Monday, February 28, 2005

hot property - best. line. ever.

I wont complain this week about hot property's banal coverage of celebrity real estate transactions and their questionable definition of celebrity. no - this week they covered richard dreyfuss' sale of his sherman oaks house. the description is pretty standard celebrity fare - 5 bedrooms, pool, veranda, granite counters, etc. but what makes the house truly unique, and to date my favorite hot property column, is this line:
Harrison Ford, known for his carpentry skills before he became a movie star, built a separate building now being used as a gym.

um, I'll take it.

architecture, museums and spectacle

a few days ago, Art News Online's stephen litt wrote about the "new serenity" in museum construction - a reaction to the spectacle of frank gehry's guggenheim museum in bilbao. the article claims that museums are no longer seeking the "bilbao effect," looking instead to build museums that dont compete with the art they house, but rather, complement it.

the most obvious example is the whitney museum in ny and lacma - both commissioned large scale projects to rem koolhaas and both then rescinded in favor of much more modest proposals by renzo piano.

Koolhaas' OMA's proposal for lacma

Litt provides a comprehensive overview of museum construction today and in the recent past. he also provides some of the numbers - the cost to build, the debt incurred, the scope of these projects.

unfortunately, I think the most salient point to his argument is buried halfway thru:

“Bilbao was an aberration,” says Kathy Halbreich, director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, which will inaugurate its own expansion and renovation on the 17th of next month. “The aberration was that there’s only one Bilbao, in part because of Gehry’s architecture. It’s a place of pilgrimage, and I don’t think places of pilgrimage can ultimately be sustained. Pilgrims don’t sustain communities—local audiences sustain communities. And it’s the programs that are the heart and soul of any building.” Halbreich describes the Walker’s expansion—a $67.5 million project designed by the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, renovation architects of the Tate Modern in London, as well as its recently announced, upcoming expansion—as “enormously mission-centered,” not an architectural gesture for its own sake. [emphasis mine]

most of the reports on the museum cite it as a success - it transformed a backwater, industrial spanish town in a cultural mecca. and cities from Guadalajara to Glasgow are looking to replicate that success. but there have been others that have questions the economic revitalization and its subsequent multiplying effects that the museum brought - who benefitted and who did not, what sacrifices were made in terms of social and cultural services, how sustainable the success is. litt hints at these issues here - he doesn't delve into them (it seems only academics are looking at those issues right now).

the overwhelming consensus among city planners seems to be that architecture is a potential avenue of recovery for cities in decline or potential decline. (sidenote: gehry's museum is just one piece in a municipally sponsored project, which also includes an airport and bridge by Santiago Calatrava, a subway system designed by Norman Foster and a high-rise development still under construction by Arata Isozaki.)

not long ago the nytimes, in talking about these types of projects, stated: “The goal: to change the city’s identity through architecture”.

as often happens in western culture, the pendulum swings back and forth. the extravagant, baroque, iconic architecture of gehry is supplanted by the more orthodox modernism of piano, herzog & de meuron, meier and others. at least according to litt. it seems doubtful to me at least that gehry, libeskind and their disciples will fall out of favor.

architecture is a strange visual discipline - it differs from painting and sculpture in a very fundamental way - to be considered a success today is must be avant-garde. no other visual discipline can claim that - the very definition of avant-garde implies that the cultural product is so radical, so original only a few 'get it.' For architects today, the measure of success is not whether their buildings have fulfilled certain functional, physical requirements. Success is measured by how great an impression the building makes: on critics, tourists, the public who must live or work or socialize in its environs.

Unlike most art, for a building to be considered a popular success it must embrace the avant-garde, defy the logics of engineering limits, display design bravado previously unseen and thrill viewers and critics alike with undulating walls and roofs. As with other forms of avant-garde cultural production, what is unique, new or “strange” is quickly absorbed by the cultural mainstream (or else suffer a fate of total marginalization). gehry’s buildings were quickly embraced not only by the public and critics but by another important constituency: advertisers. His buildings, almost as soon as they opened, served as the backdrop to several television commercials, playing a bourdieusian game of cultural literacy. (I'm not sure bourdieusian is a word, but I used it often in my two years of graduate school).

thus there is need for the gehrys and libeskinds to continue. its easy to view the 'new serenity' as the reactionary pablum of museum directors under increased pressue to practice fiscal orthodoxy. or to throw up our hands at the futility of trying to make sweeping statements about the popularity of a particular aesthetic style in a culture where essentially anything goes. clearly there is a need for both - the baroque popularity of a gehry and the understated beauty of a piano.

and in another tangent, I bought Great Leap Forward / Harvard Design School Project on the City 1 at the taschen store today for another 10 bucks. this goes nicely on my bookshelf with The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping / Harvard Design School Project on the City 2 that I bought a few weeks ago. I have a lot of reading to do in the next few weeks.

keywords that brought you here

taking a page from superfluous juxtaposition, here are some of the keywords that brought people here:
  • somerville gates edie (or a variation thereof)
  • marissa
  • fishbowl la
  • lacma tut
  • terra firma transportation
  • view westin bonaventura
  • terra firma for realtors
  • melrose bleeding zebra

clearly I need to stop posting about the gates (done) and start using better keywords.

at least we have discerning thieves

entertaining article in the new york times on burglaries in beverly hills, bel air and the hollywood hills. not exactly news - its been covered in local media as well as vanity fair recently. but its always fun to read about how the burglers leave behind the cheap stuff and run off with the good jewelry, good wine and expensive shoes. yes, shoes. these are my kind of thieves.

ingredients for a good birthday

  • cute boy
not pictured:
  • other friends
  • empty cans of PBR
  • brocade couch
  • lamps shaped like wild life
  • smoking patio
  • killer heels

quick update

haven't been able to post the last few days while I entertain a friend from ny. when I do get back to posting, I will hopefully write up the eric owen moss lecture I attended at sci-arc last wed. and a big thank you to all my friends who celebrated another birthday with me this weekend. my friends and family know me well - I received a book about sprawl from john, books on food from elenia and matteo, a book about food and art from my sisters, a LA times sub from kate. my library - seriously depleted after moving from new york to london to LA is starting to bulk up again. thanks to everyone who helped make this another great birthday.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

salvaging for fun and (non)profit

a friend of mine in nyc has just opened a non-profit store for salvaged materials. here is his announcement letter:

NYC throws away 13,500tons of building materials every day. Only around 40% of that is recycled. That is a lot of garbage leftover and many of the materials are perfectly good. Like things from doors, sinks, hardwoodfloors, lights and wood. Additionally manufacturers and building materialsstores often have surplus that they may end up tossing due to the insane rents of NYC like paint and custom cabinets.

