Thursday, September 2, 2010


I'm out of commission for a while and will not be blogging for at least the next few months. I'm still reading comments on old posts and responding to emails so feel free to continue to contact me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cat of the Week: Kukku

"Kukku" saying hello to a new little friend on the Chung King Alley in L.A.'s Chinatown:

Runyon Canyon

Runyon Canyon is a very popular urban park in Hollywood with a moderate 3 mile hiking loop.

There are great views over the city from the trail. Here is a view looking out over Hollywood toward downtown Los Angeles:

Cactus and Palm tree near the Fuller street entrance to the park:

The main entrance to Runyon Canyon is on N. Fuller Ave. one block north of Hillside Avenue. There are additional entrances on Vista St. and from the north on Mulholland. Dogs are allowed on the trails.

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

From the Archives: Downtown Art Deco

(Originally posted in July of 2009.)

Los Angeles has a rich collection of Art Deco buildings because the city underwent a period of expansion in the 1920s and 1930s. Last month, I went on the L.A. Conservancy's downtown Art Deco walking tour and this post includes pictures of some of the buildings that we saw on the tour.

The Eastern Columbia Building (849 S. Broadway) was built by Architect Claude Beelman in 1930 as the headquarters and retail center for the Eastern & Columbia clothing and furniture companies. The building was converted into luxury residential condos in 2007. Bright blue terracotta tiles and gold trim decorate the building's exterior. The facade includes many zig-zag and chevron ("v" shape) patterns typical of the Art Deco style:

Art Deco architects sought to emphasize verticality as a symbol of modernity and progress. Strong vertical lines dominate the Eastern Columbia Building's facade and extend all the way up to the clock tower:

A turquoise and yellow terracotta sunburst decorates the vestibule over the front entrance of the building. The vestibule's ceiling also includes more of the ubiquitous Art Deco chevron patterns:

The Sun Realty Building (629 S. Hill St.) is another 1930 Claude Beelman building clad in colorful terracotta tiles and dominated by strong vertical lines:

Art Deco designs often drew inspiration from Mayan and Egyptian art and architecture. Here is a detail of the green terracotta tilework on the Sun Realty building that was inspired by an Egyptian papyrus motif:

Most of downtown L.A.'s Art Deco buildings are less brightly colored than the vibrant Eastern Columbia and Sun Realty Buildings. The Title Guarantee Building, located on the northeast corner of Pershing Square at 411 W. 5th St. and built by John and Donald Parkinson in 1929-1931, is clad in stone-colored terracotta tile:

The Title Guarantee Building's rooftop tower looks like a modern version of a Gothic structure and even includes stylized flying buttresses:

Architects Allison and Allison built the Southern California Edison Building (601 W. 5th St.) in 1930-1931. The building's octagonal entrance is topped with beautiful bas-relief friezes by artist Merrell Gage. Below the reliefs are more of the common Art Deco zig-zag patterns.

Here is a detail of the frieze depicting hydroelectric power. The flow of water from the urn is so stylized that it is almost a zig-zag:

Although this semi-nude figure in the central panel looks classical, his torch is illuminated with a modern light bulb rather than a flame:

The architectural details in these Art Deco buildings are beautifully designed and crafted. Here is a detail of the glass doors to the Oviatt Building (617 S. Olive St.), designed by architects Walker and Eisen in 1927-1928:

The exterior marquee and the interior of the Oviatt Building are decorated with glass made by French glass designer Rene Lalique. Here is a detail of a frosted glass panel from the interior of the building:

The terracotta grillework over the front entrance to Claude Beelmans' 1929 building at 850 S. Broadway uses stylized flower and vine motifs that were popular in Art Deco designs:

A detail from the beautiful bronzework over the front entrance to the William Fox Building (608 S. Hill St.) built by S. Tilden Norton in 1931:

Below is a map of the buildings included on the L.A. Conservancy's downtown Art Deco walking tour. The Art Deco tour leaves from Pershing Square at 10 AM every Saturday. The tours cost $5 for Conservancy members and $10 for non-members. If you participate in the tour, you also receive an excellent pamphlet produced by the Conservancy from which I obtained much of the information in this post. I highly recommend the tour for anyone interested in Art Deco architecture or downtown Los Angeles. I also recommend that people who are interested in historical preservation and conservation join the L.A. Conservancy (basic membership is $40).

View Downtown Art Deco in a larger map

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Felix Chevrolet

Auto dealer Winslow Felix put up this classic sign in 1957 when he got permission from his friend, filmmaker Pat Sullivan, to use the Felix the Cat image on his Chevrolet dealership. Felix Chevrolet still operates as a car dealership and is located at West Figueroa Boulevard and South Jefferson Street next to the University of Southern California campus.

Here is a closer view of the 3-sided sign:
Unlike most of L.A.'s 1950s signs, the Felix Chevrolet sign is protected from unilateral demolition or alteration because it was designated as a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 2007.

Exposition Park Rose Garden

The City of Los Angeles has operated the 7-acre formal Rose Garden in Exposition Park since 1928. It is a traditional rose garden including concentric plots of rose bushes laid out symmetrically around a central fountain.

