Yesterday we visited one of our favorite sites in Los Angeles: Watts Towers. The amazing complex, which includes four towers, a gazebo, fountains, and a slew of other jumbled elements, was designed by Simon, or Sam Rodia, a tile factory worker who labored on the project basically without stopping for over thirty years (from 1921-1954).
The structures rise as high as 100 feet and are clad with broken bottles, tiles (over 15,000 of them), sea shells, and pretty much anything else Rodia could get his hands on. Their frame is made from chicken wire, barbed wire, coat hangers, and other makeshift materials.
The feat is all the more amazing considering that Rodia didn’t study any sort of building trade and was illiterate. He usually worked until 1 or 2 in the morning then went back to work in a factory the next day.
After attending the recent Alt Build Expo in Santa Monica it became clear to us at AN that the aging Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, a Decorative Modernist structure designed by Welton Becket back in 1958, was in serious need of an update. (Becket, by the way, designed the Capitol Records Building, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and a good deal more of mid-Century Los Angeles.)
Well it looks like our wish is coming true: On May 26 the Santa Monica City Council voted to approve a $47 million remodel and seismic retrofit of the auditorium, using Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency funds (the vote to allocate funds was sped up because such monies may soon be frozen once the state budget is passed).
No firm has been chosen, but we will keep our eyes peeled on the RFP, which was posted here last month. “They anticipate a design build contract,” said Santa Monica spokesperson Carol Lemlein, who noted that perspective teams will be made up of architects, contractors, engineers, and preservation experts. Read More
Tonight gives Angelenos the chance to check out the classic film The Music Man inside the Los Angeles Theater. With its glass chandeliers, Corinthian columns, and intricate Baroque details, the Los Angeles is one of the most ornate movie palaces you’ll ever visit. It’s the second week of Last Remaining Seats, the LA Conservancy’s popular series that opens up Broadway’s once great (and now mostly dormant) theaters again. That includes the Orpheum, the Million Dollar Theater, and more. This year is Last Remaining Seats’ 25th Anniversary. Other engagements include King Kong at the Los Angeles and Sunset Boulevard at the Palace. Find tickets here. More pix of theaters after the jump. Read More
Seattle architecture firm Miller Hull, a past winner of the AIA national Firm Award, may be best-known for their work in the Pacific Northwest, but they’ve also been active in San Diego for the last seven years. Now the firm is finally opening an office in the city, giving them a physical presence and simplifying things for their architects and for clients.
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Polycarbonate sheets become an interactive bench, part of Fort Mason Center’s upcoming SEAT exhibition.
San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center will be the stage for an outdoor chair show set to open June 23. Called SEAT, the yearlong exhibition is being curated by artist and landscape designer Topher Delaney, of Seam Studio, and will include work by more than 40 designers, artists, and architects. Each team was given a site on the former Fort’s 13-acre waterfront campus, which now serves as an arts and culture venue. As one of the invited participants, San Francisco-based Nilus Designs is preparing an interactive piece called W.E.T: West End Terminal, an anthropomorphic bench created with carefully stacked strata of clear twin-wall polycarbonate.
There’s nothing that’ll kill the buzz on your birthday faster than rumors of the Rapture coming on the same day. But we think John Chase, the beloved urban designer of the City of West Hollywood, would have handled it in stride. Chase, the oft-celebrated “King of Public Space,” was a tremendously outspoken presence in planning and politics and was responsible for transforming the scruffy city into one with attractive public spaces that are both progressive and respectful of the city’s past.
To remember the late urban designer, de LaB, a group of Chase’s friends, family, co-workers, and collaborators, is leading a walking tour on the anniversary of his birthday, Saturday, May 21, across the city. Architects and city leaders will guide the participants through various projects and share their memories of Chase and discuss his urban spaces. Stops include Formosa 1140, Plummer Park, The MAK Center, Habitat 825, Holloway Park Veteran’s Memorial, Sierra Bonita Affordable Housing, 8140 Sunset Boulevard, and West Hollywood City Hall, among others. The tour will conclude (hopefully with the world still intact) with drinks at one of Chase’s favorite places in the city, Barney’s Beanery.
Is there a better place to see contemporary homes than Venice? This weekend’s Venice Art Walk and Auctions is offering a tour of one of this architecture hub’s most impressive blocks: Appleton Way, where several ambitious residences have sprouted up in the last five years. The tour includes gems like the Walnut Residence by Modal Design; Our House, by du Architects; the Yin-Yang House by Brooks + Scarpa; Ortiz Mexia’s Ortiz & Wheeler Residence; Sylvia Aroth & Jeff Cook’s Sylvia’s Duplex; and Thomas Carson’s Carson/Bettauer Residence. Read More
After the 9/11 attacks, municipalities all over the country took note of the breakdown of communications between rescue workers during a moment of crisis. Many set aside funds to build emergency communication centers, like the ill-fated one located at Seven World Trade. In 2003, county voters in Tucson set aside $92 million to build a command center where police, fire, and emergency personnel could coordinate emergency responses. The county Board of Supervisors selected the former Valley National Bank building on East 22nd Street as the site for the new command center. But now preservationists are concerned that sections of the Brutalist building, designed by local architects Cain, Nelson, Wares & Cook Architects, will be destroyed.
William Stout Publishers recently reissued California Houses of Gordon Drake by Douglas Baylis and Joan Parry, with a new preface by Australian architect Glenn Murcutt and a new introduction by architect and author Pierluigi Serraino. Serraino is the author of Modernism Rediscovered, which contributed significantly to renewing interest in Midcentury Modernism, and went on to write NorCalMod, a book that helps rewrite the narrative about Northern California architecture. Photos of Drake’s work and some of the material from his archive will be on exhibit through May at the Berkeley location of William Stout Architectural Books. Kenneth Caldwell sat down with Serraino to get his thoughts about the newly reissued book. Read More