And that is where we come in. We are setting up a sort of goodwill for building materials. Folks can donate their unwanted stuff and we will sell it to raise money to continue our program and fund other programs like environmental education at a park on the East River.

  • in the market for building materials (we just got a shipment of brand newAnderson windows that are going to be snatched up if you know anyone redoing their cabin in the catskills.- can donate good building materials
  • or can help publicize the store. Check out our rudimentary website for directions and moreinfo. We are sort of close to Bohemian Beer Garden so you can celebrate your purchases more easily.

if you happen to be on the other side of the country, check out his store and support a very worthy cause.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

going up

LA downtown news is chock full of real estate and development stories. First, the grand avenue project's ambitious plans for residential high-rises to create a sense of density similar to New York and Chicago (apparently, they haven't heeded eric owen moss' advice for LA to find its own meaning for downtown and avoid replicating other cities).

also covered - the uphill struggle city planners, BID executives and community leaders face in attracting retail to the neighborhood. even with deep financial incentives to lure retailers like Ralph's supermarket, its a hard sell, requiring education on the demographics, income and buying power of the neighborhood. most resistant to downtown? trader joe's.

cedd moses, who owns the golden gopher, discusses the success he's found downtown:

Moses said he expected the club to struggle for at least a year. Instead, in three months profits came in at 50% above initial projections. Now the company is set to open its second venture this April, an 8,000-square-foot bar at the restored Orpheum Theater. Moses also opened a delivery service this month that provides liquor, cigarettes and other items to Downtown residents and hotel guests from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.

so downtown residents will have to wait for their trader joe's maple pecan cluster cereal, but they can get their vodka and smokes delivered at 2am. actually, that sounds JUST like new york.

The two proposed 30-story towers around the Pacific Exchange building in City West exemplify the likely future development of Downtown, where high-rises are once again in favor. Rendering courtesy of Golden Hill Properties. from LA Downtown News.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

piano exhibition at lacma

opening march 13th at lacma - Renzo Piano & Building Workshop: Selected Projects. lacma, gearing up for their expansion by piano, pulls a guggenheim - mounting a (self-congratulatory?) exhibition of their selected architect. let's hope its better than the gehry retrospective the guggenheim hosted a few months before 9/11.

"making nowhere somewhere"

LA Downtown News interviews eric owen moss about sci-arc, his own practice, and the future of downtown los angeles.

while he cagily evades questions about plans for the lot next to sci-arc's building, he is much stronger when discussing LA's architectural future. he articulates LA's divided psyche pretty well- the optimisim and creativity of a young city, and the self-doubt and inferiority complex it holds to cities like new york. how does that affect architecture? he argues that LA needs to find its own meaning for projects like Grand Ave rather than try to emulate the designs of New York, Paris or Barcelona. it is ultimately a very optimistic interview:

"It's interesting how L.A. has absolutely the capacity to make nowhere somewhere. It has the energy, the imagination, and we ought to let L.A. run with that as a public policy."

have an opinion of your own on the plans for Grand Ave? attend the public hearing on the grand ave project today. and eric owen moss will be delivering a lecture on the topic tomorrow at sci-arc.

Monday, February 21, 2005

has prince charles been hanging out in LA?

prince charles, never a fan of modern architecture, addressed a conference of physicians about the dangers of "car-focused cities." apparently, the US isn't the only country dealing with increasing rates of obesity, asthma, and heart disease. ok, makes sense - I'm with you chuck. until he starts to rail against "iconic architecture."

one of the most controversial projects in london's recent history is sir norman foster's 'erotic gherkin.' finished less than 1 year ago, it is the very definition of 'iconic architecture' - in the best sense of the word. there has been a great deal written about its environmentally-friendly design. it has also won england's top architecture prize. it was a controversial plan - many thought it would conflict with historical buildings surrounding it. they had to raze a historically significant building to construct it (already damaged in a 1992 IRA bombing). although, as london all points out, St. Paul's Catherdral was equally controversial in its day.

despite these concerns, what london received is a building that is distinct, beautiful, and has people who couldn't care less about architecture gawking. personally, I think london has done an exemplary job of integrating modern architecture into its skyline (see city hall - another foster - and its proximity to tower bridge). prince charles is certainly correct in determining that urban design affects not only the natural environment but our health as well. but he is doing a great disservice to his country and to architecture in railing against the types of buildings that help to keep its cities vital and vibrant.

thank god we have the nytimes to tell us what's cool

I think the new york times writes more about LA than any other city other than, uh, new york. case in point - yesterday's semi-annual style magazine proclaims hip hop yoga, stripper props and's blogs all the rage in our fair city. oh, and apparently there is a shortage of human hair to hide facelift scars.

I'm not sure this list will do much to dispel the stereotypes, and by the time a "trend" is written about in the nytimes, its usually already over. this weekend, they covered the new restaurant row in brooklyn's park slope on fifth ave. its been a foodie destination for at least a year or two now - kudos to the times for finally finding the F train.

