Architectural sites that define our community

 

Architectural sites that define our community

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Total voters: 1,765

Introduction

Introduction


Los Angeles is home to architecture that is wacky and wonderful, artful and edgy. Buildings bursting with post World War II exuberance nestle against mid-century modern drive-ins, Italianate libraries, avant-garde edifices and homes that could double as castles.

The most successful means to date of protecting this cultural heritage has been through Mills Act Legislation, which allows local governments to offer financial incentives to private property owners for the restoration and preservation of historic buildings. Then-Councilmember Ridley-Thomas authored the Ordinance that brought the Mills Act to Los Angeles, thereby funding millions of dollars of historic preservation and adaptive re-use investments in the City, and helping to save many landmark buildings. The City of Los Angeles adopted the program in 1996 and since then, hundreds of properties have benefited. The County, however, has had no such ordinance on its books – a step the Board of Supervisors may soon remedy.

On February 14th the Board of Supervisors approved a motion sponsored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael D. Antonovich, directing the Regional Planning Department to develop historic preservation strategies for the unincorporated areas of the County. The department will deliver its findings to the Board this summer, and the supervisors will be poised to take a critical step toward safeguarding the county’s rich design heritage.

In honor of the occasion, we compiled 10 of our favorite architectural sites, and we invite you to upload photos and share your favorites with us as well. Ours are in the Second District, but we welcome contributions from all over the county. Some of our picks strain the definition of “architecture” — they are not buildings. We included them, however, because this preservation effort isn’t just about bricks and mortar. It’s about the inspiring symbols of human creativity, perseverance and skill, ranging from the high art of the Clark Library to the folk genius of the Watts Towers. Our goal is to raise awareness about the features that make our communities recognizable, livable and beautiful.

Click on the audio link below each image to hear Dan Rosenfeld, a noted developer and the Second District’s senior deputy for economic development, discuss the picks on our list. You can click directly on the audio link to add your observations or leave a longer post in the comments section.

We’ll be featuring a new site, with accompanying audio, every month for the rest of the year and posting your submissions in a gallery.

Enjoy!

Audio overview by Dan Rosenfeld

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Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum

1. Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum

The Rancho San Pedro


Photo: Corrected photo courtesy of Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum

California can almost trace its modern history — as a territory of Spain, then Mexico, and finally as part of the United States — through the family founded by Spanish soldier Juan Jose Dominguez. The 75,000 acres of Rancho San Pedro, gifted to Dominguez in 1784 by Spain, covered most of what today is Compton and stretched to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. His heir and nephew, Don Manuel, built this lovely adobe home for his bride in 1826. Situated on a hilltop in what is now Rancho Dominguez, this “Mission” or “Spanish Colonial” look became the signature style of Southern California and has influenced the design of countless homes and public structures. Its genius lies in the artful use of simple, locally made materials such as fired mud bricks, whitewashed stucco, and curved clay roof tiles. Moreover, the style is sustainable, providing excellent insulation and naturally cool or warm spaces as the seasons change. Don Manuel Dominguez lived California’s metamorphosis, holding positions under both Mexican and U.S. governments: he served as (Alcade) Mayor of Los Angeles, a judge, and Los Angeles County Supervisor. He also was one of 47 delegates to sign the new state’s constitution. One hundred and eighty-six years later, Don Manuel’s home is a museum. Its grounds are often used for parties, weddings, and other celebrations that entwine both the Dominguez family and California’s historic past with the lives of residents today.

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The Clark Library

2. The Clark Library


Photo: Adam Janeiro

The opulent rooms of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library are a bibliophile’s dream. Home to one of the most comprehensive rare book and manuscript collections in the United States, the Italian Renaissance building was designed by Robert Farquhar (who also designed Beverly Hills High School) and built in 1924 to house the personal collection of philanthropist William Andrews Clark, Jr. The library was named to honor Clark’s father, a Montana copper baron and U.S. Senator. Special touches reflect the family’s history: bookcases in the reading rooms, for example, are made of copper. With a particular focus on 17th and 18th Century English literature, the collection includes works by or about luminaries such as John Milton, Henry Fielding and Jonathan Swift. The Clark is also home to the world’s most extensive collections of works by or about Oscar Wilde. The library hosts poetry readings, concerts, lectures and special events in its drawing room, where murals depicting scenes from All For Love, English poet John Dryden’s retelling of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, grace the walls.

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Dunbar Hotel

3. Dunbar Hotel


Photo: Wikipedia

When the Dunbar Hotel, opened in 1928, it was the center of African-American culture in Los Angeles. Originally called the Hotel Somerville, it was built entirely by black contractors, laborers and craftsmen, and financed by black Angelenos. It was the only hotel in Los Angeles that welcomed black guests and as such, hosted many of the era’s legendary entertainers, politicians and civic leaders. Stars of the Jazz age, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, stayed there and then played next door at the famed Club Alabam. The hotel was renamed the Dunbar in 1929, in honor of legendary poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, and was designated a historic-cultural landmark in 1974. It is currently under renovation by local developer Tom Safran. Upon completion, the new building will provide affordable housing for senior citizens.

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Exposition Park Rose Garden

4. Exposition Park Rose Garden


Photo: Wikipedia

Home to 200 varieties of roses and 20,000 bushes, the seven acres of the sunken rose garden in Exposition Park are a serene and exquisite oasis in Los Angeles’ urban core. Its beauty makes it a popular backdrop for summer weddings, and no hint lingers of its earthier turn-of-the-century past when gamblers gathered to bet on dog, camel and horse races. Why is a garden on our list? In Southern California our outdoor spaces — patios, decks, balconies and even rusty old fire escapes just large enough for a grill — are extensions of our homes. Just as a superbly designed building is the imaginative but practical organization and use of space, so too is a well-planned, and in this case, beautiful, fragrant, and blooming outdoor rose garden.

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Angelus Funeral Home

5. Angelus Funeral Home


Photo: Martin Zamora

The Angelus Funeral Home, designed by noted African-American architect Paul R. Williams, incorporates neo-classical and Art Deco elements often seen in Williams’ work. Williams’ talent was evident early on; he designed buildings while still a student at the University of Southern California School of Engineering and opened his own architecture office at age 25. He designed more than 2,000 homes in Los Angeles, but is perhaps most noted for the swank residences he created for Hollywood stars, including Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lon Chaney and Frank Sinatra. Among his public projects are the Beverly Hills Hotel, Hollywood YMCA and Los Angeles County Courthouse. Founded in 1923, Angelus Funeral Home was the first black-owned business incorporated in California. The name refers to the Christian devotion, taken from the Latin, Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariæ, meaning “The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.”

