Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mid-Century Dingbat Apartments

"Dingbats" are boxy 2-3 story walk-up apartment building from the 1950s and 1960s with front overhanging parking areas. According to Wikipedia "in spite of their serviceability as functional, affordable housing, and the niche appeal of their trappings and trim, dingbats are widely reviled as socially alienating visual blights which typify Los Angeles architecture at its worst." I like the simple forms and quirky exteriors of the dingbats, but it's true that some dingbats are unpleasant inside with low ceilings and small windows.

Dingbats typically each contain about 6-10 apartment units and extend all the way back to rear service alleys where there is additional space for parking and garbage disposal. In the 50s and 60s, many developers tore down single family homes, including hundreds of craftsmen bungalows, and built dingbats to replace them in order to increase the number of units that they could fit onto one lot.

All of the pictures in this post are from the Palms neighborhood - a convenient, affordable, and diverse area on L.A.'s Westside that is popular among UCLA grad students.

I've highlighted the streets in Palms where I took these pictures:

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Pasadena: Arts and Crafts

Architect brothers Henry and Charles Greene built this Arts and Crafts style mansion for the Gamble (of Proctor & Gamble) family in 1908. The Gambles had this house built so that they, like many other wealthy Eastern and Mid-Western families of the time, could spend their winters enjoying Pasadena's mild climate. In 1966, the Gamble family placed the house in a trust which is administered by the University of Southern California School of Architecture, the City of Pasadena, and the Gamble family. I highly recommend that anyone visiting L.A. go on a tour of the Gamble House - the house is beautifully restored and the tours are informative and professional.

The Gamble House is built in the Arts and Crafts style which developed as a response to the industrialization and mechanization of production during the Victorian era. Every detail in the Gamble House (furniture, lamps, hardware, air vents, drainspouts, etc...) was designed by the Greenes and hand-made by artists and craftsmen. I was prohibited from taking interior photographs, but excellent interior photos are available on the Gamble House website:

A front view of the Gamble House:

Arts and Crafts architects were influenced heavily by both Japanese and Swiss aesthetics and sought to create buildings that were harmonious with the landscape. Broad terraces and porches facilitate easy movement between indoor and outdoor space and low-hanging eaves keep interiors cool in the hot California weather.

Blacker House (1177 Hillcrest Avenue, Pasadena) is another Greene and Greene masterpiece built in 1907 that still serves as a private residence:

The Duncan-Irwin House (240 North Grand Avenue, Pasadena) is one of many large Arts and Crafts houses on the blocks surrounding the Gamble House. It was built by Greene and Greene in 1900:

In California and other Western states, small Arts and Crafts style bungalows became extremely popular for lower and middle income families as well. Pasadena's "Bungalow Heaven" district contains hundreds of small Arts and Crafts bungalows built from 1900 to the 1930's for middle-class families.

A classic little bungalow:

A little bungalow that has an addition stuck on top:

Here's one in less than pristine condition:

Brochures for self guided walking tours of Pasadena's Arts and Crafts homes are available at the Gamble House bookstore. Here are the areas that I visited:

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pacific Palisades

Pacific Palisades is a wealthy coastal town in between Santa Monica and Malibu that has many fancy houses and is also home to the Self-Realization Fellowship's Lake Shrine. The Self Realization Fellowship was founded in 1920 by new-age/meditation/spirituality guru Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) and the grounds of the Lake Shrine have been open to the public since 1950. The gardens smell heavily of incense and include meditation areas, peaceful grottos, a pretty lake, and monuments honoring Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam.

Paramahansa Yogananda designed the Golden Lotus Archway for the Lake Shrine in 1950:

When Paramahansa Yogananda acquired the area around the lake, there was a reproduction of a 16th century Dutch windmill on the grounds. Yogananda converted the windmill into a chapel and it now serves as a silent meditation area that is open to the public.

Around the grounds, there are religious statutes set in lush gardens:

In the nearby residential area of Castellemmare, there are beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean to the West and Topanga State Park to the East. People from the East Coast - please take note that this is what California looks like in the middle of winter:

This glamorous modern house with ocean views on Posetano Road was built by architect Pierre Koenig (1925-2004) in 1963. Koenig is famous for these classic L.A. glass box and exposed steel residences and his houses often appear in movies.

There are many sleek, modern homes up on Revello Drive, including this shoe-box like house that is supported off of the ground by pillars:

Public and private stairways going up and down the hill:
A beautiful tree at the top of the hill:

To the beach!

This walk around Castellammare is Walk 1 in my favorite book "Walking L.A." by Erin Mahoney Harris.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Culver City: Hayden Tract

A few blocks from the newly revitalized downtown Culver City is an area called the Hayden Tract that consists of formerly abandoned industrial warehouses that are now studios and offices for people like graphic designers and software engineers. Los Angeles architect Eric Owen Moss, whose studio is on the Hayden Tract, has built a collection of experimental buildings called Conjunctive Points which occupies a large portion of the tract. Moss, like Frank Gehry, is one of the contemporary Los Angeles architects considered to be of the "L.A. School." According to my architectural guidebook, buildings in the "L.A. School" style are typically large and bold; often include interrupted and tilting forms; and use materials in unusual and clever ways. The pictures below are of buildings in the Conjunctive Points Project.

The "What Wall?" Building (offices of a software design company):

The Beehive (office building and conference center):

Here is the Stealth Building (headquarters of Darth Vader's advertising agency):

The Samitaur Building (Kodak Company office building):

The Box Building (technology company offices downstairs and a private conference space upstairs in "the box"):

The Umbrella Building (headquarters of an internet and graphic design company):

3555 Hayden (headquarters of a broadcasting company):

3535 Hayden (offices of a graphic design company):

The Gateway Art Tower - currently under construction:

The Debbie Allen Dance Studio:

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