Jonathan Fickies for The New York Times

on the other hand, they also wrote about my friend's coffee shop, and any they say. the pic on the nytimes' web site is of her shop. if you're ever in brooklyn, stop in for a cup.

house porn

neutras, lautners, frank lloyd wrights- all for sale in southern california. do a search thru the web site architecture for sale - its an architecture junkies' wet dream. [link via a daily dose of architecture].

p.s. I am now accepting donations towards buying this house.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

architecture and skateboarders

Photo: Olivier Théreaux

in the grand tradition of pairing two seemingly unrelated topics, this article from canada's The Dominion critiques an art exhibit currently on tour in Canada: Godzilla vs. Skateboarders. while they find the aesthetics leaves a lot to be desired, they think the theory is solid - recasting the uneasy relationship between skateboarders, architects, and nervous city planners. they sum up the exhibition:

The show offers many potential avenues of exploration for architects and city planners. From public housing with integrated skater-friendly half-pipes to art that "subverts the cliches of a formalist organic 'modern' sculpture," the overarching suggestion is that the relegation of skateboarders to skate parks and their marginalization by bylaw is a suppression of a potent critique and a source of linguistic, artistic, and architectural vitality. Quite simply,the show asserts that cities are choosing to reject skateboarders when they have the opportunity to learn from them.

with southern california's strong skateboarder culture and emphasis on progressive architecture, its easy to imagine it would find an audience here. no mention is made of whether the exhibit has any plans to travel outside canada.

hot property - slow but steady improvement

ok, so Hot Property still isn't giving us A-list celebrity real estate (what ARE brad and jen doing with all those houses?) but its making some steady improvements in terms of how it defines "celebrity." while only 1 out of 5 may arguably be a household name, at least 3 out of 5 are working actors. and its comforting to know they're following the rules. After Reese from malcolm in the middle bought his starter home in the hills, he's now buying his vacation home in malibu. And the guy who plays the plumber in Desperate Housewives, proving the only industries where women make more than men are modeling, prostitution and acting in hit network television shows about bored women, couldn't beat the $1.2 million house in the hills that eva longoria bought 2 weeks ago. instead, he's buying an $800,000 home in glendale. apparently these days that doesnt even buy you a pool. and jackie chan, we hardly knew ye. we hope you come back to LA soon.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

virtual subway tour

this is very very cool. in case my photos just didnt satisfy your subway curiosity. requires quicktime.

the nytimes actually has a sense of humor

the newspaper covers the Somerville Gates and provides a critique:

The Fridge Gates have an airy feel while the Feeding Gates have a finality to them, dead-ending at a blue bowl and a hungry cat. The Table Gates passage is ominous, with dark table and chair legs dwarfing the little orange structures.

For pure beauty and rhythm, you can't beat the Stairway Gates. But the Media Gates are the most suspenseful and loaded with meaning. At the tip of a V-shaped arrangement of orange gates sits a television screen. On the screen is a baleful looking dog. (He was one of the contestants in the Westminster dog show.) You can see Edie the cat looking over the gates and staring down the dog. The situation cries out for a mouse to run the gates' gantlet.

well played, new york times, well played.

sustainability and modern design

merge in this years dwell magazine's "making modern greeen" competition for a single-family home in Los Angeles (or more specifically Topanga Canyon). Emily Gertz sums up Escher GuneWardena's winning design and its enviro-friendly features. Link via archinect.

Friday, February 18, 2005

90210 vs. the OC

last night was the OC. tomorrow I'm going to see edward albee's play The Goat about an architect whose life is falling apart. who's starring in it? the one and only james eckhouse, aka jim walsh of 90210 fame. in honor of those two, I present espn's comparison of the two. read the entire article (its near the bottom of the page) but here are some highlights:

Premise: "90210" revolved around two twins from Minnesota moving to Beverly Hills and dealing with rich people. "The OC" had a troubled kid from Encino moving to Orange County and dealing with rich people. The lesson, as always: You're probably going to have a hit show if an outsider is dealing with rich people. "The OC" pilot was better -- actually, it was probably the best episode in the history of the show -- but "90210" gets points for originality. Too tough to call. EDGE: EVEN.

Breakout Sidekick: I'm already on record as saying that the guy who plays Seth (Adam Brody) has the best chance of anyone to become the next Tom Hanks ... and yet, I'm not sure Seth could carry his own show. He's a little too manic. Dylan McKay? He could have carried his own show. And then some. I'm just saying. EDGE: 90210.

Wet Blanket Character: This boils down to Andrea (90210) against Caleb (OC), which is ironic because they're both the same age (bah-dum-cha!). But at least Caleb serves some sick, twisted purpose -- he's a villain, just a bad one. Andrea murdered entire episodes at a time -- she was like a cross between Adrian Balboa and Ted Bundy. EDGE: The OC.

Theme Song: I can't believe I'm saying this, but ... EDGE: The OC.

Gratuitous use of half-siblings and step-siblings: It took a few years for "90210" to master this one, whereas "The OC" jumped right in -- at this point, Seth is related to everyone on the show except for the gardener. EDGE: The OC.

Glaring and embarrassing exclusion of any African-American characters: At least "90210" had a black manager at the Summer Club, or the episode when Brandon butted heads with Vivica A. Fox, or the one where Brandon nearly exposed the rule-bending on the hoops team. I'm not sure I've even SEEN a black person on "The OC." Has it happened? Did I miss it? WORST OFFENDER: The OC.

Inexplicable homoerotic overtones: When Brandon and Dylan grew matching sideburns and started calling each other "B" and "D," you would have thought they were a lock for this category. But between Seth and Ryan's "Single White Female"-like friendship and Marissa's new relationship, this isn't even close. GIANT EDGE: The OC.

Cultural Impact: Brandon and Dylan started the sideburns trend back in 1991, leading to my ill-fated attempt to grow them during my senior year in college. I'd rather not discuss this again. Ever. But "The OC" never inspired me to do anything. Not even throw up in my mouth. EDGE: 90210.

entire comparison by bill simmons, sport's guys world, espn.

those crazy canadians

for some reason, they believe a museum that serves as a war memorial should be "modest" and "reflective." clearly america and canada are vastly different cultures, eh?

new urbanism and diversity

A few days ago USA Today covered the phenomenon termed "latino new urbanism." Focusing on the large latino population of southern california, the article examines the efforts taking place in Santa Ana, San Diego and San fernando to create thriving neighborhoods and communities. While the article reinforces some popular stereotypes - "Latino cultural preferences for compact neighborhoods, large public places and a sense of community" - it also acknowledges that families moving up the economic ladder tend to surrender to the American Dream - the one-family house removed from public transportation, commerce and employment.

however, planners argue that if cities and urban planners didn't ignore this segment of the population, and built to accomodate their preferences, the "flight" into suburbia may be stemmed. henry cisneros, the former secretary of HUD, is quoted as a proponent of the movement:

Cisneros advocates designs that fit the needs of Hispanic families — from big kitchens with gas stoves for grilling tortillas to courtyards for social gatherings, multiple bedrooms for large and extended families, and driveways that accommodate numerous cars.