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The Watts Towers

6. The Watts Towers


Photo: Thinkstock.com

“Why I build it? I can’t tell you. Why a man make the pants? Why a man make the shoes?”
– Sculptor Simon Rodia

Was he genius? A madman? A little of both? (Sabato) Simon Rodia, who was born in 1879 in Italy and who emigrated to the United States at age 15, always refused to explain his labor of love. Built over the span of 33 years, the Watts towers are actually 17 dazzling structures composed of steel piles and rods wrapped with wire mesh, coated with mortar are inlaid with broken glass, sea shells, and tile collected by Rodia and neighborhood children. Almost as soon as they began to take shape, however, the towers became controversial. Vandals targeted them relentlessly, and in the 1960s, the City of Los Angeles attempted to have them torn down. Today they are widely recognized as masterpieces of ingenuity and engineering. According to a documentary about the one-time bricklayer, Rodia was in part inspired by the most famous tower in his homeland, the leaning tower of Pisa, where Galileo Galileo dropped two balls in his famous experiment on acceleration. “My God, I say, I’m going to make a tower different than Galileo,” Rodia once remarked. In the historic two-square mile neighborhood from which the towers take their name, that’s exactly what he did.

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Randy’s & Dale’s Donuts

7. Randy’s & Dale’s Donuts


Randy’s Photo: Thomas Hawk (thomashawk.com) Dale’s Photo: Phil Pasquini

Los Angeles loves donuts: hot Krispy Kremes, towering strawberry donuts, beignets, gut-busting maple-bacon donuts, Danish aebelskiver (apple fritters), and even newfangled red velvet concoctions. Best donut lists and contests are eternal internet favorites, and there is even L.A. art commemorating the donut experience, such as Jennifer Rubell’s donut wall at LACMA. Greater Los Angeles is arguably the donut capital of the world. Although aficionados debate which ones are best, few deny that the region’s most iconic donuts are the towering rings above Randy’s and Dale’s donut shops. Built in 1952 and designed by Henry J. Goodwin, Randy’s Donuts was a part of the BigDoNut drive-through chain and is an example of semaphore architecture, in which buildings visually signal their purpose. For decades, these landmarks have grabbed motorists’ attention in our fast-moving automobile culture, and Randy’s has been featured in movies including Earth Girls Are Easy, Coming to America and Iron Man 2.

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Pann’s Restaurant & Coffee Shop

8. Pann’s Restaurant & Coffee Shop


Photo: Pann’s Catering website (www.pannscatering.com)

It’s 1958: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration launches Explorer 1 and the space race is on. Drive-in movies are in their heyday, and a group soon to be known as the Beatles has its first recording session. Ed Sullivan and Elvis are in, and the average cost of a house is $12,750. That same year, Greek immigrants George and Rena Panagopoulos open Pann’s Restaurant and Coffee Shop in Inglewood. Some love Pann’s for the food and others the hospitality, but it’s the restaurant’s optimistic architecture that lands it on our list. Googie architecture – the name comes from a now defunct coffee shop in West Hollywood – was popular from the late 1940s to the mid 1960s, when futuristic motifs were the rage. Pann’s was designed by architects Eldon Davis and Helen Liu Fong, and, more than 50 years later, the large windows and tropical landscaping give the site a classic coffee shop look and feel. The restaurant continues to attract a devoted following and has also been featured in hit films such as Pulp Fiction.

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Marilyn Jorgenson Reece Memorial Interchange

9. Marilyn Jorgenson Reece Memorial Interchange


Photo: Google Maps

The flowing sweep of the freeway interchange between Highways 10 and 405 in West Los Angeles is an architectural triumph. One of the largest man-made structures in the region, it is also one of the most elegant — a true work of art. Practical, simple and highly sophisticated in its design, like much of the architecture that we use in our daily lives it often goes unnoticed. What further distinguishes this immense structure is that its designer, Marilyn Jorgenson Reece, was the first woman to break the gender barrier in highway design. Including this representative from the road system in our list of heritage highlights seems natural to us. Not only does it underscore the importance of the freeway system in fostering Los Angeles’ rapid growth and suburbanization after the Second World War, it also pays homage to the fundamental importance of mobility in our unique urban character… and let’s face it, we live on freeways.

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Dr. Theodore T. Alexander, Jr. Science Center School

10. Dr. Theodore T. Alexander, Jr. Science Center School


Photo: Gary Leonard

Can anyone just walk by a Thom Mayne building without stopping to stare and wonder? The Pritzker Prize-winning architect is respected as one of the world’s most aggressively original designers, and the Dr. Theodore Alexander, Jr. Science Center School illustrates why. Built in 2004, a steel-framed lattice addition is attached to the original 1926 cast concrete and brick armory structure. The two story, steel-framed addition contains 20 classrooms, and the main floor supports an 8,400 square-foot garden on its top deck. If you ever pass the intersection of Exposition Park Boulevard and Figueroa Street, you will see Mayne’s linear structure of gridded lattices, bridges and stair extensions pushing upward toward the intersection. The building challenges the eye the way science challenges the mind, inviting students indoors and observers outside to go forth into unexplored territory, always asking: Why? How? What next?

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Village Green

11. Village Green

Village Green


Photo: Floyd B. Bariscale

Sir Thomas More published the book Utopia in 1516 and simultaneously gave birth to the enduring quest for the perfect place to dwell. Yes, that’s an exaggeration. The concept of the ideal city far predates More. In antiquity, mighty capitals often were constructed to align with the stars: Machu Picchu, ancient Persepolis and Peru’s Cuzco. So how does Village Green fit into this grand lineage? It too, has utopian aspirations. When construction began in 1941, the former Baldwin Hills Village was one of the most ambitious urban planning projects of its day. The goal was to do the remarkable: balance the tensions between nature and development, privacy and community, individuality and interconnected living. Today. the gardens, parks and courtyards of the condominium complex provide an oasis of greenery and calm in the heart of L.A.’s metropolis, and in contrast to architecture that clamors for notice, the buildings of Village Green almost slide off the eye. Even better, the design minimizes visual evidence of cars — it’s as if the architects knew Angelenos would one day grow to depend on (and therefore to resent) automobiles. Critic Lewis Mumford once said of the neighborhood, “Here every part of the design speaks the same robust vernacular: simple, direct, intelligible.” We couldn’t have said it better.

