Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Glass Church

Between 1949 and 1951, Lloyd Wright (Frank's son) built the glass Wayfarer's Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Internet research reveals that many celebrities including Jayne Mansfield, Dennis Hopper, and Brian Wilson have gotten married in the chapel.

Fans of "The O.C." television soap opera will recognize the Wayfarer's Chapel as the location of Julie and Caleb's wedding, Caleb's funeral, and Julie and Bullet's called-off wedding.

The view over the ocean to the Catalina Islands:

Across the street from the Wayfarer's Chapel is Abalone Cove, an excellent place to explore tidepools:

Purple anemones in the tidepools (each of these were about 2"-4" across):

Here is a brown starfish with a large green anemone on top of it and three little purple anemones underneath:

A little orange starfish with my hand for scale:

I've never seen a sea slug like this before - it was brown, about 10" long, and was waiving its tentacle things around:

Here is a map of Rancho Palos Verdes with Abalone Cove and the Wayfarer's Chapel across the street. At the top of the hill, there is a nice viewpoint over the ocean at Del Cerro Park. There are trailheads for hikes on Burrell Lane right next to the park.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cat of the Week: Larry David

"Larry David" of Culver City is the neighborhood troublemaker and is also one of my housemates. Larry had trouble sitting still for a photo:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cat of the Week: Sven

"Sven" of the Palms neighborhood with a 1950's dingbat style apartment in the background:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Welton Becket's Los Angeles

Prolific L.A. architect Welton Becket (1902-1969) designed dozens of buildings in Los Angeles between the 1930s and 1960s that reflected and shaped a distinctive L.A. aesthetic.

Becket built the Cinerama Theater on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard in 1963. The Cinerama is modeled on the geodesic dome design by inventor/architect/engineer/artist Buckminster Fuller and it is the earliest and the largest geodesic dome theater in the world. ArcLight Cinemas re-opened the Cinerama in 2002 after installing extra-comfy seats, upgrading the acoustics, and adding additional theaters in the adjacent building. The Cinerama is still a popular location for Hollywood movie openings.

In the 1950s, people in Southern California liked buildings to be shaped like whatever was sold or made in the building. There are still donut shops here that have giant donuts on top of them and hot dog stands shaped like hot dogs (somewhat more distastefully, there is even a parking enforcement building in West L.A. that is shaped like a parking meter). Welton Becket's Capitol Records building in Hollywood was completed in 1956 and was the world's first round office building. Its 12 circular stories and wrap-around shades are supposed to look like a stack of records:

The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, built in 1959, includes six 72-foot high concrete masts that are reminiscent of 1950's Cadillac fins. Behind the giant masts and the entrance canopy, a cast concrete grille runs the length of the building and gives the facade a beautiful, delicate look.

At the downtown Los Angeles Performing Arts Center, Becket built the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion between 1964 and 1969 with a gently swooping roof:

Across the plaza from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Becket-designed Mark Taper Auditorium, also built between 1964 and 1969, consists of a circular theater surrounded by a dark blue moat and a free-standing, square-shaped colonnade. The circular drum of the theater is encased in a 378-foot long cast concrete relief in an abstract pattern:

The Schoenberg Hall at the Herb Alpert School of Music, which appeared in my blog post on UCLA, was built by Welton Becket in 1955 and is decorated with a mosaic by modern artist Richard Haines:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hollywood Bowl and High Tower

It is surprisingly quick to get from the crummy, touristy area of Hollywood up into secluded hilly neighborhoods. One group of houses in this area is so inaccessible that residents have to park their cars in freestanding garages at the base of the hill and then walk up stairs or take a private elevator in the "High Tower" to get to their houses:The High Tower was built in 1920 and its design is based on a Bolognese tower. Here is a view of the elevator landing at the top of the High Tower:

These hilly neighborhoods are criss-crossed with public stairways that are hidden in between houses:

The Hollywood Bowl, home to the L.A. Philharmonic since 1922, is the country's largest natural outdoor amphitheater and is located in the hills about one mile from central Hollywood. The stage and shell were originally built in the 1920s and are constantly being renovated to improve acoustics. The original shell was built by Lloyd Wright (Frank's son) and updates include a 1980s remodel by Frank Gehry. Here is a photo from the Bowl of the present-day shell with the Hollywood sign in the background:

George Stanley, the sculptor who designed the Oscar statuette, built this beautiful art deco fountain at the entrance to the Hollywood Bowl in 1940:

This funny dog on Camrose Drive doesn't realize that his owners have made a painting of him on the other side of his peep-hole to the street from his yard:

I combined Walks 16 and 17 from my favorite book "Walking L.A." by Erin Mahoney Harris to do this walk around the lower Hollywood Hills area:

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

The First Modern Residence?

Vienna-born architect Rudolph M. Schindler (1887-1953) built this concrete, wood, and glass house on Kings Road in West Hollywood in 1922. The Kings Road Schindler House is widely considered to be one of the most influential buildings in Los Angeles because Schindler included elements such as an open floor plan, outdoor patios, sliding doors, and a minimalist aesthetic that were radical at the time but would later become ubiquitous in California residential architecture.
The vine-covered structures on top of the one-story house are outdoor "sleeping baskets."

The Schindler House was designed with private units for two families and a shared common space in the central area of the residence. After completing the house, Schindler and his wife lived in one of the units and Schindler stayed in the house until his death in 1953. Richard Neutra, L.A.'s other Vienna-born modern architect, and his wife lived in the other unit from 1925-1930. The Schindler House is open for public tours and often hosts art exhibitions and events. Here are some views of the interior:

The neo-modern Habitat 825 condominium by Irish-born, Los Angeles based architect Lorcan O'Herlihy is located next door to the Schindler House:

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Cat of the Week: John Meow

"John Meow" of Venice alongside one of the canals:

Venice of America

In 1905, a millionaire land developer named Abbot Kinney (1850-1920) opened the "Venice of America" beach resort about 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles. To create Venice, Kinney drained the marshland in the area and built a network of canals, a giant amusement pier, and a mini-railroad. Gondolas traveled up and down the new waterways and the main canals were lined with arched Italianate buildings. Visitors could get to Venice from downtown LA and Santa Monica by railroad and rent cottages and tents in Venice for the night.

The 2003 mural "Remembering Venice, 1913" at Windward Circle by artist David Legaspi III depicts Venice of America as it looked in 1913. At that time, the wide streets that radiate from Windward Circle were large canals:

The city of Los Angeles annexed Venice in 1925 and paved over the majority of the canals in 1929. Venice entered a decades long decline and by the 1950s was known as the "Slum by the Sea." In the 1950s and 1960s, beatnik artists and hippies were drawn to Venice by the cheap rent and appealing climate. Venice continued to be an artists' neighborhood through the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but now housing costs have increased substantially.

Although the majority of the canals were paved over in the 1920s, a 3 mile network of canals remains intact in one residential neighborhood. The canals are lined with little pathways, pedestrian bridges, and houses of all different styles:

Venice has a number of very picturesque hidden little pedestrian streets called "Walk Streets" that are also lined with houses of varying architectural styles and charming, overgrown gardens:
A muted modern house next to a bright purple craftsman bungalow:

Here is a 2004 mural on Venice Boulevard and Pacific Avenue by Venice artist Rip Cronk depicting Venice's founder Abott Kinney:

On the map below, I have highlighted in blue the Venice Canal neighborhood, the Walk Streets, and Abbot Kinney Boulevard (a fancy street with coffee shops, restaurants, and expensive clothing stores).

The Walk Streets (Nowita Place, Marco Place, Amoroso Place, and Crescent Place) are difficult to spot - the pedestrian streets are called "Places" and the service alleys for cars are called "Courts" so you want to find "Nowita Place" not "Nowita Court."

I recommend avoiding the Venice boardwalk and beach area (the highlighted red shape on my map) because it is crowded and tacky.

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