Saturday, January 21, 2006

In Other News II

A landfill full of splintered spindlework. Endless acres of white oak and Douglas Fir torn asunder, the bulldozer demolishing uncountable Queen Annes and Eastlakes, its unquenchable hunger for turreted towers and gabled gothic left unchecked. Midcentury Los Angeles was hot for Bunker Hill and Orange Grove Avenue and the very street you live on. The widows walk no more.

That was then, and this is now, and now, now we lose postwar LA. There’s a fight for Lincoln Place, there’ll be a fight for the Fabulous Forum, and we’ll have to shove long spiked poles into the graves of Millard Sheets and Welton Becket and Stiles Clements to cease their ceaseless spinning. Bit by bit, structure by structure, it goes. I’ve gone on about this before.

In any event, here are some simple, quiet buildings, wonderful examples of their type which, unlike press-grabbers like the Ambassador, will disappear unnoticed. They’re a lot like the ones in your neighborhood, you know, which, I might add, are probably just as threatened. Soak up old LA while you can.

Ulrich Plaut, 1949:

Architect unknown, 1959:

For the record, I lifted this info and these images from here.

Gary Schaffel hasn’t taken his Albers St. plans to the planning department yet, but he has informally cued his tenants to the impending evict & demolish scene. (Schaffel is the guy taking out the 1950 Stevens Nursery [Laurel Canyon & Riverside]. Turning that into 96 condominiums, via four-story blocks of stucco.)

We hear all about the need for affordable housing, yet Albers Street is another instance of a property owner demolishing (these are rent-controlled) in order to do away with such nuisances. The next time you hear some politico speak on the forthcoming affordable housing mandate, ask them why they don’t maintain the affordable housing they already have?

Should the Valley’s residents had an opinion on the matter—say, they preferred a bit of green space, or "neighborhood" sized buildings that contribute to a livable environment, over an endless chain of forty-foot stucco mountains—they could let the developers of the world know that it'd be appreciated if they stopped trawling around the 'hood.


Peter McFerrin said...

I'm surprised you wouldn't put "La Bahia" in the category of "dingbat box."

Also, will you be sad to see the Sports Arena go? Its days are clearly numbered now that the Galen Center is almost finished.

Nathan said...

I dig the Sports Arena, but then, I dig anything 1959. Another reason why I love the Bahia.

The Bahia is pretty close to dingbatitude. It's dingbat box adjacent. I picture dingbats as most often raised on stilts (with parking underneath) and convey their dingbatism less with fanciful script than with asterisks and whatnot. But for the sake of the argument, it's a dingbat, and dingbats should be looked after. They're losing their atomic starbursts and swag lamps all the time.

I've never been in the Sports Arena but I like driving past it.

It is threatened, yes. Again with Becket spinning in his grave.....

Peter McFerrin said...

I live in Palms, so Dingbatus boxia is an enormously common species in my neck of the woods. There's a high-quality specimen on the corner of Palms Boulevard and (I think) Jasmine Avenue, with a working clock on the facade.

Still, I can't say I wouldn't mind seeing all but a few of them go. I have several friends living in classic-period dingbats and most of them are very shoddily designed and built. One would think that apartments in Los Angeles would be designed with cross-ventilation in mind, but this is decidedly not the case. My 1BR in a 1952 single-story fourplex, no prize itself, is a Case Study next to your average dingbat 1BR.

Nathan said...

I see what you’re saying. I’ve lived in a collection of apartment buildings in LA, but all prewar, you know, the courtyard complexes with Doric pilasters and broken pediments and such. The 1940 Lyman Garden Apartments, for example, provided me some sturdy, secure living. So yeah, the times I’ve been in the odd postwar dingbat I’ve noted how cheap they can be. I imagine even the difference between the Stevenson and the Bahia—interior appointments, soundproofing, etc.—is duly evident.

But the dingbat should be preserved. Mostly because no one else would mind seeing them go, either, and with this city so worked up about increasing density, granting endless zoning variances, and so forth, they’re gonna go. They may not be the most comfortable accommodation in the world, but I can’t believe they are any worse than anything else built in the last 40 years. I’ve seen some structures thrown up in the 80s that’re barely inhabitable. (Of course, even Lummis’ El Alisal is supposed to be pretty damn uncomfortable too.)

Naturally, my ruling interest is aesthetic. Dingbats just have that dingbat thing going on: they make me smile. In a perfect world, I’d have seriously deep pockets and I’d buy that dingy on Palms & Jasmine and revamp it to the nth degree, beefing it up while fitting it with amazing period detail…ah, so many dreams…