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Wilshire Boulevard Temple

12. Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Wilshire Boulevard Temple


Photo: Lazlo Regos courtesy of Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Hirsz, Aaron, Szmul and Itzhak Wonskolaser – better known in Hollywood as Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack Warner, or simply, the Warner Brothers, catapulted the film world out of the silent movie era into the talkies with The Jazz Singer. One of the Warners’ lasting gifts to Los Angeles, however, is not on film, but on the walls of the grand and graceful Wilshire Boulevard Temple. The Temple, erected in 1929, is masterpiece inside and out. This photograph shows the building as it is most familiar to passersby, with its beautiful Byzantine dome. Inside is another artistic glory. Commissioned by Warner Bros. studio head Jack Warner and painted by artist Hugo Ballins, murals depicting the journey of Jewish people from biblical times to their arrival in the United States, ring the sanctuary. Such depictions, even in a reform temple, were rare at the time, due to a strict interpretation of the Second Commandment’s prohibition against graven idols. The Warner Memorial Murals, 320-foot long and 7-foot tall, serve as a spiritual silent movie telling the story of a people.

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USC’s Widney House

13. USC’s Widney Alumni House

USC’s Widney Alumni House - Photo: Philip Channing courtesy of US


Photo: Floyd B. Bariscale

USC Widney House by Dan Rosenfeld

The 20 years between 1860 and 1880 were transformative for Los Angeles.  The city’s Wild West character was rapidly evolving – civilizing, if you will. The population swelled from 4,400 to 11,000 people; L.A. was connected to San Francisco by railroad in 1876, and four years later the University of Southern California was founded. Stately Widney Hall, now Widney Alumni House, was the newborn institution’s only building, accommodating 53 students and 10 faculty members. For many Angelinos (except maybe Bruins fans) the building is almost as iconic as Tommy Trojan, and over the decades, it has been remodeled, renovated and even relocated several times. Today USC enrolls about 37,000 students annually and has more international students than any university in the nation. Nonetheless, the school also has fostered vigorous community partnerships and programs that support and engage its neighborhood.  The Widney’s graceful lines and simple design are a visual testament to USC’s commitment to Los Angeles and its own past, even as its vision is now focused on the future.

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Leimert Park

14. Leimert Park

Eso Won Bookstore Murals, Leimert Park - Photo: Mohammed Al Rawi, Office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas


Photo: Mohammed Al Rawi

Leimert Park by Dan Rosenfeld

In the heart of the Crenshaw District sits lovely Leimert Park. Developed in the late 1920’s by real estate mogul Walter Leimert, the neighborhood was an example of cutting-edge urban planning. Walter Leimert’s other projects included Beverly Highlands in the Hollywood Hills, Sierra Park in Orange County, and Cambria Pines near Hearst Castle. Leimert Park’s quaint shopping district today is an arts Mecca — the hub of Los Angeles’ spoken word, jazz, blues, and poetry community and an important cultural center for the city’s African-American community. The entire Leimert Park neighborhood, however, spans 600 acres and was designed to be a self-contained community complete with a theater, shopping center, and town square. The residential areas are dominated by craftsman and colonial-style homes that sit on shady streets lined with giant Magnolias, Eucalyptus, Maple and Pine trees. Designed to promote pedestrian traffic, the community was laid out to take advantage of the main mode of transportation of the 1920s: the yellow trolleys of the Los Angeles streetcar system. The streetcars are long gone, but construction of the new Crenshaw-to-LAX light rail line is slated to begin next year, and once again, the train must stop in this iconic location.

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Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza

15. Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza

Crenshaw Center open Friday nights.  Retouched by Los Angeles County. March, 1949. - Photo: Loomis Dean.


Photo: Loomis Dean

Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza by Dan Rosenfeld

Built in 1947, the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza was the first open-air mall in the nation. Originally called the Broadway-Crenshaw Center, the mall was a 550,000-square-foot retail wonder. Anchored by The Broadway and May Company stores, it was also home to that fixture of the American marketplace: a Woolworth five and dime. (Woolworth had distinguished itself decades earlier by becoming one of the first American retailers to let shoppers handle wares without the help of a sales clerk. Also, its famed lunch counters, in some respects, were the precursors to the modern food court). The photograph here has been altered – a palm tree originally blocked the view of The Broadway. We thought it worthwhile, however, to capture the feel of the original mall and offer a glimpse of what would be unthinkable today:  13 acres of parking. The magic of the mall, however, was not just its size and retail offerings. It was and still is the gathering place for a community.  It was redesigned, expanded, and enclosed in the 1980s, and purchased by Capri Capital Partners of Chicago in 2006. Capri has given it a $35 million-makeover, with new shops, a new movie theater, and new restaurants — most notably, the upscale Post & Beam. With glowing reviews and an already ardent following, the new dining spot bids fair to build on the tradition established by its predecessor, the popular Golden Bird restaurant. When the new Crenshaw-to-LAX light-rail line begins service to the mall, there really will be no stopping the resurgence of this iconic city meeting place.

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Bullocks Wilshire

16. Southwestern Law School’s Bullocks Wilshire

Southwestern Law School’s Bullocks Wilshire by Dan Rosenfeld

Bullocks Wilshire Department Store opened its doors on September 26, 1929, and instantly set a new standard for opulence. Never had Los Angeles, or the rest of the country for that matter, seen a store whose stylish exterior so perfectly matched the luxurious shopping experience indoors. With its 241-foot copper-topped tower, terracotta tiles and decorative copper panels, the five-story Art Deco building was an instant L.A. landmark. The interior was equally elegant, with marble walls, travertine floors and a Herman Sachs ceiling mural that paid homage to transportation, with images of steam trains, ocean liners, planes and giant blimps. The ambience was one of restrained gentility: the store featured live mannequins, and sales clerks wrote slips by hand to minimize noise.  Strategically located three miles from downtown – far enough then to be considered suburban but close enough to wealthy Hancock Park – Bullocks catered to Hollywood. Katherine Hepburn was said to have bought her men’s trousers there –as were Cary Grant and Clark Gable. For six decades the store reigned over its stretch of Wilshire Boulevard, finally closing its doors in 1993. A year later, Southwestern Law School purchased the building and invested $29 million in a terrific restoration and renovation. It now houses a law library and other accoutrements of its academic mission. Although the building has been repurposed, we love Southwestern Law School’s Bullocks Wilshire. Los Angeles has lost irreplaceable architectural gems in past years, and it’s wonderful to see Bullocks Wilshire still thriving. No, a modern-day Mae West can’t pull up out front and have clothes brought to her car as the legendary movie star did, but 83 years after it first opened, Bullocks Wilshire is still going strong.