So far, new urbanism has chiefly targeted white and higher-income populations in suburbs, he says.

"I think Latinos can be the ideal audience for a new urbanist conversation," Cisneros says.

while the latino population has largely been ignored in the new urbanism debate until recently, the sheer force of numbers may force the issue. according to the article, latinos are the largest minority in the US and will become the majority by 2040. In california in particular, the state expects to grow by 21 million people from 2000 to 2050, 18 million of them latino. the growth in population will obviously increase the strain on california's resources - water, land, highways, etc. perhaps looking at the models santa ana, san diego and san fernando are developing can help address some of these issues, as well as stanch the white flight reversal New (SUB)urbanist has discussed.

and the parodies begin...

very cute. thanks to caron for the link.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


today is jammed packed with art. went to the visual music show at the moca this morning. I've heard it referred to as the "stoner show" which is a pretty apt description. aram (and simon) enjoyed it more than me. but we all enjoyed lunch in little tokyo at mr. ramen. tonight I'm going to the opening of a photography show to see my friend John's work. if you can, stop by over the next few weeks:

The Advocate Gallery
1125 N. McCadden Place
Los Angeles, Ca. 90038

but so I dont veer too far from my stated intention of discussing LA architecture, real estate and urbanism, here are a few articles for you to enjoy:

now I'm late.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

a quick quote

yesterday I went to hear the always interesting, always entertaining Bob McChesney and David Bollier speak at USC. (sidenote: McChesney bears an uncanny resemblence to Fred Dryer of Hunter fame). the lecture was about the danger of media consolidation (bob's lecture) and the egregious use of intellectual property law to protect corporate assets and diminish the public domain (david's lecture).

I might post more on that when I'm able to digest it but one thing struck me as particularly interesting - bob's lecture (involving an extended metaphor comparing today's global media corporations to Don Corleone and Hyman Roth) while impassioned and insightful, neglected to discuss the Internet. it struck me as a glaring omission - how can you talk about media responsibility, accountability and asymmetric power structures and not talk about digital technologies, the internet and bloggers?

the new york times this week all but called bloggers bloodthirsty lynch mobs. the cable news networks can't stop talking about the impact of blogs on, um, cable news. tonight's daily show used the controversy to expose the lack of objective reporting from mainstream media outlets. alternative news, soapbox preaching, histrionic handwringing - none of this is new but the Internet does provide a potent platform that (I still believe) offers the opportunity the shift in a small way that asymmetry. yes, blogging follows a power law distribution. very few will ever read this. the potential for misuse is high (as we saw in the CNN case). but I still remain hopeful.

also, the reason I started to write this post was to quote bob. there is a throwaway line in his book, The Problem of the Media (an analysis of media history, economics and policy in the US) that crystallized for me the importance of built environments - an obvious idea, I know, but eloquently stated:

we can regulate social behavior through four general paths: markets, laws, architecture, and cultural norms (2004: 19).

I'm not the only SoCal resident who reads

I'm just a lot less bitter about southern california. oh, and I don't spout Bloomberg/christo conspiracy theories.

this is not my dog.

this is luke. and matteo. matteo and I volunteer for a very worthy organization called PawsLA. the purpose of this organization is to provide animal care for people with terminal or disabling illnesses. They provide a variety of services free of charge, including veterinary care, pet food, grooming, transportation of animals to vet and grooming appointments and services such as dog walking and litter box cleaning.

matteo and I have been fortunate enough to be matched with luke - a sweet, happy black lab/golden retriever. one of my new years resolutions was not necessarily to volunteer more (I thought I fulfilled my community service requirement at the schindler house) but to walk more in Los Angeles. now I walk luke several times a week, exploring west hollywood at dusk. its a great neighborhood to explore on foot. beautiful homes, vibrant street life (on santa monica blvd), everything is in bloom right now and smells amazing at sunset. and LA is the most dog-friendly city I've ever lived in. restaurant owners bring out water for luke, a dry cleaners on SM leaves doggie biscuits by the door for the neighborhood pets, trader joe's sells organic, all-natural chewy chicken sticks. you'll have to excuse my wide-eyed wonder - I've never owned a dog and am still getting accustomed to the serious subculture of dog owners in this town.

we've also found (thanks to matteo) a great, almost secret park on curson and hollywood, combining the landscape architecture of Mexico, Japan, and the Mediterranean that luke likes to run around in. if you have the time, I highly encourage you to look into this organization. and luke, matteo and I will meet you at the park.

this could be useful

if it wasn't so sparsely populated. and I still haven't found a public restroom in LA that can beat the ones at the plaza hotel in new york.

urban design and obesity

one of the topics I read way too much about is the rampant obesity in america. my family has always been a little obsessed with food, nutrition and health - a combination of our jewish cultural heritage (which places a heavy emphasis on food for family gatherings, holidays, celebrations, funerals, etc) and american neurosis about body image. it makes for a complex relationship to the pleasure/guilt dichotomy associated with eating. but I never thought there was any relationship between my interest in food and my interest in design. an article this week in the seattle post intelligencer, reprinted in a listserve from the project for public spaces on kid's obesity, looks at the relationship between obesity and built environments.

