John Lautner's Concannon Residence, designed in 1960, was built in a blurry area contested by the cities of Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, with BH having the post office address but not collecting the property taxes. Both cities have a sad track record with the protection of historically significant structures, and have countless modernist architecture bones in their walk-in closets. Both are gleaming their real estate teeth, and are penchant for greed and mediocre architecture. And both have a negligible clue of the cultural values bestowed upon them by their architectural heritage.
Strangely, the Concannon Residence was demolished by its eccentric owner James Goldstein, to make place for Lautner designed additions to the Sheats/Goldstein House, on the adjacent lot, a masterpiece of the architect, which Mr. Goldstein also owned since 1972, and values with an obsession. The erasure of the Concannon Residence is the result of those planned improvements for the more famous and fortunate Goldstein Residence.
Even though he had the Concannon Residence torn down, to his credit, James Goldstein made sure in his will that the expanded Goldstein House, and with that the legacy of both structures, will never be sold. The compound could very well become a publicly accessible cultural treasure for the entire city.
Architectural preservation is a nebulous subject.
As we hear more and more about the destruction of irreplaceable pieces of architecture, our gut feeling as architects and interested public usually prompts us to say, “Shame.”
But the issue is more complicated.
Do we change the rules of private property ownership, which grants owners the right to choose between wrecking ball and destruction, and preservation? Can public agencies designate a cultural significance label on architectural work which is privately owned? If so, who can make those decisions and judgments? Do we helplessly try to protect structures built from materials that crumbles in a few decades' time? What is, to you and me, the cultural value of a modernist abode we can't even get near without knowing the secluded owner? What is the cultural significance, in this age, of something that represents wealth and privilege, lot after lot, and is protected by private security patrols around the clock?
In short, what is the value of preserving, and who preserves the privately owned American house? Should the ultimate decision on preserving and historically monumentalizing such architecturally significant structures remain strictly in the hands of their owners and depend on their dedication and educated contribution to the rest of the city's cultural capital?
Perhaps, bringing forth these questions and discussions could make the public more aware about the value of architecture, a critically malnourished area in our society.
From 1995 to 2002 my friend Andrea Kreuzhage, an accomplished filmmaker and documentarian, rented the Concannon Residence from Mr. Goldstein. She redesigned and updated the bedroom and the kitchen of our fallen heroine Concannon the way Mr. Lautner himself would probably like and documented the house during the construction and after the repairs were done.
After living in the house for seven years Andrea moved away to another neighborhood in Los Angeles and later said this,
“I went back once -- but only ever so briefly -- to see the empty space where Concannon once stood, and felt queasy.”
Following are the links to this documentation with the footnotes of Andrea Kreuzhage.
Part 1 Concannon renovation
*In 2011, the City of Beverly Hills, adopted an ordinance at last to put some rules on demolishing significant architecture older than 45 years.