Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Today We Talk Buildings

Lovell House, 2009

When I travel I try to see buildings that are interesting. Like a lot of guys, I once dreamed of being an architect. But I didn’t prepare myself adequately for that career and was rejected by the only architecture school to which I applied. That’s probably a good thing for mankind. To this day I can envision abstract 3-dimensional spaces, but I can’t build so much as a fence without getting the measurements screwed up somewhere along the way.

During a recent trip to Los Angeles, I had time for a drive-by of the Disney Concert Hall, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels and the LA Unified School District’s dazzling new High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, the latter all the more exciting because it shows what can be done even within strict school system budget and functionality requirements. All three of these projects can be seen in this photograph.

I saved most of my time, though, for a few of LA’s older treasures, specifically three residences designed, respectively, by Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra and Wright protégé R. M. Schindler. Only one, the Schindler House, is open for tours. Wright’s Storer House and Neutra’s Lovell House are private homes and visible only from the street.

Schindler’s King’s Road residence is shockingly severe with its slanted concrete walls, particle board screens and low ceilings. Nearly ninety years old, it also looks like a stiff wind would knock it over. But in its own way, its human scale and innovative use of natural light make it a a thrilling structure, one that took me immediately back to my days of architectural longing.

R.M. Schindler House, 2009

Neutra’s Lovell House, is the most structurally thrilling, and arguably the sexiest of the three residences I visited. Built into a steep Hollywood hillside, it combines Neutra’s love of nature, technology—it was the first steel frame residence built in the United States—and modern cubist design. It’s an amazing design for something built in 1929.

Storer House, 2009

Wright’s Storer House is perhaps the most disappointing of the three residences because it, like the Schindler House, shows the most ravages of time. It underwent a painstaking restoration during the 1990s, but remains a small and somewhat difficult property. An architect who was also standing in the street taking pictures of the Storer House when I was there told me that Wright’s California residences have not held up well over the years because he used substandard grades of concrete and stone to mitigate cost overruns incurred during their construction.

We should all look so good when we're nearly 90 years old!

1 comment:

  1. Amazing--I always hear things like this about Wright's homes. They each sound cool, though--I love lots of light in a home, that's for sure. You may not be an architect, but you take great photos of buildings!