Sunday, August 28, 2011

Architectural History in Cathedral City

I recently ran across some images of Mid-century Cathedral City. When I went to see what they look like today, I was disappointed to discover that for the most part, they had been altered beyond recognition. When I think of historic architecture in Cathedral City today....these images from Boomers say it best......

Friday, August 12, 2011

Palm Springs in August = Los Angeles

FRIDAY, August 5, 2011

We arrived in LA on Friday afternoon in time for lunch at Malibu’s Reel Inn, the local seafood dive…and I use that word advisedly….The real reason for the sojourn was to visit the Adamson Residence in Malibu (1930, Stiles O. Clement). This incredible National Register listed Spanish Colonial Revival home made extensive use of the famous Malibu Tile, and for good reason….they were created here by the homeowner’s mother Mae Knight Rindge. The house is in pretty near original condition, including the furnishings. Set on the Malibu Lagoon, there are amazing views….and surfing…we’ve decided to return next year….

After the Adamson house tour, we found our way over to our friends house (1963, Frank Burton Wilson), near Benedict Canyon Drive just above Mulholland. They were traveling, and invited us to use the house as a getaway from the Palm Springs August weather…so of course we accepted. We had seen their place at Seven Lakes Country Club (1965, Ric Harrison) and it is really cool; I had even seen photos of the LA place, but was unprepared for how beautiful it really is. A Mid-century modern house, it sits lightly on its long, slim hilltop site, and is so well designed and sited that there are vistas everywhere that extend the views into the Valley beyond. The quiet access road serves only a few homes, but is located at the head of a hiking trail, so there is a constant parade of healthy-looking people; consider it another nice view!

One of the friends is an artist, and the color palette from the house appears to be drawn directly from his work…all muted greys, greens blues. Sunrise and Sunset surrounding the glassy house add Lavenders and Carbon Orange to the mix. Every object in the sparsely furnished house appears to have been chosen for its aesthetic appeal – each table, chair, cabinet, sofa could stand alone on its merits as an art piece. Even specimen plants are placed with an artist’s eye…

But, what really makes the experience of living here so unusual is the opportunity to live for awhile with a large selection of the artist’s work. Initially appealing for their playfulness, over time, the details emerge that tie the various series together and inform the viewer that there is much more here than first meets the eye. An endlessly repeated single brushstroke about a half-inch wide appears as a meditation that that soothes and stimulates the soul. My guess is his collectors are a mellow bunch.

At night, the fog drifts in and the coyote howl at the moon…surreal….

The first evening we had dinner at the old standby Marix just off Santa Monica…loud, cheap, and great service paired perfectly with mediocre food and pretty young people…another reason to love LA…

SATURDAY August 6, 2011

I have been interested in seeing a new (actually remodeled) building by architects Rios, Clement, Hale on Larchmont. The upstairs houses their offices and downstairs the Café Gratitude, a vegetarian restaurant. Warm, fuzzy and puppy-friendly with a great crowd and a killer (vegan) BLT…check it out

MOCA (1981, Arata Isosaki)

Hadn’t been to MOCA in a while but the Broads have hastily organized a tribute to the recently deceased Cy Twombly…only eleven paintings, but OMG!! Like many others, I still don’t really “get” the later work, but nine of the Broad’s Twomblys were from the 60’s…each and every one of those a masterpiece! In the Fred Nicholas’ Gallery there was an interesting show of the works of women artists…didn’t know we were still doing that…Included was a cool Yoko Ono sculpture and a retrospective of Linda Benglis’ work that nearly finished me off….I’ve always loved the bronze “knots” but wasn’t really prepared for the erotic stuff…

We had dinner at home that night, but went out to a WEHO lesbian bar, The Palms, for a show (and I use that term loosely) by an illusionist / vocalist Jimmy James, who Robert had seen perform 24 years previously in Provincetown. In his own voice, he does amazing impressions of Shirley Bassey, Barbara Streisand, Cher et al…. Time and circumstances have not been kind to Jimmy: Robert summed up the experience by saying that Jimmy still sounds like Cher, but now he looks more like Chaz…go figure. Maybe not the best night of Cabaret I’ve ever had, but certainly among the most memorable… A tour of the WEHO nightlife sector revealed that go-go boys (and girls) have made quite a comeback…they are everywhere!

