LA Weekend

A great time was had by all at our Los Angeles meetings of the National Trust Board. There was a lot to be done, with a new Diversity Director (Tanya Bowers), an amazing story about the Charity Hospital in New Orleans, where LSU wants to demolish a very solid 1930s hospital that was used all the way up to Katrina. They also wanted to tear down 200 houses for a new hospital. Fortunately, Trust Trustee Jack Davis and others demonstrated to the Legislature that the project would be more expensive, more wasteful and SLOWER than if they restored the building. Typical hospital planning, really. You can check it out on PreservationNation.
We also had a lively discussion in the Restoration Committee about “deconstruction” spawned by some irresponsible TV show that chronicles someone salvaging off all the bits of a perfectly good house before they demolish it for a McMansion. This is actually a great challenge in preservation – how do you convince people that things have great historic and artistic value without encouraging the dismembering of that value?
An invite to one Trustee’s lovely Spanish Colonial Revival courtyard house in Beverly Hills was a highlight, and her love of art and architecture was apparent from the appealingly laden bookshelves near the entrance and the consistency with which she applied the Spanish Colonial aesthetic of rough-hewn tables and chairs throughout the house.
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Saturday we had a fabulous tour all the way from the coast to downtown along Wilshire Boulevard, which includes one of my favorite bits, the Bruce Goff addition to LACMA, here lovingly photographed by Felicity Rich.
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LA is a great place for modern architecture (along with Victorian and Spanish Colonial) but it is often a challenge to get public support for saving it, a point that came up during our meetings and was very apparent when Landmarks Illinois’ Chicagoland Watch List came out and the modernist buildings (including those by noted architect Bertrand Goldberg) finished last in popularity contests. The bus took a swing through the Windsor Square historic overlay zone – LA has always created historic districts through zoning rather than the cultural department that deals with individual landmarks. This is an area of eclectic 1920s revivals and bungalows.
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BTW, photos here are by Felicity Rich.
The tour stopped in Little Tokyo, a place which inspired my interest in historic site interpretation almost nine years ago, and so I will be sharing my images with both my graduate and undergraduate students this semester. This is a 1995 project that included research on all of the previous business owners. (this one is my image)
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The tour continued through the Victorian district of Angeleno Heights
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We then saw another Trustee’s house, originally the Storer House by Frank Lloyd Wright, one of his 1920s textile block houses and I loved the resonances with Unity Temple and the interesting verticality (and generous ceiling heights) of the composition, which was exquisitely sited overlooking the city.
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The coup de grace was the Sheets-Goldstein House, a 1963 John Lautner design without a right angle or safety feature in it. Owned for the last 37 years by Jim Goldstein, he hired the original architect in 1980 and worked with him until his death. The thing is a giant triangle of concrete on a 400 foot cliff with a John Turrell sky room and glass walls being the only thing separating you from the edge of the cliff except for the many place where there is no wall, only cliff. Just stunning.
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photos by Felicity Rich

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