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Sanchez Adobe

17. Sanchez Adobe

Sanchez Adobe. - Photo: Scott Harms


Photo: Scott Harms

Sanchez Adobe by Dan Rosenfeld

Hidden in plain sight, on a tree-lined street in Baldwin Hills, is what could be the oldest building in Los Angeles: an adobe building dating from the late 1700s.  Archival materials date the Sanchez Adobe, located on Don Felipe Drive, to as early as 1791, meaning the South Los Angeles building likely surpasses the Avila Adobe on Olvera Street, the city’s acknowledged title holder, by 20 years of age.  We say “hidden in plain sight,” because it has long been known that the Sanchez Adobe, is centuries old. Recently, however, its current owners, the Consolidated Board of Realtists, spearheaded research into the adobe’s past, and a closer look at the building hinted at its record-holding status. Little about the building calls the eye in way of decoration or adornment. The Sanchez Adobe is a plain, somewhat weather-beaten structure with numerous additions and alterations. But its history is romantic as one could wish, with residence or ownership by a colorful cast of characters and organizations that truly evokes the Los Angeles’ Wild West, multi-ethnic layers of history. It has been home to Mexican dons and Anglo entrepreneurs. Once the residence of Vicente Sanchez, the adobe later belonged to Irish-American businessman Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin. Now it belongs to an organization of African-American real estate professionals. (Incidentally, it was Paul Williams, one of L.A.’s most noted architects, who urged the Realtists to purchase the building). Freed African slaves worked there after the Civil War, as did Chinese laborers – all brought by Baldwin to the property, according to the Realtists. After Baldwin’s ownership, the adobe passed to the Catholic church for a time, and later was home to a golf course and a women’s club, when the surrounding neighborhoods were mostly Anglo. Standing inside the adobe today and looking out over Los Angeles, one can only imagine the breathtaking sweep of hills and dells, the splendid solitude and wondrous views of earlier times. Like many Angelenos, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas had been to the Don Felipe Drive building many times but was unaware of its tremendous historic value and legacy. He recently toured the adobe with architectural preservationist Peyton Hall, of Historic Resources Group, to gain new perspectives on its hidden heritage. Hall, who wrote a report on the Avila Adobe in 1992, said he was shocked to learn of a building that likely predates that one. Many in his field, architects, historians and preservationists, have no idea the building even exists, he said, and a detailed study of the structure is the immediate next step toward establishing its place in L.A.’s architectural history.  The Supervisor agreed. Sanchez Adobe is a building at once familiar and yet unknown, he said. “To think that right here in the Baldwin Hills is perhaps the city’s oldest building, is just wonderful. There is a tremendous story to tell here, and now our task is to tell it.”

Click here to read the Los Angeles Times Editorial published September 4, 2012.

Sanchez Adobe from Mark Ridley-Thomas on Vimeo.

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Petersen Automotive Museum

18. Petersen Automotive Museum

Photo: courtesy of Petersen Automotive Museum


Photo: courtesy of Petersen Automotive Museum Petersen Museum by Dan Rosenfeld

There’s something about Los Angeles and cars. Even as public transit becomes an increasingly important and popular option for residents, there will always be something about L.A. and the role of the it’s car in its growth: the car grew with L.A., and L.A. grew with the car. Thus it is only fitting that we have the world’s most noteworthy shrine to the automobile, the Petersen Automotive Museum. Inside is a car-lover’s dream (classic cars, vintage cars, rare cars, and even television star cars: Adam West’s Batmobile is on permanent display). The outside of the Petersen, however, is what lands it on our list. The sleek, sharp fenders across the front make the whole building looks as if it could spring free of its foundation and zoom down Wilshire Boulevard. It is a fine example of  classic modernism — or perhaps, modern classicism evoking neoclassical columns.The style is less literal than the Forum, but still a terrific modern riff off the Parthenon. Architect Scott Johnson, took the idiom of Roman Classicism and with one simple gesture,  the addition of fins, repositioned the building. And how fitting that it sits in the Miracle Mile on Wilshire — a road designed at the turn of the 20th century to accommodate not the horse and foot traffic of the day, but the transportation methods of the future.  The museum was founded in 1994 by Hot Rod and Motor Trend Publisher Robert E. Petersen, and is housed in what was once  the old Ohrbach’s department store. In addition to hosting special exhibits and programs, it is a popular place for swanky receptions and — for truly hardcore automobiliphiles — weddings.

Even for those who’ve never gone inside, however, the Petersen is unforgettable. It powerfully captures the eye. Too often, repurposed and renovated buildings lose the integrity of their original structures, becoming a mishmash of times, eras, styles and egos. But here, Johnson’s slight tweak of the department store had marvelous results: it announced the building’s singular automotive purpose to all driving by, and gave Los Angeles another landmark.

 

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Loyola High School

19. Loyola High School

Photo: Courtesy of Loyola High School


Photo: Courtesy of Loyola High School Loyola High School by Dan Rosenfeld
Founded in 1865 as St. Vincent College, Loyola High School is the oldest educational institution in Southern California and possibly the oldest high school in California. Located two miles west of downtown Los Angeles, the private all-male, Catholic high school sits on 15-acres in the Harvard Heights neighborhood. Designed by Albert C. Martin, Loyola’s beautiful buildings are in a style called Collegiate Gothic — an architectural tradition more commonly found on Ivy League campuses. Yale and Princeton universities, for example, yearned to exude the ancient, slightly weather-beaten and look of, say, Oxford and Cambridge universities, and therefore were built to look old, or rather, pedigreed. At Yale, architectural Anglophilia was taken to an extreme, and newly-built stone buildings were given broken windows and reportedly were doused with acid to add a patina of ancient heritage. Loyola’s grace is not contrived, deriving its beauty from stained glass windows, slender columns, free-standing sculptures, entrances with vaulted ceilings, and gabled rooftops accented by spires, pinnacles, and finials. For more than 140 years, the school has inculcated values of stewardship and community in the young men, and the school is renown for its diversity, admitting students from more than 225 zip codes across Los Angeles County. Located in close proximity to Hollywood, Loyola has appeared in a number of films, including: Coach Carter (2005), Donnie Darko, (2001), Fat Albert, (2004), and Thank You For Smoking (2005).  A.C. Martin’s contributions to Southern California extended beyond Loyola. His firm worked on Los Angeles City Hall, the downtown Department of Water and Power building and many other local landmarks; it is still owned and managed by his direct descendents.

