Our good friend Alissa Walker reports on Good’s blog about a trip this past Saturday led by BLDG BLOG author Geoff Manaugh to California City, a giant unbuilt city in the Mojave Desert, about 2 hours from LA. The trip was part of Obscura Day, described by its founders, Atlas Obscura, as “a day of expeditions, back-room tours, and hidden treasures in your home town. California City is about 80,000 acres of land that was purchased in 1958 by developer Nat Mendelsohn, who hoped to eventually make it the third largest city in California. Unfortunately that never happened. He only managed to corral about 10,000 people. The rest is just a desert carved with an empty grid of dirt streets. Walker points out that the streets, with names like Oldsmobile Drive, still show up on maps. More of the 70 strange places visited on Obscura Day included a visit to Berkeley’s spooky Bone Room, a tour of the Integatron sound chamber in Joshua Tree, and a visit to Baltimore’s Museum of Dentistry. Read More
Our friends at Curbed LA reported that Downtown LA’s legendary funicular Angel’s Flight finally re-opened yesterday after a 9 year hiatus (it closed in 2001 after an accident killed a tourist). The Victorian-era Flight, known as the “world’s shortest railway,” at 315 feet, was built in 1901 and has seen several iterations, the latest of which is being operated by Angels Flight Railway. It received its LA Public Utilities Commission safety approval earlier this month, so we consider it safe enough for our intrepid transit expert Alissa Walker to try it out. Stay tuned for her upcoming essay on the ride. To help you wait it out, check out a couple of our favorite photo compilations, here and here, of the Flight when it was first built. Especially fun to look at the now-defunct Victorians of Bunker Hill, the ornate masonry buildings, the city trolleys, and the great Victorian outfits.
California’s recovery is underway, but don’t expect the state’s construction activity to return to pre-recession numbers any time soon. That was the message from Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast, at the Allen Matkins Construction Trends 2010 conference held in Downtown LA last week. Nickelsburg confirmed the national recession did end last summer, with the nation’s gross domestic product up nearly 6 percent in the last quarter, but financial markets still are healing, he said. Read More
Last night, thanks to our friends at deLab, we were lucky to check out one of the coolest paper structures ever assembled, called Fat Fringe. Hung from the ceiling of the new Fix Gallery in LA’s Pico Union, the die-cut canopy was put together by a team of loyal contributors who sliced, punched, and folded the structure (made up of 800 inter-connected origami-like components). The project was organized by LA gallery and arts incubator Materials and Applications, and was developed by designers Lisa Little and Emily White of the firm Layer. The wavy collection of white paper seems to morph into hundreds of fluttering shapes and it’s especially fun to see how light tries to make its way through, glowing, reflecting, and creating beams of light and mesmerizing shadows in the process. Layer will create another ambitious installation (this time made of more durable materials than paper ) for M+A’s outdoor courtyard this summer. Check out more pictures of Fat Fringe via deLab’s Marissa Gluck below: Read More
Finally, the roundup we’ve all been waiting for… Las Vegas Weekly just shared its five favorite Vegas nightclub bathrooms. Yes, the toilet has always been a particularly rich muse for design in Sin City, and let us tell you these ones don’t disappoint. The Vanity Nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, for instance, has flat screens over the urinals, faux reptile-skin walls, and giant blinking eye graphics. Another favorite is the loo at Déja Vu Erotic Ultra Lounge, where unisex (yes unisex) restrooms, hidden behind a waterfall, have LED lights that change color inside stalls with glass doors that fog up when locked. The ladies stall at the Mix Lounge at the Hotel at Mandalay Bay offers floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on the glittering Vegas Strip. Who knew you could have so much fun in a Vegas Bathroom? Well, scratch that. A lot of people do..
