On Saturday the AUD held a 10 hour long tour of Los Angeles architecture for incoming students, focusing on work produced by LA-based architects. It was led by a 5th year phd student in the department, Todd Gannon, who was very personable and directed the tour with a highly irreverent tone. We saw a pretty shocking number of projects covering a lot of ground in a huge 12 mile radius from UCLA, which we did driving around all day in a hilarious topless double decker Hollywood tourist bus.
Our bus in front of Frank Gehry's house
Yeah, it was a little embarrassing, but I got into it. The most fun was dodging the low-slung branches of trees in residential neighborhoods that probably don’t see too many double decker buses. It was also pretty funny to see the variety of people who waved at us from the street as if welcoming us to LA. Despite the cheesiness, it was nice to see that people in LA could still be friendly to strangers. If it was somewhere like New York for example, I’m quite sure we would have gotten as many middle fingers as we got friendly waves in LA. I know when I lived in New York I would have flipped off people in a giant double decker tourist bus with an ad for a vampire tv show plastered on the side. And I would have had great fun doing it, so I guess it all balances out in the end. Anyway, we started in Culver City with some older Eric Owen Moss projects,
and moved on to the later Conjunctive Points development, which has a brand new EOM project going up.
Then on to Venice and Santa Monica to a bunch of old Frank Gehry projects, including the office building with the Claes Oldenberg binoculars in front:
then we passed Lorcan O’Herlihy’s house:
to the Edgemar Center for the Arts,
which is basically an early Gehry minimall. Nice “Italian hill village” feel though. Then past Gehry’s Santa Monica Place mall (which is apparently being demolished to extend the Third Street Promenade) to the famous Gehry house, into which we got a pretty great (and highly invasive) view from the second floor of the double decker bus.
I hope Gehry doesn't walk around his kitchen naked...
Then we drove along the beach to Pacific Palisades and the Eames house. It had all of Ray Eames’ knick knacks, and smelled like an especially ripe thrift store (from the outside, as visitors aren’t allowed in). It was nice to see such an icon, but tough to really connect with the intimate details of the house when being made to feel like breathing wrong would destroy it.
After that we drove by two projects by AUD faculty Mark Lee – the Hill House and the Martin Margiela store, on to much more “accessible” architecture than the Eames house, in the form of Rodeo Drive and the Prada store (well, I guess you still need a credit card with a pretty high limit to truly ‘access’ it). I was hoping for some good views from the double decker, but it’s still basically non-architecture from the outside; probably just as Rem intended.
I skipped Prada as I’ve seen it a million times, and instead peeked in the Starck-designed Taschen store a block over. Maybe it was because I gave it such a cursory glance, but it didn’t seem as exciting as I would have hoped. Just like any fancy store with dark woodwork. The only exciting feature to me were the wavy gold book display shelves in the middle of the store, which I’ve already seen at the Taschen outpost in the clocktower at the Farmer’s Market, where I think they’re put to slightly better use in the teeny space. After Rodeo, it was straight down Wilshire all the way to downtown. We passed by the new LACMA addition by Renzo Piano, which I pretty much hate, except for the huge double height glass elevator inside, with a shaft wrapped in a Barbara Kruger installation (suitably called “Shafted”). But I probably only hate the addition because it was built in lieu of an OMA scheme that would have tied LACMA together in a much more satisfying way. Oh, and it’s clad in beige stone. YAWN. Ha ha.
Yes, that is an enormous iPhone featured prominently on the face of the building.
The rest of the day was spent downtown, which we reached after passing some of my favorite buildings in LA, on Wilshire in Koreatown (the Wiltern building) and Westlake (the American Cement Building), as well as the building in which I’m moving into a big loft soon (we get the keys tonight!). Once downtown, we went through a tunnel I love that’s featured in countless movies shot in LA, which was really fun in the double decker (but not so fun to bike through, as I know from experience).
We ate lunch at the Grand Central Market and checked out the interior of the Bradbury Building (made famous, to me at least, by Blade Runner).
Then it was on to the CalTrans building, which I realized I’ve never actually walked around in.
It was almost as cool as when it was depicted in Southland Tales as the headquarters of a near-future government agency dedicated to spying on every action of LA citizenry. Then we checked out the courtyards and exterior of the Moneo-designed Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
We couldn’t go into the lovely interior with the oddly bondage dungeon-looking side chapels (oh wait, is that just me?) as there was a wedding going on.
The Coop Himmelblau high school across the freeway through the cathedral courtyard's windows
Then we walked past the Music Center (where my friend visiting from New York happened to be watching the LA Opera staging of The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg – so LA, ha ha) to Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall.
The nice little exterior garden areas on the rear plinth were strangely also closed for a wedding, but we checked out the (very weirdly shaped) lobby a bit. I was glad I had already been to a show there (Grizzly Bear, playing with the LA Philharmonic, in case you were wondering) so I’ve seen the better moments of the interior, which we were not able to see as non-ticketed visitors. Then, we exhausted travelers returned to campus.
Shooting down the 10 in a topless bus is fun!
Overall, the tour was great fun and a good way for entering students to bond, and I got to see a few great projects I hadn’t seen before. However, I preferred the format of the tour earlier this year for prospective students to the department, which was more compact and gave us much more access to featured projects by architects teaching in the department - we got to speak with Neil Denari at his just-finished private home addition and tour Morphosis’ offices. I guess the stakes are higher with that tour (it did help convince me that AUD faculty and administration actually cared about convincing students to go there, unlike Columbia, where they basically said “We’re in New York City. Heard of it? Yeah. See you in the Fall.” Which actually IS pretty convincing, ha ha). But I would highly recommend this tour to incoming students next year if they don’t have much experience with Los Angeles; it’s a great crash course.
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