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THE ALCHEMY OF STYLE: STARCHITECTURE IN THE CITY OF ANGELS

 

Welcome to my blog, weary internet traveler,

 

Getty Center

Getty Center

It’s been my desire for a long time to start a dialog with art and design lovers, on a platform more personal than generic social media - a vision board where we can pin ideas of beauty, practicality and good design; I finally did it!

I want this blog to showcase my passion for life lived stylish and fun, and I’d like to share with you what moves and inspires me.

There is no better subject to start with than my love for my adopted city, Los Angeles. L.A. is an enigma in its diversity, and I’d like to put the accent on its architecture, which I believe gets less credit than it’s due. 

For good reason, the majority of the world thinks of L.A. as the land of possibilities; some due to the prospect of global fame while beaming on a movie poster, others due to the promise of freedom to experiment life in a wide variety of ways and - as a result - to be inspired and excite the imagination of people all around the planet through innovation in the arts or technology.

However, what fascinates me in comparison to the majority of the American cities that honor tradition and history is how the “architecture-scape” of Los Angeles doesn’t seem to be regulated by strict boundaries. Many apparent contradictions seem somehow appropriate and at home here. Maybe because Los Angeles has a relative short history, lacking the urban excitements of European cities…? Or maybe it’s something else, something far more mysterious and exciting.  

The bombing of Los Angeles Times Building 
 Los Angeles Building

 Los Angeles Building

As a student of this city, on my own time as well of during my years of history studies at UCLA under the guidance and talent of the magnificent Eleanor Schapa, I always felt the fascination of a different kind of freedom that exists right here in California: the freedom to build. 

 Once you start unraveling its secrets, this city is a true Zona Franca of architecture, a place where dreams can not just come true, but be built above land.  Xanadu!

 I love architecture, so I always look at houses as I drive, dreaming about owning someday just the perfect one; a place of life enchanted, where I can take refuge after escaping our notorious traffic.

 Architects in Los Angeles have succeeded in capturing our imagination and fulfilling their dreams by pursuing ideas of expressive, intimate and sensual design, human and vibrant - whether their buildings are classical, Art Deco, streamlined, Mid-Century, contemporary, renovation projects, green and sustainable… or just plain quirky!

 

Frank Gehry’s Binoculars Building in Venice Beach

Frank Gehry’s Binoculars Building in Venice Beach

From early on, Los Angeles was a perfect setting for architects to express themselves in singular harmony their international sense of style.

 From a bungalow or hacienda in Hollywood filled with Bohemian, eclectic taste - colorful tiles and painted, exposed wood beams - to the elegant ranch surrounded by acres of land or the vine-covered hillside mega-mansion with arresting views of Bel-Air, Malibu or Beverly Hills, filled with art and antiques that make you feel not only in a different country but also in a different century, to the stark and skeletal Mid-Century homes, where indoor-outdoor living is at its best - the city has to offer many unmatched, unexpected sites in the geography of style and taste.

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Lovell House, by Richard Neutra

Lovell House, by Richard Neutra

Oscar Niemeyer designed this international style office building in 1967

Oscar Niemeyer designed this international style office building in 1967

Rudolf Schindler‘s Kings Road House, the precedent for California Modernist Architecture

Rudolf Schindler‘s Kings Road House, the precedent for California Modernist Architecture

Schindler strived for reinvention and use of new materials and there was always a consistency in his principles of design and spatial characteristics

 Schindler collaborated with Frank Lloyd Wright, being sent by him from the Chicago studio to oversee the building of the Hollyhock House. Ever since then, in 1920, he decided to stay and built his own practice.

 

 

  Frank Lloyds Wright's Hollyhock house, Barnsdall Park

 

Frank Lloyds Wright's Hollyhock house, Barnsdall Park

 Ennis House is one of my favorite landmarks in Los Angeles. It is one of Lloyd’s last “textile block” houses, a Mayan Revival style and it known for housing many film productions including 1982’s ‘Blade Runner’. According to Discover Hollywood.com, the home is 6,000 square feet and has canyon and ocean views.  Imagine coming home to this living space… *Sigh*

FLW's Ennis House

Schindler influenced many architects of his day and ours - from Richard Neutra to Morphosis: an architecture firm founded in 1972 with a philosophy based on producing work with a meaning while absorbing the culture for which it was made. They are famous for breaking the bounds of traditional forms.

Caltrans District 7 Headquarters by Morphosis

Caltrans District 7 Headquarters by Morphosis

 Team Eames

 Team Eames

In my opinion, the ultimate powerhouse of architectural and design creativity and the perfect symbiosis of love and work is the couple Charles and Ray Eames, who taught so many about the Universe with their great film Powers of Ten .

Charles,  partner and friend of architect Eero Saarinen and a big advocate for modern views in architecture, (sources claim that he was dismissed from Washington University in St. Louis for his advocacy of Frank Lloyd Wright and his interest in modern architects-thank you Wikipedia!), married his Cranbrook colleague, Ray, and moved with her to Los Angeles, where they would work and live until their deaths.

 Eames House (Case Study House # 8) -a milestone of modern architecture.

 Eames House (Case Study House # 8) -a milestone of modern architecture.

 Eames Living Room

 Eames Living Room

 

  

The Chemosphere is “the most modern home in the world,” designed by John Lautner in 1960, the home which is only one story and is built on a concrete pedestal. 

 

John's Lautner's Chemosphere House

John's Lautner's Chemosphere House

And now, one of my favorite guilty pleasures: The Getty Center, this hilltop site with arresting views of the street-grid of the city and the Pacific Ocean, from where Angelenos reflect on the blessing of their globe positioning, and visitors can take in prominent features of the Los Angeles cityscape.

Richard Meier's Getty Center

Richard Meier's Getty Center

 Architect Richard Meier interplays a horizontality reminiscent of the work of Rudolf Schindler, Richard Neutra, and Frank Lloyd Wright, intermixed with curvilinear design elements, like the circular Museum Entrance Hall and the canopy over the Harold M. Williams Auditorium entrance – both of which call to mind the Baroque. 

This is only the beginning of our journey, web traveler. I invite you in the times to come on a trek through my world: the City of Angels seen through my eyes.  The freedom afforded to Star Architects is not entirely unique to Los Angeles: Sidney, Toronto, London, or Astana come to mind, as well - but it’s the unique combination of the sweet climate of the land, mellow temper of the people, and the unbridled creativity, budgets and egos of the City’s moguls, and last but not least the men and women of the local industry come to be known globally as “Hollywood” that make my City of Angels a creuzet for a truly special Alchemy of Style the whole world can’t ever look away from.

 Come back and visit for the next step in this journey of initiation…

 Gabby