Monday, January 11, 2010

Looking Up

Griffith Observatory, 2009

You can learn a lot by just looking up.

Pretty obvious, huh? But a lot of people miss a lot when they walk along and don't look up. They miss a whole dimension of architectural detail, for example, not to mention trees and sky.

While looking for the Lovell House during my recent trip to Los Angeles, I found myself so close to the Griffith Observatory that I felt I had no choice but to go see it. (You can read more about the Observatory and its history here.)

I can't claim to be an expert on observatories. To be honest, I've only been to one other one. Still, the Griffith Observatory looks like a palace of science that could have only been built in Los Angeles. It's undeniably institutional, but where else would someone build an observatory that looks like a magnificent Deco-style white wedding cake with friezes banding its upper reaches and graceful arches circling its central dome?

The Observatory sits on a narrow plateau about 1,100 feet above the Los Angeles Basin. That may not seem high for those who live in mountainous states. But for LA that's high. From the Observatory's terraces you can see from downtown all the way out to Santa Monica. For someone like me who lives in a flat coastal region, to stand in a place like this and see a view like this in exhilarating (notwithstanding the smog).

There weren't many people at the Observatory when I arrived because tours had not yet begun for the day. I had time to walk around and take pictures undisturbed until a bus load of teenagers participating in the City Year program arrived. By the time I left, the lawn and terraces were full of families, teens gathered around the James Dean sculpture (the Observatory was featured in Rebel Without a Cause) and City Year kids in bright yellow jackets that made the lawn look like a spread of fall leaves.

1 comment:

  1. I'll have to try to see that sometime when I'm there if I can--looks beautiful in this photo! That was how I felt when I was at the Getty museum looking out over the hills to the city. I was so lucky that there wasn't smog that day and it was actually clear.