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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  1. i never knew these were called dingbats! it's a fitting name.

  2. "Dingbats" are ornamental typographical symbols (like little stars, arrows, bullets, check marks, etc...) Apparently, these buildings are called "dingbats" because they often have weird little ornaments stuck on their facades.

  3. I love dingbats.

    They are far superior to the ADA-compliant (lift, handicapped van spaces), wedding-cake setback, faux-mission, 4" ugly firecontrol standpipe displaying, affordable-housing-setaside, peach-mauve-pastel paint with mandatory asshat "mixed use" designs that today's urban planners and so-called architects blanket everywhere.

    Yes, I like having more than one bathroom, and parking can be a PITA (bicycles solve that), but a 2-story walkup with outside doors means you actually see and talk to your neighbors. With new construction costs at $300k/unit, dingbat rents will always be more competitive.

  4. Great post. Probablly the most "famous" apartment building in that neighborhood is the "Crapi Apartments" on Overland Avenue, just north of Palms. Yes, that's really how it's spelled:

  5. I live in Palms and have a few friends who live in Dingbats. It's interesting to find out why they are called that... I've always wondered. One friend with 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths gets her dingbat for much less than my 2 bedroom "modern" apartment!

  6. Looks like some of the dingbats are at least OK aesthetically and some are pretty ugly.

  7. Good lord, I hate dingbats so much.
    Being in one is like sleeping in the antechamber to purgatory.
    They're the worst use of the difficult long and narrow city blocks so common in LA.
    The sad thing is that they're still being built in places like East Hollywood, where large old homes are torn down to cynically produce more of this urban shlock.