lived from 1995-2010). and it’s where i wrote and recorded ‘play’ and ‘18’ and ‘hotel’ and ‘last night’ and ‘wait for me’
and ‘destroyed’. so, as you might imagine, it’s a very special place for me. and even though i live in l.a now, this is still (like a horcrux), where a huge part of me resides.
p.s-i’m also including a photo of the new museum, as it currently has a boat hanging on it’s front and it’s across the street from me.
p.s-these’re not my finest photos, as my nice camera is in l.a..
p.p.s-i have really good security on the apartment, so don’t go getting any fancy ideas about breaking in when i’m not here…