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The Forum

20. The Forum

Photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia.com


Photo: Courtesy of Wikipedia.com
Basketball’s most iconic arena was built in a fit of pique. In the 1960s, Jack Kent Cooke, legendary owner of the Lakers, followed through on his threat to build a stadium in Inglewood if the L.A. Coliseum Commission wouldn’t let his newly-acquired hockey team, the Kings, play there. Soon after, the Forum became the stage for some of basketball’s greatest gladiatorial showdowns. Thanks to Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, riveting play by the Showtime Lakers and a bone-deep rivalry with the Boston Celtics, the iconic Forum became recognizable from coast to coast. Of course, since it first opened its doors in 1967, the Forum has been much more than just a sports arena. Although it was also home to the WNBA Sparks, the venue has provided the backdrop to some of the world’s greatest musical acts. From the Jackson 5 to Elvis Presley, the Bee Gees to KISS and Prince to Nirvana, the Forum has been a must-stop destination on national and world concert tours. Over the years it also has been home to a mega-church, and most recently, its grounds provided space for thousands to view the Endeavour space shuttle. Inside and out it’s a classic. Ironically, the signature arches ringing the building actually evoke Rome’s famous Coliseum and not the Eternal City’s rectangular-shaped Forum (but we’re guessing Cooke was making a point). The structure is a signature product of the prolific and immensely successful office of Charles Luckman. “Chuck” Luckman began his career as a toothpaste salesman, rose quickly to the presidency of Lever Brothers, and then switched to his true passion: architecture. He lived locally in mid-century elegance, occupying a full floor atop his own Sunset Boulevard high-rise, and designing landmarks ranging from downtown’s tallest towers to the launch facilities at the Kennedy Spaceport and, of course, LAX. Ironically, one of Luckman’s most controversial projects involved the demolition of New York’s historic Penn Station to construct, yes, Madison Square Garden. And it is Madison Square Garden Company, in one of those crazy turns life sometimes takes, which currently owns and is renovating our beloved Forum.

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Coca-Cola Building

21. Coca-Cola Building

Photo: Courtesy of Carol Highsmith


Photo: Courtesy of Carol Highsmith
The flourishes and furbelows of Art Deco design and architecture with its zigzag ornamentation, sunburst motifs and uncensored chevrons were exciting and new in the mid 1920s, but by the mid-1930s, a more simplified architecture was catching on. The Los Angeles Coca-Cola bottling plant, pictured here, is a wonderful example of Streamline Moderne architecture – not a complete departure from Art Deco, rather a refinement. The plant’s clean lines unite form and function and the building beautifully displays the principle elements of the genre; it is aerodynamic and clean and nautical – complete with portholes, catwalk and a bridge. The building, located at 1334 South Central Ave. in Los Angeles, was designed in 1939 by Robert V. Derrah, a prominent architect who also designed the Crossroads of the World mall, numerous residences, movie studio buildings, and the Brown Derby restaurant. By the time the Coca Cola plant was commissioned by two brothers (who were said to be avid yachtsmen) Coke was more than 50 years old and already iconic. The original beverage, with main ingredients of kola nut and coca leaf extract, packed a wallop: an estimated nine milligrams of cocaine per glass. The cocaine was removed in 1903, and the company now uses a cocaine-free coca leaf extract made at a plant in New Jersey. Decades ago the federal government lost an effort to have the caffeine removed on the grounds that it is an addictive substance, and with 10 teaspoons of sugar per can the soda still carries a lot of kick. The building does too. Its aeronautical lines exude a sense of speed, power and luxury. It’s classic L.A., classic architecture and (you know what’s coming) Classic Coke.

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Stealth Building

22. Stealth Building

Photo: Courtesy of Eric Owen Moss Architects


Photo: Courtesy of Eric Owen Moss Architects
Is there anything like the Stealth Building? Cutting edge yet slightly retro, avant guard yet classic? And doesn’t it automatically call to mind Michelangelo’s David? That’s right, David, the 17-foot marble masterpiece completed in 1504. The similarities aren’t of design, of course, but of emotional intelligence. Think of the statue, famed not just for its symmetrical perfection, but for the palpable tension embodied by the marble. David’s muscles are taut, veins throb and his expression is focused — he is about to explode into action. At the same time, however, his posture is relaxed and confident; he has been “caught” by Michelangelo the moment before battle with Goliath – action-in-repose. Now look at the Stealth Building. Taut and tense, utterly still yet twisting, weighted down by concrete yet alive, coiling and poised for action. Brilliant. Created by world-famous architect Eric Owen Moss in 2002, the design concept grew from the exacting environmental requirements of the location, which required excavation and removal of toxic earth on the formerly industrial site. A concrete block wall was constructed to enclose the two remaining warehouses on the east, and the Stealth was constructed to the west, against the new wall. A portion of the excavated area, underneath the overhanging new structure was reshaped to form a sunken garden — six feet below the sidewalk elevation. Moss, in an interview once stated: “The aspiration was to investigate a changing exterior form and a varying interior space: to construct a building that remakes both outside and inside.” Perhaps the exercise was intellectual, but from our viewpoint the result was high art.

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Culver City’s City Hall

23. Culver City’s City Hall

Photo: Courtesy of Gonzalez Goodale Architects


Photo: Courtesy of Gonzalez Goodale Architects
This month’s architectural feature brings us to Culver City, also known as the heart of screenland, to spotlight its striking city hall. Although the building itself does not have a specific architectural style, its red-tiled roof and bright off-white walls evoke a Mediterranean flair that speaks to Southern California’s easy-going lifestyle and pleasant weather while also maintaining a connection to its history. Located on the west end of downtown, the city’s 87,900 – square-foot headquarters do more than provide a home to the municipal administration, departments and meetings. It creates a visual sense of peace and order. Dactylifera palm trees line its walkway, creating a verdant traffic pattern that gently connects visitors to the water fountain along a patio plaza, and a courtyard and abundant open space shield visitors from the noisy traffic along Culver Boulevard. It’s hard to picture Culver City without its bustling restaurants, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, or the movie studio presence that Harry Culver, its founder, envisioned nearly a century ago. Culver, a native of Nebraska, moved to Los Angeles and became a real estate mogul. To build his vision for a rival to Hollywood, he lured movie executives such as Thomas Ince and Hal Roach to his growing suburb, convincing them to build their studios in this new patch of land. Louis B. Mayer, founder of MGM Studios, erected a massive studio a few blocks away from City Hall that reflected his newfound grandeur. The rest, as they say, is history. The city continues to be a major hub of the industry, with Sony Pictures Entertainment replacing the old MGM, dozens of sound stages and screening rooms as well as the filming location for hundreds of movies and television shows including: The Wizard of OZ, Gone with the Wind, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, the original King Kong, The Andy Griffin Show, Lassie, and Wheel of Fortune. Culver City has worked hard to maintain a connection to its past, even as it has grown in size, population and presence. The original city hall was built just as the movie industry was taking shape; it was by Orville L. Clark in 1928, also housed the police department and was reminiscent of the Beaux Arts style of architecture—albeit modestly—with a large pained oval window above its entrance. In 1995, in the middle of the city’s tremendously successful revitalization program, the city hall was rebuilt and updated to seismic code by architects, Armando Gonzalez and David Goodale of Gonzalez Goodale Architects. Gonzalez and Goodale included a remnant of the original 1928 building façade at its entrance, grounding Culver City firmly its past even as it looks to the future.

