Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Chemosphere

The Malin House, better known as the "Chemosphere," is another one of L.A.'s iconic mid-century modern residences. Los Angeles architect John Lautner (1911-1994) built the futuristic, octagonal house in 1960 for a young engineer named Leonard Malin who inherited a small plot of land just off of Mulholland Drive. The land was too steep to build a normal house on, so Lautner designed the building to float on top of a 30-foot high concrete pillar. He burried the pillar deep into the hillside so the structure is stable enough to withstand earthquakes and mudslides.

The Chemosphere was used as a residence for several decades and then fell into disrepair in the 1990s when the owners began to rent the house out for parties. In 2000, German art publisher Benedikt Taschen purchased the Chemosphere when he relocated Taschen Publishing's American headquarters to Los Angeles from New York. Taschen has extensively renovated the interior of the house and now uses it as his Los Angeles residence.

The Chemosphere is accessible only by a private funicular that ascends the hillside. The house is on the North side of the Hollywood Hills and has wrap-around windows to take advantage of sweeping views over the San Fernando Valley:

The Chemosphere is located at 7776 Torreyson Drive off of Mulholland Drive. Unfortunately, the interior is not open to the public, but there are good views of the house from Torreyson Drive.

View Chemosphere in a larger map

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Disney Concert Hall

Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall, completed in 2003, is already one of the L.A.'s most recognizable buildings. The distinctive concert hall is credited with helping to spark the recent revival of downtown Los Angeles.

A view of the concert hall from the Department of Water and Power across the street:

Disney Hall was first comissioned in 1988 and ended up taking 15 years to build due to planning and funding set backs. Although Gehry's similar museum in Bilbao was completed before Disney Hall, the design for the concert hall predates the design for the museum.

Here is a view of the building from the roof of the county courthouse across the street:

Frank Gehry is one of two Los Angeles-based architects who have received architecture's highest honor, the Pritzker Prize. Gehry was the 1989 Pritzker Prize laureate and Thom Mayne of the architectural firm Morphosis was the 2005 laureate.

The concert hall includes a gift shop, cafe, terrace garden, and an outdoor children's theater. Gehry designed a rose-shaped fountain made of Delft porcelain in the garden dedicated to the building's patron, Lily Disney:

Gehry choose shiny steel for the building's exterior to compliment the bright Southern California sunshine. When the hall was first built, many neighbors complained about the building's blinding reflective surface and parts of the exterior had to be coated in a special substance to make them slightly less reflective.

From the garden terrace, there is a rooftop walkway that winds up the exterior of the building behind the curved facade:

The concert hall's 11,000 tons of curved steel were put in place with the assistance of a sophisticated aerospace software system similar to GPS. You can see the complex supporting beam system behind the facade:

Here is a view of the concert hall from the viewing deck at City Hall:

The interior of the hall has received universal praise for its design and advanced acoustics. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get inside the auditorium yet. A few interior pictures are available at the Music Center website.

Disney Concert Hall is located near Civic Center on 1st and Hope in downtown Los Angeles:

View Disney Concert Hall in a larger map

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cat of the Week: Coco

"Coco" of Culver City:

Several people have asked me how I know the names of the cats that I meet. I learn their names from their tags. If you look closely at this picture, you can see that Coco has a dark red name tag hanging from her collar.

L.A. Metro Art Program

In 1989, the Los Angeles Metro founded a public art program that is funded through a mandated .5% set-aside of the Metro budget. The Metro Art program has commissioned hundreds of public art works for stations on the system's five rail lines. On the Metro Art program website, you can get details about free, docent-led art tours and you can order a copy of the excellent Metro Art Guide which Metro will mail to you for free. Here are a few pictures I took during a Sunday morning tour that left from Union Station:

Richard Wyatt in collaboration with May Sun, "City of Dreams, River of History" (1995). This large mural in the East Portal to the Union Station Metro depicts early and contemporary settlers of Los Angeles. The mural is framed by an architectural trompe l'oeil border:
James Doolin, "Los Angeles Circa 1879, 1910, 1950, and after 2000" (1995). These four murals depicting the history of the Los Angeles basin are located in the Metro Headquarters adjacent to Union Station. Here is "Los Angeles Circa 1879" showing the primarily agrarian basin with only a single smoke line rising into the clear, blue sky:

"Los Angeles Circa 1910" shows increased development, numerous brick buildings (which didn't end up surviving Southern California's earthquakes), railroads running along the L.A. River in the foreground, and almost a dozen columns of thick grey smoke rising from the city:
"Los Angeles Circa 1950" depicts the sculptural freeway intersections that became icons of Southern California's 20th century automobile-based transportation culture:
"Los Angeles Circa after 2000" depicts a smoggy orange and purple sunset over the heavily developed metropolis:

Terry Schoonhoven, "Traveler" (1993). This piece, which depicts travelers to L.A. during different historical periods, is well-known L.A. muralist Terry Schoonhoven's first tiled mural. Here is a detail showing Carole Lombard sitting on her suitcase with L.A.'s city hall in the background:

Architects Escudero-Fribourg and artist May Sun designed the Hollywood & Western Metro Station in 1999. The station is decorated in brightly colored tiles interspersed with poems in Spanish and English, historic photos, and images of bones excavated at the site by paleontologists when the station was built:

An image of one of the bones found at the Hollywood & Western site:

Patrick Nagatani, "Epoch" (1995). This photo collage mural is located in the Metro Headquarters adjacent to Union Station. It includes a running man, astronomical images from L.A. area telescopes, and a collection of hundreds of transportation-related postcards of cars, boats, trains, and trolley cars:

Roy Nicholson, "Solar Shift: San Bernardino and Santa Monica" (2006). Many of the Metro stations include beautiful mosaics such as this colorful glass mosaic at the Gold Line Portal in Union Station that depicts the San Bernardino Mountains to the East and the sun setting over Santa Monica to the West:

Artist Michael Davis and architects Diedrich/NBA colloborated on the Metro station at Vermont & Sunset. Because the station is located near the Griffith Observatory and a number of large hospitals, the artist used astronomical and medical imagery in the station. Here is a granite circle etched with an image of sperm that forms part of an imagined solar system on the station's floor:

For more information about the Los Angeles public transportation and the L.A. Metro art program:
Los Angeles Metro Website
Metro Art Program Website
Public Art in LA's Metro Page