Gagosian Gallery is apparently trying to take over the world, with locations in New York, London, Rome, La Jolla, Hong Kong, and another coming to Paris. Its latest project is Richard Meier & Partners’ expansion of its Beverly Hills gallery which Meier originally designed in 1995. The new space adds 5,000 square feet to what was a 6,600 square foot building. We were able to step inside the project, which opened today on Beverly Hills’ swank Camden Drive, and we weren’t disappointed. The extension combines Meier’s signature pristine white walls and abundant natural light (long acid-etched skylights on both sides of the space are semi-opaque, but still reveal the color of the sky) combined with the grittiness of a wonderful existing barreled vaulted wood truss roof, which was discovered when the firm removed the ceiling from the building’s former tenants, Umberto’s Hair Salon. A huge translucent glass and aluminum sliding door at the street also lets in glowing light, and provides an easy entry for oversized works.
Jennifer Siegal’s Prefab Showhouse has been sitting on Venice’s Abbott Kinney Blvd since 2006, giving clients a preview of what they can get if they invest in a work by her firm, OMD (Office of Mobile Design). Well it’s no longer there. It was recently transported via semi and (once in the desert) robotic tank (yes, robotic tank) to Joshua Tree, where it has found its place as an off-the-grid guest residence for film producer Chris Hanley. The 720 square-foot steel frame structure, with a high sloping ceiling and a steel support chassis, uses solar panels for electricity and also has tankless water heaters, radiant heat ceiling panels, and translucent polycarbonate glazing. It’s not too far from one of our favorite desert houses, Taalmankoch’s iT House, in what is becoming a precious little off-the-grid architecture community. Oh, and if you go, make sure to check out one of our favorite bars in the world, Pioneertown’s Pappy and Harriet’s. Read More
We are just back from three sunny, margarita-and-architecture-filled days in Palm Springs. This small desert city was barely a mirage until the arrival of Liberace, Frank Sinatra (you can rent his house for $1,900 a night), and air-conditioning helped make it a popular resort in the 1950s. But the clear warm desert air (and wealthy patrons) seemed to lend itself to visionary modern architecture. Read More
Not all TODs (transit oriented developments) were created equal. So ULI Los Angeles has launched a series of TOD Technical Assistance Panels to re-strategize under-performing transportation centers. The first of these workshops – led by volunteer urban-design professionals – presented its findings on February 19 at LA’s Slauson Avenue Blue Line station. The station suffers from poor security; poor pedestrian connectivity to the surrounding neighborhood (including an above-grade platform separated from street life); and poor insulation from noxious industrial uses. Panel recommendations focused on getting people to the station and adding retail. This included a security kiosk, improved lighting, and more visible crosswalks and sidewalks. Read More
We learn via email today that California firm WWCOT has been taken over by midwest mega-firm DLR Group. WWCOT’s offices in LA, Modesto, Palm Springs, Riverside, and Shanghai will be known as DLR Group WWCOT. The merger, says 500-person DLR, will give the firm a needed presence in California and Asia, and improve its education, healthcare, and senior community design. Like most businesses, architecture’s biggest firms are interested in the takeover, which gives them more geographic reach, more talent, and more clients. This move follows behemoth firm AECOM’s purchase last October of Ellerbe Becket, and in 2007 RMJM’s purchase of Hillier, and Arcadis’ purchase of RTKL. According to a 2009 survey by business management consultant ZweigWhite, Seventy-one percent of architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firms plan to conduct a merger or acquisition in the next five years. Sounds high, but maybe there will be one giant firm running all of architecture the next time we check?
Famed California modernist William Krisel is getting his day in the sun tomorrow. A documentary about his life and career, called William Krisel, Architect, is premiering as part of Palm Springs Modernism week at the Camelot Theater. The 86 minute film, directed by Jake Gorst, tracks, as the above preview suggests, a 60-year career in which Krisel built over 40,000 housing units and countless other buildings. And read our next issue for a Q+A with the designer, in which he talks about his latest ventures, his career, and his very favorite topic: the ailing state of the architecture profession.