The garden includes over 20,000 rose bushes and over 200 different types of roses.

The garden, which is a nice location for a stroll or a picnic, is open from 9 in the morning until sundown but is closed from January 1st through March 15th for maintenance and pruning. A number of child-friendly museums surround the garden in Exposition Park including The California Science Center, The California African American Museum, and The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. Exposition Park is also across the street from the University of Southern California campus.

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Monday, May 31, 2010

LACMA's Pavilion for Japanese Art

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the largest art museum west of Chicago and its huge collection is contained in a sprawling, confusingly laid-out group of buildings in central Los Angeles. One of the most interesting LACMA buildings is the Pavilion for Japanese Art designed by architect Bruce Goff (1904-1982) in the late 1970s. The small but unusual building stands out from the boxy, nondescript buildings which comprise the LACMA's original 1964 campus.

Bruce Goff's idiosyncratic buildings, often described as organic architecture, are characterized by expressive shapes, the use of unusual materials, and spatially complex interiors. Despite Goff's lack of formal architectural training, the University of Oklahoma appointed the self-taught architect as a professor and then as the chairman of their School of Architecture in 1943.

The Pavilion's exterior walls are made of translucent fiberglass panels designed to resemble traditional Japanese rice paper shoji screens. The panels filter the sunlight allowing artwork to be safely illuminated by soft, natural light.

The interior, with its carpeted walls, muted beige color scheme, weird organic foamy shapes, and multi-story spiral gallery, has the feeling of a 1970s Bond villain's lair. However, despite their odd layout and extremely dated decor, the interior spaces work well as elegant and peaceful galleries.

On the Pavilion's roof is an odd structure comprised of supporting cables and tusk-like objects that reference the fossils from the adjacent La Brea Tar Pits. The Tar Pits are an active archeological site next to the LACMA containing skeletons of animals from the last Ice Age including mastodons, mammoths, camels, bison, and saber-tooth tigers who fell into the tar pits tens of thousands of years ago. Skeletons recovered from the pits are on view at the Page Museum next to the LACMA.

The LACMA website and the Page Museum website have more info about visiting the museums.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010


Jacaranda trees, which are native to South America, are a very popular tree in Los Angeles with beautiful bright purple flowers that peak every May. Here are some Jacarandas in Culver City:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

From the Archives: 1950's Diners

(Originally posted on March 10, 2009)

In the 1950s, people thought that the future would be full of odd angles, flying saucers, boomerangs, and things shaped like parabolas. This futuristic style, which was particularly popular for diners, motels, car washes, and bowling alleys, originated in Southern California and is called "Googie." Although many of the old Googie buildings have been destroyed, Los Angeles still has hundreds of Googie-style roadside signs and buildings.

Rae's, on Pico Boulevard and 29th Street in Santa Monica:
I got a cheeseburger and soda at Rae's and then took this interior photo on my way out:

Johnie's on Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard is a classic Googie diner designed in 1955 by Helen Fong of Arnet & Davis, the premiere L.A. coffee shop and diner architects of the 1950s. Johnie's stopped operating as an active diner in 2000 and its original 1950s interior is now used exclusively for movie and television filming. Billboards, SUVs, construction, and street lights conspired to try ruin my photo:
A view of the back entrance:
The old sign for Johnie's Diner is now used for the 99 Cent Store parking lot:

Norms is still an active diner chain serving gross food to people all over the Southland. The original Norms is on La Cienega Boulevard and Melrose Avenue and was also designed by Helen Fong of Arnet & Davis in 1957:

Johnnies Pastrami is on Sepulveda Boulevard and Washington Place in Culver City:
A crown dots the "i" on the beautiful Johnnies sign. I have no idea what "French Dip" means:

The Mission Family Restaurant and Coffee Shop in Pomona:
Here is a typical Googie bowling sign across the street from Santa Monica High School on Pico Boulevard and 3rd Street:

Another bowling alley sign on Crenshaw Boulevard in Torrance:

The popular Culver City Ice Rink, also on Sepulveda Boulevard, has a beautiful sign and skating lady out front:

The Half Moon, the Astro, and Deano's are a string of cheap motels on Sepulveda Boulevard in Culver City:

If you like this type of classic mid-century L.A. design, you might also like my posts on Randy's Donuts, architect Welton Becket, the Union 96 gas station, and the Chemosphere House.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bungalow Heaven

Bungalow Heaven is a lovely neighborhood in Pasadena comprised of almost 1000 one-story Arts and Crafts style bungalows. With its quiet tree-lined streets, pretty gardens, and centrally located park, Bungalow Heaven is one of L.A.'s most charming neighborhoods. Most of the houses in this area were built in the 1910s-1920s and include characteristics typical of the American Craftsman style including low-pitched roofs, overhanging eaves, and beautiful, handcrafted stonework and woodwork.

Bungalow Heaven is bordered by E. Washington Blvd. to the North, E. Orange Grove Blvd. to the South, N. Lake Ave. to the West, and N. Hill Ave. to the East. Every spring, the Bungalow Heaven Neighborhood Association organizes a home tour with 8 different restored bungalows open to the public. For more Pasadena Arts and Crafts pictures, check out my post on the Gamble House.

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