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.

View LACMA in a larger map

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

1950's Diners

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.