with health experts recommending we get about 90 minutes of physical activity a day, and most people scratching their heads, wondering how to fit that into an already hectic lifestyle, researchers in Atlanta, Vancouver and the CDC are looking at how encouraging walkability in the built environment may help accomplish that goal. as one study found:

an important new study that shows Atlanta residents who live in the most walkable neighborhoods are 2 1/2 times more likely to be physically active than Atlantans who live in the least walkable areas. If a neighborhood even jumped one level in the study's walkability index, it translated to a 30 percent increase in people who were classified as active. The study was published in the Feb. 9 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

for many at the CDC, the hope is that rather than promoting short-term wellness initiatives, making communities more walkable - which for suburbs may mean more sidewalks, for urban areas safer streets - will lead to long-term benefits. with obesity rates in the US reaching epidemic proportions (not just for kids, but for adults as well) its clear that the CDC and other vested interests (health care, govt, education) need to think about alternatives to combat some of the ingrained lifestyle habits that lead to obesity - sedentary lifestyles, fast food, an emphasis on quantity over quality for our food. tying obesity to urban design seems to be a good start.

billboard as business card

In case you were wondering about those billboards hawking "hawgs" for NBC/ABC/anyone with a camcorder, the LA Times reveals the man behind the billboards -- 67 year old retired advertising exec Jay the Writer. clearly, only an advertising executive could come up with such a hackneyed, enormous waste of money.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Last of the Gates mentions...

it was a windy day...
photos courtesy of my sister

in the park

view from fifth ave

my sister went for a walk in central park today and sent me the 30+ picures she took. here are some of the best. and hopefully this is my last post about the gates. for a while.

(non)mobile homes

in sunday's LA Times real estate section, an interesting article on the price of mobile homes by the beach - malibu and newport beach. I wrote last week that malibu=hamptons in ny. but in this article, it resembles some of manhattan's tougher coop boards - banks loans that require 20% deposits, mobile park approvals, views determine cost. and these homes are not for the pabst-swilling, wife-beating, nascar-watching types we usually associate with mobile parks. describing one home:

Her home has two bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, an office, a great room, a slate foyer, a fireplace with a slate hearth, distressed pine floors throughout, bead-board wainscoting, a wraparound deck, ocean views and an English country garden that was tended by a woman who, Goodwin says, had "10 green thumbs."

Monday, February 14, 2005

orgasms and architecture

it has been suggested that I need to sex up this blog. but its not always easy to sex up real estate, architecture and urban design. until now. an architecture student at columbia has built a model based on an orgasm. [via a daily dose of achitecture] enjoy.

Christos' The Gates in Central Park
Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Sunday, February 13, 2005

LA Times covers the Gates

so the christo public art project finally debuted yesterday. and the LA Times (along with just about every other media outlet in the world) covers it.

most (unintentionally, I think) funny quote:

Nearby, Olfunmibi Awoshiley, a Nigerian who has lived in Harlem for two dozen years, said he liked seeing all the white people there to view the gates — even if they looked a little lost coming out of the subway in his neighborhood.

also - you too can join the christo cult. and, how cute are the christos? just adorable.

fun with frank [gehry]

sydney pollack has just finished his documentary on the work and life of frank gehry, titled "sketches of frank gehry" reports variety. translating variety-speak into english - pollack worked on the film for the past four years, its his first documentary and features interviews with Dennis Hopper, Julian Schnabel, Ed Ruscha and the recently deceased Philip Johnson. it looks like while it was a PBS co-production, Cinetic Media is looking for distribution.

hot property - slightly less disappointing than last weeks

this week's hot property is only marginally more celebrity-studded than last week's abysmal column. instead of such luminaries as danny teeson and barclay butera we get anne rice, a chick from the bangles, the chick who started Juicy Couture, and jessica biel. jessica biel's new purchase, a $2.6 million home in brentwood, might be a case of real estate level jumping - doesn't she know all WB/FOX/UPN starlets are required to buy a $1.2 million home in the hills? I guess with her jump from 7th Heaven to the blockbuster Blade: Trinity she's way past starter home stage.

fun with feng shui

The daily breeze reports on feng shui's evolution from residential to commercial usage. the first commercial enterprises to adopt feng shui building principles - hotels (such as the hilton LAX) in the los angeles area who cater to a largely Asian clientele. the article explains some of the more egregious examples of design and architecture creating bad chi -- crisscrossing elevators, doors in the shape of a lion's mouth, and, um, bad lighting.

Friday, February 11, 2005

I love a bargain

just bought The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping / Harvard Design School Project on the City 2 for 10 bucks at the taschen store on beverly. list price? $49.99. I love a sale.

p.s. is it just me, or does philippe starck's design for the taschen store leave you cold? for a company that wants to represent "democratic" book publishing, the store seems cold, intimidating, monolithic to me. particularly with the big blue block of dripping water? ice? (I dont know what it is) hanging above me.

fuzzy math

Gridskipper's data dump compares LA and NY on several key metrics:

"breakdown of population, number of bars/clubs, and Google hits for Donald Trump’s hair vs. Hugh Hefner’s hair pie."

how do we rate? NY beats LA by 4.3 million people but in terms of bars, NY only has 789 more. my math ability sucks, but doesn't that mean that on a per capita basis, LA wins the bar to people ratio by a landslide?

as for Hugh vs. the Donald, the Donald trumps Hugh (couldn't resist) 86,000 google mentions to hugh's paltry 1,720. but is that really a loss? do we really want to inundate the web with hugh's hair pie? again, I say LA wins.

Bon Appetit's Hot 50 for LA

Bon Appetit releases its Hot 50 list - and LA is representin' yo. its top picks for LA:

  • AOC
  • Table 8
  • Meson G
  • Luna Park
  • Beacon

I'm sure it will be a controversial list, particularly for its inclusion of Meson G the same week of LA Weekly's eviscerating review. For a much kinder look at the restaurant, check out LARitz's review on Jan 14th.

new lows for housing affordability

The numbers for 2004 are in - one in six can't afford a home in California:

Holding steady at a 14-year-low, 17 percent of the county's households could afford a median-priced home in December, a 6-percentage-point drop from the previous year, according to the California Association of Realtors. While the group says almost three out of four home purchases throughout the state last year were by repeat buyers who could roll the equity from a sale into another home, the fact that only one in six households could afford the median-priced home is worrisome to many in real estate.

brokers and broadcast

The real estate business has for too long suffered the indignity of being ignored by network television execs. lawyers, police, doctors, and bored housewives - for some reason they have cornered the market on network television dramas. but real estate will suffer the indignity no more. ABC is preparing a pilot about "an upscale real estate agency specializing in high-end homes on LA's Westside." no further details on the pilot but even 20 years on, it will be hard to top the pathos and drama in the real estate/tom hanks/shelley long classic The Money Pit.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

why I wish I was in nyc right now

I love my hometown but dont usually wish I was there (especially in winter). until now. I wish I was there for this.