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28th Street YMCA

24. 28th Street YMCA

Photo: Courtesy of Eric Staudenmaier. (www.ericstaudenmaier.com)


Photo: Courtesy of Eric Staudenmaier. (www.ericstaudenmaier.com)

Why don’t more black people swim? Actually, the answer has nothing to do with stereotypes about muscle mass and floatability. Swimming went through two bursts of popularity in the United States, between the 1920s-30s and the 1950s-60s, booms that resulted in the construction of about 2,000 public pools across the country. By law Blacks were barred from using many of the new public swimming pools and as decades passed without either access or instruction, swimming did not become a part of the culture. African-American architect Paul R. Williams, however, created a notable exception the 28th Street YMCA in South Los Angeles. With a public swimming pool, gymnasium and dormitory room on the upper floors, the YMCA provided a refuge for black men, becoming a place that kept both body and soul afloat during difficult times. Williams’ 1928  Spanish Revival-style building was added to the city, state and federal historic registers several years ago, and its façade remains much as it was when the building first opened. An exciting rehabilitation of the building, however, has breathed knew life into the space; it now houses 48 studio apartments and includes supportive services for tenants, which will include youth transitioning out of foster care and special needs adults. The renovation and addition are by the acclaimed Los Angeles-based team of Hank Koenig and Julie Eizenberg, noted for their optimistic and tasteful use of color and unusual materials. Also, the project will incorporate the highest environmental building standards. Despite the newfangled makeover, and the absence of the swimming pool, the building will continue to do what it always has, provide a place of service, shelter and hope for those most in need.

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Compton City Hall

25. Compton City Hall

Photo: Courtesy of Compton City Hall


Photo: Courtesy of Compton City Hall

Compton is one of the oldest cities in Los Angeles County, having incorporated 125 years ago this month, on May 11, 1888.  Its civic center, located in the heart of the Hub City, boasts of architecture that nonetheless is eternally modern, including Compton City Hall and the iconic Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. Designed by Harold L. Williams, a groundbreaking African-American architect who apprenticed with the legendary Paul Williams (no relation) and who went on to design a number of other civic structures, the city hall’s design is firmly rooted in the mid-century modern movement. In the civic center plaza, embodying the Compton spirit of community, sits the King memorial, a triumphant tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a symbol of peace, hope and prosperity. Its classical touches and elements – such as the march of columns across the front, provide an architectural allusion to the Roman and Greek beginnings of western systems of government.  The King memorial, by noted sculptor Gerald Gladstone, evokes Dr. King’s last speech, “I have been to the mountaintop.” Speaking in Memphis, Tenn. the night before he died, King said that if he could travel in time, he would go to Greece and visit with its ancient philosophers at the pillared temple to Athena, the Parthenon. Then he would move on to Rome, where remnants of the former empire survive in the ruined columns of the Forum. More important than those antiquities, however, is the enduring struggle for democracy and freedom here in America, he said. So true. Architectural styles may evolve over time, but that struggle, the unifying and edifying mission of public art, democracy and civic building remains unchanged.

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John C. Argue Swim Stadium

26. John C. Argue Swim Stadium

Photo: By John Paul 'Boomer' courtesy of discoverlosangeles.com


Photo: Courtesy of John Paul ‘Boomer’ / discoverlosangeles.com & Gail Parker / John C. Argue Swim Stadium

 The 1932 Olympic Games put Los Angeles on the map. An unprecedented 100,000 people showed up at the opening ceremony,  and the games had a scale and quality never before seen  in the city . Los Angeles’ 10th Street was renamed Olympic Boulevard,  but because the country was in the grip of the Great Depression, costs were kept down with relatively few new venues constructed. One landmark slated for use during the Games was the newly-constructed Los Angeles Swimming Stadium, an impressive Art Deco style stadium  constructed beside the Greco-Roman inspired Coliseum  in  Exposition  Park.   Gold medal  swimmers  such as Buster Crabbe (the future Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon) entered through the natatorium’s imposing entrance, leading to a  then-state-of-the-art  50-meter pool. There were dressing rooms, a press section and seating accommodations for 10,000 spectators.  At the time, the pool was a model for international swimming, with ample, wide lanes that prevented swimmers from  veering into each other’s wake  — a common occurrence back then . As the Games came to a close, the  venue continued to serve the community,  with the USC swimming team and others using it for competitions.   By 1970, 65 world records  had been set at the stadium;  to date, no other pool in the world has come close to  such a milestone.  It’s glory days officially ended when the 1984 Olympic Games ushered in a new era,  and the natatorium was pushed aside for a pool  at USC.  Ten years later, the 1994 Northridge earthquake caused major damage to the old swimming stadium structure and the natatorium was closed down. Had it not been for the tireless  efforts of sports advocate and noted philanthropist John Argue, the 1932 Swimming Stadium would have likely gone the way of  the Olympic Village in the Baldwin Hills.  Argue  formed a nonprofit and helped secure funding to restore  the natatorium. There was much work to be done; the stadium ‘s structure walls were severely cracked,  and repairing them  was an engineering challenge. The original color of the concrete was poured in 1932 and weathered  for roughly 70 years,  so matching the color proved a feat.   In the fall of 2004,  however, the 120,000 square-foot renewed structure was completed at a cost of $30 million. Today  on the site there is a three-story recreation center with two basketball courts, weight and fitness rooms, a family pool, an outdoor amphitheater and a 50-meter competition pool. The LA 84/John C. Argue Swim Stadium is open to the public; it retains its original historic  façade, but offers a sleek and modern interior for champions, beginners and swimmers of every ability in between.

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Spruce Goose Hangar

27. Spruce Goose Hangar


In the recorded histories of gargantuan, Brobdingnagian,  pharaonic boondoggles, Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose – the World War II-era wooden airplane that flapped off the ground for all of one minute –  isn’t quite up there with, say,  a pyramid, but it’s close. (In a contest for the all-time greatest waste of taxpayers’ dollars on egotistically pointless sorts of giant thingies, pyramids still win).Yet, that said, big, bold building enterprises that require tons of human ingenuity (not to mention birch wood or limestone) have a way of capturing our imagination.  The sheer scope of the enterprises doesn’t merely boggle the eye; it challenges our preconceptions about human limitations. The Spruce Goose and its redwood hangar, pictured here, was, historians say, an illustration of not just one man’s vision but of an entire nation’s determination to win a war. Hercules, the plane’s real name, had a wingspan of 320 feet and weighed 200 tons. The hangar, which is longer than two football fields, is still one of the largest wooden structures in the world. Today, the Hangar, in Playa del Rey, is being adapted into part of a larger campus of soundstages and entertainment business offices, by developer Wayne Ratkovich. Ratkovich, a champion of socially responsible development, is best known for his perfectly crafted restorations of the Wiltern Theater, Chapman Market, Oviatt Building and Fine Arts Building, all in Los Angeles. Hughes, at the height of his genius, famously palled around with movie stars while building his aviation and motion picture empire. So it’s fitting that the hangar’s second act is as a soundstage where movies such as Transformers are filmed. Who can fault Hughes for thinking big, and who knows — the hangar’s ultimate purpose may have yet to be determined. After all, those lapis and gold-filled pyramids perhaps began as monuments to one man or woman, but thousands of years later they are wonders of the world not because of Khufu or Tutankhamen, but ultimately, because of what they teach us about ourselves.

