The Princes Of Kings Road
I could make the case that it should be Frank Lloyd Wright in this space and that Chicago deserves (some of) the credit, but I believe that Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler influenced this city but were also influenced by Los Angeles, softening their Modernism which arguably spread along the whole of the Westcoast – softening further.
Modernism was interested in building a better society, newcomers to Los Angeles were looking (dreaming?) to build a better life.
Whether these two actually brought Modernism to Los Angeles, or if it was New York’s Madison Avenue agencies, who had persuaded their clients to
A couple of Cranbrook graduates called Eames moved into a Neutra house when they first arrived in Los Angeles, one has to believe that influenced somewhat.
Modernism gave way to – ultimately post-modernism – via Lautner, Googie which begat Gehry. But its visual cues live on in the number of the typically Angeleno small furniture designers who continue to successfully produce furniture in – at the very least – the visual style of this era, such as Phase, Brendan Ravenhill, or Matt
Set And The City
This is a very recent Advertisement for Stella Artois. It is obviously based on the opening sequence of Sex And The City, the quintessential New York television show. It was, however, not shot in New York. I know this the same way I know that it is recent (filming took place on January 3rd) – because I can see my apartment building in the background.
Los Angeles often fills in for other cities, CSI Miami is known as CSI Long Beach, a piece of dry ice turns LA into New York with it’s leaking steampipes. This has been happening since the beginning of the movie industry. Rice terraces in China were constructed in the San Fernando Valley, W.D. Griffith’s Intolerance Babylon set on a lot on Sunset Boulevard. And these sets were there for a long time seeping into the public’s consciousness.
When the Samson Tire Company built their giant factory it was built in the style of a Sumerian/Babylonian fortress. It is now an outlet mall called the citadel. When the new China town was built, it featured buildings taken from sets depicting China. Even Olivera Street is a replica of the original.
Set designers out of work or on hiatus were employed as designers. And as Imagineers (a term coined by Walt Disney) they – almost naturally – designed different worlds, which is perhaps part of the reason we still have a fairly thriving Tiki-Bar scene.
Disneyland is the acme of this transportation to a different place for entertainment, but
Los Angeles is so good at playing other locations that it perhaps never developed its own identity, The fake is authentic.
The filmmaker and critic, Thom Anderson
But perhaps more importantly, the entertainment industry and Los Angeles attract dreamers. It is a meritocracy to an extent, it is progressive, it is laid back, and there is/was space. It attracts a certain kind of person. Be it filmmakers or Abbot Kinney decided to turn a swamp into the Coney Island of the West
Howard Hughes, known now for his later eccentric years and the failed ‘Spruce Goose’ initially came to Los Angeles as a maverick film tycoon.
Is It A Bird? Is It a Plane? – It’s definitely a Plane.
While the first Superman movie was being filmed on a backlot – or shot, it was the aerospace industry that was creating an economic boom in Los Angeles. Starting before the second world war, due to a combination of factors (lobbying, CalTech, climate, workforce, venture capital), and accelerating during and after the Second World War, by the 1980s the Southern California Aerospace industry employed one out of every ten aerospace workers in the whole of the United States. Los Angeles quadrupled its population from 1920-1960, leading to its infamous sprawl and the often quoted, 72 suburbs in search of a city. (The Hollywood sign was after all an advert for Real Estate.) All these people and all this money also dovetails with the Planned Obsolescence approach of the 50s, and where there is product to be sold there is advertising and there is design. Not unique to Southern California, but without consumerism and its visual language, we might not have had e.g. Warhol and Corita Kent’s outputs.
Kustom Car culture was influenced by both the aerospace visuals as well as servicemen leaving for or returning from World War Two, who mechanically trained and seeing airplane parts and wrecking yards next to car parts started customising their Kustom cars in this aesthetic. The impact of the aerospace industry can also be seen in the Detroit cars rolling off the production line such as the P-38 Lightning’s design directly inspiring the tail fins of the 1948 Cadillac.