Christo's Gates around the Central Park's Pond, with Plaza Hotel. 9 February 2005.
Photo courtesy of

cup a joe

...or three? LAist comments on the 3 coffee houses now open near cahuenga and selma. someone recently told me that when she moved here in the early 80s there was no cafe culture to speak of in this city, until the bourgeois pig first opened. now there is almost an embarassment of riches when it comes to coffee shops in LA, particularly places with free WiFi (the best invention since, um, the internet itself). there are even a few open till about 2 am. but my favorite is back in brooklyn, owned by a good friend -- Gorilla Coffee. maybe one day she'll expand westward.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

time to celebrate?

I know I said I would focus on LA in this blog, but there is occasionally stuff being written about things that are happening in other places. case in point - slate's photo essay on disney's planned community, Celebration, FL 10 years in. but disney is based out here, so I guess its tangentially related. slate's take - as planned communities go, this is one of the better ones. but if disney's vision was for an egalitarian, economically diverse community, its been compromised by escalating housing costs (sound familiar?).

a slight departure...updated

A Daily Dose of Architecture also today covers the incident at chicago's millenium park and the copyrighting of public space. he argues the park is a hybrid of public and private space but doesn't really delve into what that means. what he does do, however, is post his own photos of the sculpture (its a sad day when snapping a digital pic of a public sculpture constitutes an act of civil disobediance). but check them out, they're pretty rad.

Missing image - cloudgate2.jpg
photo courtesy of A Daily Dose of Architecture.

going postal

The Chicago Tribune (via A Daily Dose of Architecture) discusses the US postal service's new series of architecture stamps celebrating "modernism." LA is the only city west of the mississippi with a stamp in the collection for gehry's disney hall. chicago's gripe? they only have two stamps and they think they're far more worthy than connecticut's two. and they're also bitching about the chrysler building's inclusion. and the vanna venturi house.
Missing image - masterworks.jpg

The twelve buildings that made the cut:

  • Guggenheim Museum by Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry
  • Yale Art and Architecture Building by Paul Rudolph
  • Chrysler Building by William Van Alen
  • 860/880 Lake Shore Drive by Mies van der Rohe
  • High Museum of Art by Richard Meier
  • Vanna Venturi House by Robert Venturi
  • East Building of the National Gallery of Art by I.M. Pei
  • Phillips Exeter Academy Library by Louis I. Kahn
  • TWA Terminal by Eero Saarinen
  • Glass House by Philip Johnson
  • Hancock Center by SOM
I could make the argument that LA deserves more than one as well, particularly with its preponderance of case study houses, the new caltrans building (I'll admit - a bit early to declare it an icon), the neutras, the schindlers, and the getty (far more orthodox in its "modernism" than disney hall). but with only 12 stamps total, I'll take what we can get.

suburbs 1, cities 0

In south mississippi's Sun Herald (?!), Sci-Arc's Joel Kotkin examines today's suburban sprawl - what works, what doesn't, what should be done. since I like to summarize data (a habit I can't seem to break):

  • Since 1950, more than 90 percent of U.S. metropolitan population growth has taken place in the suburbs.
  • Roughly two out of three people in the nation's metro areas are suburban dwellers.
  • Over the next quarter century, according to a Brookings Institution study, the nation will add 50 percent to the current stock of houses, offices and shops - the great majority taking place in lower-density locations, not traditional inner cities.
  • In Los Angeles, the hours wasted in traffic have doubled since the early 1980s.

the article, while not stating it explicitly, argues that the city is dead - suburbs are where its at. kotkin is hopeful - he believes long commutes, more open space, increasing demographic diversity will lead to thriving, multifaceted, exciting communities in the suburbs, rather than the stultifying cocoons they tend to be. I have never lived in a suburb (unless you consider hollywood to be suburbia - for me, its the closest I've come) so perhaps I'm prejudiced, but kotkin's argument strikes me as at best overly optimistic, at worst deluded. he also seems to ignore urban renewal or revitalization projects - brooklyn comes to mind, as does downtown LA. in fact, urban gentrification isn't even mentioned in the article. nor reverse white flight. neither is the environmental impact of suburban sprawl. so kotkin has limited space to make his argument, I get that. but the hopeful tone (and his rhetorical attempts to imply he's a iconoclast, a free-thinking rebel in the stodgy world of urbanism) seems misdirected, even empty.

blame egypt

Biz Journal reports on the future ad bombardment LA will experience over the next few months for the king tut show. while they dont say how much LACMA will be spending to promote the show, they do hint at why the exhibit fare is so expensive:

The show, which will feature the artifacts of King Tutankhamen, has become controversial in museum circles because of the financial demands by the government of Egypt and its commercial partners. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which featured the King Tut exhibit in 1978 during its first tour, turned it down this time, as did other museums around the country.

LACMA expects over 1 million people to see the show, which would be a record. I also read somewhere recently that the population of LA county is now about 11 million people - so do the math. that would be an incredible number (yeah, many many will be tourists, I know). so who will benefit? apparently the government of egypt. and a Anschutz Entertainment Group (they operate the staples center) and some corporation based in cleveland called Arts and Exhibits International. and the windfall LACMA will receive? no mention of that. I'm starting to suspect LACMA has been bamboozled. and desperate to blame their ridiculous admission fee on anyone and anything else.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


gong hai fat choi - happy chinese new year, the year of the rooster. tomorrow is the first day of the year 4702, so here are a few links in honor of the day:

population growth, housing and more sprawl

the LA Daily News covers a new population growth study released this week (altho its a bit unclear who conducted the research). the study provides some insight into why LA scored so dismally in the southern california association of government's report card. LA's coastal population growth is slowing as people move farther and farther inland. again, a crisis in affordable housing is the main culprit (altho the link to congestion and air pollution are not discussed in the article):

The median price of a home in Los Angeles County was $463,450 as of December, while it was $327,210 in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, according to the California Association of Realtors. The median was $612,460 in Ventura County and $474,480 statewide.