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Ambassador Hotel

28. Ambassador Hotel


 Built in 1921, the Ambassador Hotel was Los Angeles’ first big, beautiful, bona fide urban resort. There, in an unexpected oasis, the rich and famous would frolic, riding horses and splashing in the newfangled swimming pool. That the Ambassador site remains today is due to, and despite, several factors: the dramatic evolution of the city, the development of newer playgrounds for the rich, preservation battles of historic proportions, demographic changes unimagined in the 1920s and the importance of public education. Of course, the property long ago ceased serving as a hotel and is now a complex of schools serving the Pico-Union and Koreatown neighborhoods. The original building lost its luster after the tragic assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 , and a years-long battle ensued as to how or whether it should be repurposed. Today, the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, are comprised of six public schools built to relieve overcrowded schools in the area. The 24-acre complex has few remnants of its more glamorous era. Most of the hotel , designed by Myron Hunt and partner Elmer Grey, was torn down in 2006. (Hunt and Grey would also design the San Marino house of Henry Huntington in 1909, which later became part of the main art gallery of the Huntington Library). Still, some of the most iconic elements of the original Ambassador Hotel were incorporated in the new design, including some Moorish archways in the hotel’s legendary Cocoanut Grove where the first Academy Awards were held. The room is now a 582-seat theatre—sans the papier mache palm trees that decorated the inside of the dining room or the mechanical monkeys from Rudolph Valentino’s hit movie “The Sheik ” that swung from the trees. The hotel’s 1940’s era Paul R. Williams-designed coffee shop, near the spot where Marilyn Monroe once posed for photos, now serves as a teachers’ lounge. And the intricate vaulted ceiling of the hotel’s Embassy Ballroom, the site of Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 Primary victory speech, was reconstructed as the library for secondary students. So, although some of its history has been erased, new generations of Angelenos are preparing for the future within its walls.

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Angelus Rosedale Cemetery

29. Angelus Rosedale Cemetery


 At the end of the 19th century, Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in the West Adams District was a trailblazer, far ahead of its time. Founded in 1884 when only 28,285 people lived in Los Angeles City, Rosedale was the first cemetery to offer an integrated eternity, providing plots to the deceased of all races. It was also the first graveyard in the West, to offer crematory services. As such, it was a popular place to spend the great hereafter, and a veritable who’s who is buried there.  Academy Award winner Hattie McDaniel rests here as well as Dooley Wilson, whose version of As Time Goes By in the movie Casablanca has endured for decades. The former owners of Catalina Island are here. Here lies Louis Phillip, best noted for building one of the region’s first mansions, erected in 1875, and whose towering fortune of $3 million made him (according to newspaper reports) the richest man in the county. There is international flare too: Maria Rasputin, daughter of the Russian mystic and advisor to the doomed Romanov family, Grigori Rasputin, makes this her last resting place there. Once a year, McDaniel, Wilson, the Phillips family and others notable ghosts attend the West Adams Heritage Association Living History Tour September 28 (All right, they’re not really ghosts; actors in costume lurk among the elaborate headstones, pyramid crypts and antique monuments). This year, the spirit of Jennie Bovard, the University of Southern California’s first female professor, will be summoned along with Dr. Oner Barker, an African American physician who risked his career during the McCarthy red scare and Ivie Anderson, a chanteuse who sang with Duke Ellington. Bought in 1993 by the family-owned Angelus Funeral Home, the cemetery continues to be an important cultural landmark and reminder of the region’s past and present for generations of Angelenos of every race and faith—dead or alive.

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FaithDome

30. FaithDome


Photo: Photo courtesy of Cong, Flickr.com

The FaithDome, home to the  Crenshaw Christian Center, was founded by Rev. Frederick K.C. Price in 1973.  It was first located in Inglewood, with about 300 members, but Price’s radio and television ministries brought hundreds, then thousands more to services, and to accommodate the booming congregation the center  purchased the 32-acre former campus of Pepperdine University, which had decamped to Malibu. Construction on the building, and the aluminum dome’s clear-span design by Temcor, was completed in 1989. It is one of the largest geodesic structures in the world, and is widely regarded as an iconic landmark in the region’s landscape. The lattice shell structure is built in a style popularized by Buckminster Fuller – a Unitarian architect, inventor and futurist who once decreed that selfishness is unnecessary and “henceforth unrationalizable.”  With a push from Fuller, the popularity of geodesic domes took off in the 1950s, and they were featured as exhibit attractions (notably in Montreal), municipal buildings, military station and experimental housing developments. Fuller did not invent the design – rather he is the Henry Ford of the structure — the person who popularized it for the masses. Try to imagine the wonder and contradiction the new shape presented to mid-20th century eyes — the expanse of vaulted weightlessness that soared without pillars or posts, columns or beams.  Today, the FaithDome is the spiritual home of more than 10,000 people. It is also, however, a beacon to millions who never have entered its doors.  The aerial photo here shows a sight familiar to many Angelenos and travelers from around the world. On the final approach to LAX, no matter what time of day, you know you are almost safely home when there, glistening in the glare of sunshine or the soft glow of  moonlight, is the stunning white roof of  the Faith Dome. 

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Loyola Marymount University

31. Loyola Marymount University


Photo: Courtesy of Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University, affectionately called LMU, is more than a top notch school from which to receive a degree; it is home to an eclectic architectural mix that houses Mediterranean Revival, Spanish Renaissance and Post Modern style buildings on its 142-acre campus. Take for example its 120,000-square-foot William H. Hannon Library. Just four years old, the circular design of this three-story facility with floor to ceiling windows is reminiscent of a classical structure found in Rome. Complete with study rooms, a fireplace and an outdoor terrace with a media lounge and café, this library is modern and contemporary, yet its lines evoke ancient structures. Not far away, in a Spanish Gothic architectural style sits the Sacred Heart Chapel, arguably the most iconic building on campus. The chapel evokes a late medieval period, with 27 large stained-glass windows, vaulted ceiling and arches in its entryway and inside. Although the buildings could not be more different, they are nonetheless harmonious, demonstrating that classical and modern architecture together can seamlessly work to enrich the educational environment. Setting off the beauty of the campus is the university’s location. Situated in Westchester, minutes away from Los Angeles International Airport and the Pacific Ocean, the campus sits on top of a bluff that offers visitors and students stunning views of Playa Del Rey, Culver City and Marina Del Rey. Loyola Marymount traces its early beginnings to 1911, when it was founded as Los Angeles College. When St. Vincent’s College for boys closed its doors in 1911, members of the Society of Jesus opened a high school division of their newly founded college, naming the school both for the society’s founder, Saint Ignatius Loyola, and the Virgin Mary. Rapid growth led the Jesuits to seek a new campus and in 1918, rename the school Loyola College of Los Angeles. The society relocated the school to its current Westchester location in 1929. Today LMU is the largest Jesuit Catholic University for undergraduates on the West Coast, with nearly 6,000 undergraduate students. To a certain extent, Loyola Marymount’s architecture is an apt metaphor for the school itself; the university remains rooted in its history and values while steadily advancing the ideas, innovations and education of today.

