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.
as tonight is the oscars i thought i’d put up a picture of the hollywood sign.
well, actually the back of the hollywood sign.
i love that the hollywood sign has become this iconic image, representing l.a universally, far and wide.
what makes it amazing is that originally the hollywood sign was erected as temporary advertising for a real estate development.
originally it said ‘hollywoodland’ (the name of the real estate development), but the ‘land’ part fell down.
paris has the eiffel tower, nyc has the empire state building, rome has the colliseum, and l.a has a big old sign advertising a real estate development from the 20’s.
which, if you dislike l.a, you probably see it as a symbol of the quick, vapid, and disposable nature of l.a culture.
or if you like l.a (as i do) you see it as something kind of odd, modern, accidental, impermanent, and endearing.
so here’s to the world’s most famous and recognizable real estate development advertisement.
ok, happy academy awards.
ok, so there’s an architectural style from the early/mid 20th century that is either called ‘moderne’ or ‘streamline moderne’ or ‘houses that look kind of like grounded ocean liners’.
and l.a has a lot of these ‘streamline moderne houses that look vaguely like ocean liners from 1930’. not enough, as they’re pretty great, but still: a lot, comparitively speaking.
and this one is arguably the prettiest of the bunch.
because it also sort of looks like a corbusier inspired french/parisian house from 1930, but with palm trees sitting in the background (and uninspiring beige houses on either side of it).
also, i’m advertising my ignorance here: i know nothing about this house. i don’t know who designed or built it. nor do i know when it was designed or built. but it’s beautiful. and it looks like like a grounded and amazing ocean liner. albeit a modest/small grounded and amazing ocean liner.
it does sometimes make me sad that when people/developers put up new buildings they rarely seem to aspire to put up beautiful and interesting buildings, but rather throw up (apt choice of words) a handful of generic beige vaguely missionary houses.
i apologize for editorializing, but the world doesn’t really need any more generic beige houses. but the world would benefit from having more houses that look like grounded, futuristic, art deco ocean liners. like this one.
there, i’ve editorialized.
dear developers: please make more houses like this. and fewer generic, beige houses. if possible.
oh, ps. here’s the wikipedia page on ‘streamlined moderne’. oh, and i’m not sure why they tacked the extra ‘e’ on the end of ‘modern’. but it makes it almost impossible to say out loud and not sound really pompous. try it, say ‘moderne’ out loud. see, it’s pretty awkward, huh. like you need a cigarette in a 10” long cigarette holder and noel coward playing in the background.
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.
so, on saturday i had a near-perfect l.a 14 hours.
i had breakfast at trails in griffith park.
i met some friends at barnsdall park.
then i drove with some other friends to animal acres/farm sanctuary near acton (where we got to play with pigs and goats and other farm animals).
then we drove back through angeles national forest, spending almost 2 hours in the middle of huge mountains and deep valleys and no other people in sight.
then i jumped in a pool and swam around and went to see some bands at the bootleg in echo park.
sure, i’m a cliche’d angeleno to a large extent, but some cliches are forgivable because they’re awesome (like, for example, breakfast on saturday at trails cafe).
so, hate me for being a cliche’d angeleno, but i’m a relatively happy cliche’d angeleno.
oh, and somewhere in the middle of the day i stopped and took pictures of one of my favorite old dark strange motels, the olive on sunset in echo park.
i’ll be honest, it looks a little bit better at night when it’s neon is shining darkly and you just assume that all sorts of wrong and nefarious stuff is going on inside.
but by day it does look like a slightly ominous modern bunker, structurally making sure that no one inside is disturbed by anything as harsh and upsetting as sunlight.
and i’m not sure what it says about me that i’m including pictures of an ominous motel as opposed to skyscraping grand and beautiful mountains, although i guess mountains could only loosely be considered architecture, whereas this ominous motel was actually designed and built by someone at some point.