According to historian Peter Neushul, “There are lots of other beach areas where surfing hasn’t taken off as much as it did in Southern California, aerospace is integral to all of that. Where you’re living. Your access to the beach. The technology you take to the beach. Everything.” Interestingly, also technological developments in the building of the DeHavilland Mosquito which gave us fiberglass and resin for lighter boards. The aerospace promoted Surf culture, which certainly influenced skate and snowboarding cultures – lifestyles that remain strong influences on design and fashion to this day. Ultimately, this surf-culture will lead us to former professional surfer David Carson and Ray-Gun.
Interestingly, the educational institutions of Silicon Beach are housed in former Aerospace buildings, Loyola Marymount University in some of the old Hughes Helicopter building, and Otis College in Elliot Noyes’s IBM Aerospace Headquarters building, with its facade mimicking computer punchcards. Google is moving into Howard Hughes old hangars, the old building of the aerospace boom are now housing the most recent boom.
With the sprawl and the decline of public transportation in favour of the private automobile, Los Angeles became – according to Jonathan Gold – the anti-melting pot, which might be bad for public life, but good for food (i.e. culture). It also means that businesses have to speak to potential consumers moving much faster than walking speeds, which had an influence on its architecture, be it the Dingbat with its carports (also influenced by R. Schindler), the strip mall, the large big-box supermarkets , the vast amount of parking lots, or the single-story commercial buildings that – due to the decentralised nature of the city now used large protruding elements to catch the attention of passing motorists. An architecture of communication.
Which leads us to…
Douglas Haskell & Julius Shulman Drive Around Los Angeles
When arriving in Los Angeles via LAX, one of the first iconic buildings you will see is the Theme Building – a name few Angelenos know, but a building all Angelenos
It has its roots in the Streamline Moderne style of the 1930s but is influenced by the technologies and spirit of the post-war period. The prosperous 1950s, however, celebrated their affluence with optimistic designs. The development of nuclear power and the reality of spaceflight captivated the public’s imagination of the future. (Hess 2004, p. 46–47). Googie represented this through tailfins on buildings, boomerang shapes cantilevered structures and sloping roofs. It soon fell out of fashion or was smoothed out, a too loud, too gauche style. And many of the structures were razed, however, it lives on in the Dingbats, named after the frequent use of ornamentation on the front, in Las Vegas, in spirit if nothing else, and perhaps more importantly, Frank Gehry has said that as a student, he ‘considered Lautner to be a god.’
The architect Frank Escher sees Lautner as ‘‘the missing link between the classic Modernism of the Case Study Houses and the work we now associate with Los Angeles – the more expressive, more sculptural forms.’
Botoxed Faces, Silicon Beach
I looked at this house multiple times a day for 12 years. My apartment was directly across from it. It was initially an event space then Snapchat moved in. I watched the parties, the comings and goings, the Snapchat employees having water fights on the roof, and I also watched as the rents starting rising. Snapchat, Google and the general development of Silicon Beach as well as Airbnb rentals all led to my move out of Venice. But gentrification is a topic for another time.
The term Silicon Valley was popularised in the early 1970s to describe the Santa Clara Valley in Northern California and was named for the large number of Silicon chip manufacturers in the area. It grew somewhat organically around Stanford University. Silicon Beach is named for the NorCal valley, but the Beach arguably stretches over 10 miles into downtown and all the way to Hawthorne in the South Bay.
Most of the companies are headquartered elsewhere and maintain offices on the Westside of Los Angeles. Hulu, Netflix, Snap, Inc, and Google all have a strong presence in the city and with them come the service industries, like cleaner fish feeding on a whale. They attract talent, money and foster spin-offs, innovation and incubators, as well as an entrepreneurial spirit among young designers and graduates.
Elon Musks Space-X is both part of Silicon Beach and the Aerospace sector, The Honest