SUNDAY August 7, 2011

A friend invited us to join him at the Will Rogers Beach in Santa Monica – the gay section has been renamed “Ginger Rogers” Beach for obvious reasons. Access to the beach is via a tunnel under Highway 1 adjacent to the Hungry Cat Restaurant, recently featured on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Decorators” as it was being redesigned by Jeffery Alan Marks and his assistant Ross Cassidy. It’s not in Malibu; the fuss over the floors seems overblown, and it’s not open for lunch on weekdays…

The beach failed to reach its potential that day…the fog never did burn off. But on the way down from our parking spot, we discovered a Richard Neutra house. Our architect friend told us that this house had been moved to the current location many years ago. Maybe the owners of the Neutra’s 1955 Kronish house in Beverly Hills should consider relocating it to Santa Monica….LOL!

Following the beach, we cleaned up and met a friend at Tea Dance at The Abbey. It’s been a number of years since I attended a Tea Dance with thousands (I exaggerate) of handsome and/or beautiful young Angelinos. Although there were a few older gentlemen (i.e. my age) in the crowd, the afternoon really belonged to the young and beautiful…and their admirers. The angle of the afternoon sun made the place feel like the movie “Chinatown.” The scantily-clad dancers lightly covered with fresh sweat poured Quervo Gold down the throats of those brave enough to come close. Following a “rain” of beach balls being tossed around overhead, a giant wind machine spewed confetti over the crowd. It took me back to my Studio 54 days; these guys really know how to entertain their audience….and in the process, elevating bar life to a new standard. Unlike most, I was able to maintain my “one drink maximum” policy. A good time was had….

MONDAY August 8, 2011

One of the things I love about LA is there is significant architecture everywhere…on the way to The Weismann Foundation in Holmby Hills, we happened on to the 1949 Broughton Residence, Craig Elwood’s first house. It’s an odd place…the entrance is via a circular stair in the carport, but if you love modernism, it’s really cool…according to Curbed LA it can be yours for only $799,000.

Gordon B. Kaufman / Frederick Weisman Residence (1929, Gordon B. Kaufman)
265 North Carolwood Drive with free-standing Gallery addition (1999, Frank D. Israel)

The Weismann Foundation is housed in a beautiful Spanish style residence that was originally built by Gordon B. Kaufman as his personal residence. Weismann, it is said, preferred the style because these buildings had lots of wall space to install his art collection. The collection is spectacular, and so is the house and Gallery addition. Kaufman did several houses on Carolwood Drive, one of the city’s most beautiful streets…

We ended up at the Brazilian style restaurant Bossa Nova in WEHO for lunch. This place has been upgraded since we first started coming here, and has become very popular. No discernable Brazilians present, and the only celeb-siting was Jett from the Bravo series “Flipping Out.” He was no doubt taking lunch home to Lewis’ current west Knoll home….I had wanted to try out Lisa Vanderpump’s (Real Housewife of BH) Sur Restaurant down the block but they don’t serve lunch….we’ll go for dinner one of these days.

Our new friends Greg & Rob invited us for dinner Monday evening at their place. They have a beautifully done condo in one of those great Spanish style 1920s Apartment Buildings on Rossmore. They were so gracious, smart and urbane, it was like being back in San Francisco. In fact, that neighborhood really captures that period in LA for me more than any other. Loved it…..

TUESDAY August 9, 2011

By Tuesday, we were beginning to miss the puppies, so decided to wrap up our visit by returning to another old haunt, the Venice Boardwalk. My guess is that Abbott Kinney (the original developer) would be somewhat disappointed. In spite of the substantial physical improvements in the form of new structures placed around the area, and incurring substantial expenses in the process, the area remains more down-market than ever. Just spending the money won’t necessarily improve an area, unless you identify the problems you’re trying to solve. According to Christopher Reynolds in the LA Times: “Venice lies just south of Santa Monica and left of the American mainstream - artsy, edgy, defiant and occasionally downright dissolute.” Still, the Bookstore Café was as busy as ever….

Our final stop before returning home was the Skirball Museum (2010-2012, Moshe Safdie) which is just up the road from The Getty. The building was a big surprise to me…I didn’t know Safdie had done any West Coast work. It's really quite spectacular….