"It really has exacerbated the affordability crisis in California," said Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist with the California Association of Realtors.

"One way to address it is to look at condos. Another way is to look at neighborhoods that have been abandoned and reclaimed. Look downtown. Look at loft development.

"Another way is to look farther and farther out and endure longer commutes. Another option is to leave the state."

KING argues in one of the comments that the upside of LA's poor report card is a recognition that these problems need to be addressed. Yet this article shows a remarkable disengagement. our implicit options are - move into a multimillion dollar loft downtown, move to another county, or move out of the state. granted, I'm going to assume the chief economist of the california association of realtors has a vested interest in NOT solving the affordable housing crisis (at least short term). so the question remains, who does?

this pretty much sums up traffic in LA

hot property scraping bottom of the barrel

normally, I love hot property - the LA Times' column on celebrity real estate purchases. but this week, I have to say - who are these people? ok, I've seen desperate housewives once or twice so I know who eva longoria is (plus I am a dedicated US weekly, in touch reader) but barclay butera? Walter Parazaider? Danny Teeson? Scott Radinsky? who are these people? is there not a minor WB star buying their first home in the hills? maybe some gossip on brad and jen's many LA homes? maybe some deep investigative reporting on whether she's staying with courtney or her hairdresser? Hot Property, you have fallen far far short this week. please report next week on real celebrities and their plans to install a three-story, faux-granite japanese waterfall to improve their chi.

p.s. happy mardi gras to my nawlins friends.

Monday, February 07, 2005

la forum annual available

the los angeles forum for architecture and urban design has released a (somewhat) new publicaton offering critical essays on LA's (what else?) architecture, art and urbanism. half of the articles are available online, the entire publication is available by pdf or you can buy it for $10. havent yet had a chance to read thru it, will hopefully post more later.

oscars and osetra [caviar]

The trade pub nation's restaurant news covers the upcoming academy awards and what it means for local high-end restaurants. in a nutshell - aside from the media publicity and exposure to celebrity clients, it means serious cash. typical restaurant margins on a regular night - less than 10%. for event catering - 35%.

registration required. but its a fun read, even if you dont work in the food biz.

and a little more bad news...

angelenos love to gripe about traffic and air quality, but typically consider it a fact of life here, to question it is folly, it's what makes LA, LA - right? The southern california association of governments, a regional planning agency, has recently released a report card on the urban health of the los angeles region in seven policy areas. how did LA score?
transportation: D-
employment: B
income: C-
housing: D+
air quality: C-
safety: B
education: D

traffic in the LA area is the nation's worse and continues to decline. yet, rather than an increase in usage of public transportation, ridership has instead declined by 2 percent from the year before. the report also states the "accumulated costs associated with congestion [reached] $12 billion." the report also addresses the issue of affordable housing, or rather the lack of it in the county. SCAG makes the connection between a lack of affordable housing and the rise in traffic congestion, as lower-income families are forced to move further and further away from the city. Its a phenomenon described far more eloquently by New (Sub)Urbanism in his post on the controversial "Marisol" doll from american girl:

Many accounts of the 2000 census figures show the increasing ethnic and cultural diversification of the suburbs. Much of this is due to gentrification schemes that price low income people out of their communities. Higher income--often white--residents are displacing low income renters.

while the connection between traffic, air quality and housing is acknowledged, little is said about addressing these issues. Some of the difficulty in addressing these problems is attributed to the region's population growth and demographic changes. additionally, both the state and federal government are operating at a deficit, which means it fall to local governments to deal with these problems. here is where my knowledge of southern california falls woefully short. (but that's what inspired this blog). I wish I could effectively analyze what that means for local governments and citizens. if there is anyone out there who can offer that, I'm ready to learn. how powerful are local municipalities in LA? how do municipalities such as beverly hills and santa monica negotiate policy with the greater city of LA? can LA annex these cities within the city? or overwrite policy? will a subway ever be built between the west side and east, over beverly hill's resistance and fear of "undesirable elements."

in new york, the concept of a city within a city is completely foreign. (altho staten island - feel free to secede. no one will notice you left). in london (the only other city I've lived in other than ny and LA) local government is bifurcated - a system of shared responsibilities between the individual boroughs and the city of london's government. its a system with many, many inherent flaws (again - transportation comes to mind) but rather than forming a city-within-the-city scenario, it has created many small, thriving communities within the overall city. so maybe I need to read more on the history of los angeles, its government and the ability of communities to remove themselves (economically and politically) from the overall fabric of the city, while benefitting from its location within the city.

I can't figure it all out tonight. instead, I will see what tivo has waiting for me as I battle chronic insomnia.

finally, some good news

Air America is back on in los angeles. A reason to return to AM.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

michael wolf's 'architecture of density'

another departure: hong kong's "architecture of density"

no one could ever accuse LA of "density" unless you're talking about some of the mimbo's I've encountered in west LA. but wanted to point to this photography exhibit about hong kong's increasingly dense neighborhoods. I dont know if the exhibit will come to LA, especially since its a private gallery and not a museum exhibiting the work, but I encourage you to check out the photos online. The images are fairly explicit representations of what koolhaas has termed "The Generic City":

the city liberated from the captivity of center, from the straitjacket of identity….It is the city without history.
Koolhaas believes the Generic City is everywhere, but in S, M, L XL cites a disproportionate number in Asia (clearly Hong Kong qualifies). what is surprising in his examination of the generic city, is his hopefullness. rather than lamenting an increased homogenization of aesthetics or style, he argues that

the architecture of the Generic City is by definition beautiful. Built at incredible speed, and conceived at even more incredible pace, there is an average of 27 aborted versions for every realized – but that is not quite the term – structure.
The photos of Michael Wolf (not to be confused with the author of The Entertainment Economy and the former columnist at New York Mag) are koolhaas' theory writ large (no pun intended).

walking in LA? who does that?

ok, who is up for this with me? Via insurgent muse:

A Walk To Remember (no, unfortunately this doesn't involve Mandy

“For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the middle of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the
infinite.” - Charles Baudelaire

A Walk to Remember, a project organized by Jens Hoffmann, Director of Exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, invites a seminal group of Los Angeles-based artists—including John Baldessari, Jennifer Bornstein, Meg Cranston, Morgan Fisher, Evan Holloway, Paul McCarthy, Allen Ruppersburg, Ruben Ortiz Torres, and Eric Wesley—to conceive and carry out guided tours through neighborhoods and areas of Los Angeles with which they have a particular relationship or affinity and which deal specifically with the rich cultural history of the city. Every walk will to some degree mirror the particular artistic approach of the artist that conceives it, while at the same time tell the audience something about the artist’s own history in relation to Los Angeles. Each member of the audience taking part in a walk will be given a disposable camera to document their individual impression of the artist’s walk from their distinct perspective. In effect, the walks will form a hybrid between a performance and a guided sightseeing tour, between a work of art and an anthropological experience inside an urban space. Participants’ cameras will be collected at the end of the walk and the resulting photographs shown onsite at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions will comprise another important facet of the exhibition. Thus, "A Walk to Remember" creates a situation in which the artists and the audience can initiate an ongoing process that values the role of artists as "translators" and inspires the audience to take part in the creation of art.

Opening reception: LACE, Wednesday 9 February, 2005 7-9 pm

To sign up for the walks, please call 323.957.1777 x12. As space is very limited, tickets must be purchased in advance: $20 / $15 for LACE members and students with valid ID.

Friday, February 04, 2005

your opinion matters...

please help a friend and former classmate on her master's thesis. she is currently conducting a survey to find out why people visit blogs. the survey takes about two minutes to complete (maybe less). now you don't need to feel guilty about the time you spend on defamer. its all in the name of academic research.

Click here to take the survey.

more evidence LA is just like NY, but dumber...

Via defamer:

Archstone apartments are the LA-version of dormandie court, but
with chihuahuas.
Malibu = hamptons. overpriced, overcrowded, overhyped. just over.

more photos of the (almost) secret subway

the subway excursion was inspired by the advice of my friend Rudy. for more photos of stations we didn't hit up, check out his photos.

hollywood and highland - very blade runner

another angle for hollywood and highland

john at the entrance to hollywood and highland

empty film reels cover the hollywood and vine station's ceiling

Union station's waiting room

entrance to union station

john has a hard on for the light in the station - this picture shows why.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

going, going, gone...

spent the morning at my first auction, featuring mostly 19th century antiques and a few more modern items, in the incongruously named "city of commerce." didn't bid on anything but enjoyed watching the process. I did see a signed framed mark kostabi painting that looked a lot like this, go for just $350, on ebay the prices approach $1,000.

the rest of the day was spent riding the subway in los angeles and exploring the stations. walked around hollywood and highland, hollywood and vine and union station (with a brief stop on olvera street for tacos and burnt milk candy). many many photos to post later.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

well, duh.

The LA Alternative Press seems shocked, just shocked, that LA has great architecture. But here's a nice little guide derived from the book "Architecture Tours L.A. Guidebook." For a great collection of architecture books and the opportunity to support a local landmark, stop by the bookstore at the schindler house.

a slight departure...

from my stated intention to focus on LA but thought this was worthy of a link. having spent the last few months thinking and writing about creative industries and the privatization of the public domain, this story is appalling. for an intelligent, insightful look at how corporations use intellectual property law as a blunt instrument to threaten, bully and litigate against what most would consider fair use of their assets, read david bollier's new book, Brand Name Bullies. and to learn more about the movement to re-think copyright protection, protect artists and authors, and allow for a freer, more flexible public domain, click here.

what a difference a month makes

the $1.4 million home in laurel canyon before the rains a month ago - still listed on coldwell banker's site. apparently it was in escrow three different times in dec. while most brokers seem partial to hyperbole, the coldwell site is somewhat understating it when it says:


driving thru laurel canyon yesterday

now its a fixer upper...

and almost a month after it collapsed, the only progress seems to be a chain link fence around the site. while I dont normally encourage rubbernecking, this site is pretty amazing - if you have a reason to drive thru the canyon, you should.

When you're alone and life is making you lonely...

...You can always go downtown. while HUD is trying to get a sense of the number of homeless in LA, a few downtown hotels are looking to convert some or all of their rooms to condos with traditional hotel amenities like housekeeping and a concierge. yes, even the westin bonaventura - one of my favorite hotels downtown despite the strange sense of unease and anxiety I feel there - although I have no idea why anyone would want to permanently live in a space inspired by Foucault, even if your local watering hole is on the top floor and revolves.

the creeping onslaught of gentrification doesn't stop there. The same guys who own Golden Gopher and Liquid Kitty plan on opening 6 more bars downtown this year. that's not a typo. I said 6. before moving to LA, I had instituted a self-imposed ban on any bar with an animal word in the name, like the diamond dog or the eerie elk. (alliteration was a second strike against them). damn you, golden gopher and your liberace chandeliers.

and in case you're wondering who these people are who might buy a condo in a hotel downtown or a need a drink from GG's Liquor To Go store, LA's Downtown News reports that the median income of "recent arrivals" (no explanation of what that means) is $90k and 43% of them earn more than $100k per year. in case you were wondering how that stacks up against beverly hills, it beats 90210 by almost $20k. I'm guessing the recent arrivals they surveyed did not include the homeless in the other census now taking place.

getty gives hand job for free. lacma demands $$$ to flash a little tut.

this is very cool. even better than the handheld guides at the tate modern you can rent for 1 pound.

and this isn't exactly news, and increasingly common these days (see ny's MOMA new admission rates) but lacma is expecting a blockbuster for its june king tut exhibition - even with a $30 admission fare. their justification for this outrageous price? they have a policy of not charging a separate fee for special exhibitions. which pretty much explains nothing.