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Bethlehem Baptist Church

32. Bethlehem Baptist Church


At first glance, if driving or walking by the corner of Compton Avenue and East 49th Street, it can be difficult to readily appreciate the stark beauty of the Bethlehem Baptist Church. Its original luster has long been washed away by the elements, and years of disuse have taken a toll. The church, however, is a bona fide architecture treasure: it is the only church designed by the great modern architect, Rudolph Schindler. Schindler houses dot the Southern California landscape, but the church is as unique both for its location in the southern part of the city and for the visceral power of its social justice message. Commissioned by an African-American congregation in 1944, Bethlehem Baptist served as both a place of worship and community center. This was the era of Jim Crow and racial housing covenants, however, with its assertively modern design and abstract cruciform tower, the church inspired the community not only to look heavenward for solace and support, but ahead – to a future that would see the end of segregation and progress toward equality. To heighten its impact, the congregation located its new building on a corner of the lot rather than in its center – a bold move 70 years ago for both the worshipers at Bethlehem Baptist and Schindler. With its sharp, clean lines and geometric shapes, the church certainly deserved to be placed on the list of Los Angeles’ Historic-Cultural Monument by the City Council—as it finally was in 2009. We show it here in its original, pristine state. The design showcases horizontal bands of stucco in a de Stijl pattern that resembles rectangular Legos stacked like elements in a Mondrian painting. The horizontal bands also allowed the insertion of planters and other openings for natural elements to soften its straight edges. Although the edifice is regularly featured in articles, on blogs and in books about L.A. architecture, over the years it has fallen into serious disrepair. Its historical landmark designation means it is safe from demolition and cannot easily be altered or torn down, but Bethlehem Baptist needs something more. It needs the same commitment and reverence that first brought a timeless, modernist vision to a corner of South L.A.

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Architect Eric Owen Moss

Eric Owen Moss

 

Is there another neighborhood in the United States of America that packs the contemporary architectural punch of the Hayden Tract in Culver City? We don’t think so. Building by building, architect Erin Owen Moss transformed what was once a gritty industrial area of warehouses and near-empty buildings into an outdoor museum of dynamic structures. Instead of imposing one man’s personal ethos, however, they invite creative communion. Architectural institutions, associations and aficionados, developers and design die hards sing his praises; tour groups from as far away as Japan, Germany come by the busloads to revel in the area. We have featured Moss’ work previously (The Stealth building), but looking at his work piecemeal mutes the impact of his achievement in Culver City. What city planners around the world struggle to accomplish – the graceful repurposing of neighborhoods– he has achieved with architecture, catalyzing economic development and job creation, creating spaces that attract cutting edge companies and entrepreneurs. Moss credits the vision of developers Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith, who have been his long-time patrons, saying: “What the Smiths did is actually quite unique; I don’t think they’ve been recognized for it enough.” Nike moved in, so did digital advertising powerhouse Omelet, Beats by Dre and the list goes on. Why? Because a creative environment attracts a creative community, which in turn inspires and energizes the work. It is also a winning business model – with roughly 1 million square feet of space, the Smiths have a vacancy rate of zero. To end 2013’s look at architectural sites in the Second District, we diverge from our typical routine. Normally we feature one architectural gem with an audio description of its merit. This month, however, we have a special gift: a video interview with the architect behind the some of the region’s most riveting structures, Eric Moss. Enjoy!

 

Angewandte Building, Photo: Courtesy of EricOwenMoss.com


Samitaur Tower


Pterodactyl


Umbrella


Spotlight on Willowbrook

Spotlight on Willowbrook

Is it a part of Compton? Watts? Maybe Rosewood? The little unincorporated community of Willowbrook has, like so many neighborhoods in unincorporated Los Angeles County –long had a question mark hovering over its identity. However, the community named for the willows and shallow brook that were a landmark and boundary of sorts in the 1840s, is poised to emerge as a distinctive health care, transportation and civic hub , thanks to a $600 million- investment by Los Angeles County in new buildings, gardens, art and infrastructure. Catalyzing its resurgence is the development of three modernist buildings on the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus: A Center for Public Health, the new MLK Outpatient Center and a new state-of-the-art hospital. The center for public health opened in 2011, the other two jewels in the crown, gleaming with glass and steel and welcoming curves, have recently completed construction. Glass is the prominent design element in all three buildings, and the afternoon sunshine or evening light reflect from one building to the next, thematically uniting facilities devoted to wellness, prevention, treatment  and cutting edge technology. But as important as healthcare is to a community, Willowbrook retains an old fashioned sense of community that gives it a strong sense of place.  And to capture that sensibility , in 2011, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, in partnership with LA Commons, used funding from the National Endowment for the arts to do a year-long project on the community’s cultural assets. The results, highlighted in the book Willowbrook Is…Willowbrook Es, bring to life the role arts, architecture and culture can play in a community where neighborhoods still have a distinctively agrarian and even rural feel.  Since, the 1930s, residents have used the deep lots to grow their own fruits and vegetables, a tradition long held among the African Americans who moved to Los Angeles from the south and now more recently, with Latino immigrants.  In Willowbrook, residents share their garden bounties with one another, look out for each other and take pride in where they live. There are no McMansions here, only carefully tended homes with lovingly cared for gardens and residents who love where they live. Viewed in isolation, the homes are far from unique in the Los Angeles landscape. Taken together, as they are here in Willowbrook Es…they are a snapshot of a neighborhood’s past history and present aspirations.

The Reserve: Modern Design for an Older Space

The Reserve: Modern Design for an Older Space

Big Yellow Taxi’s famous chorus – They paved paradise and put up a parking lot – could have been written about just about any community in Southern California. Too many architectural landmarks, historical structures and buildings that sported cool, quaint or quirky designs were paved over for so-called progress. So it’s not just refreshing, it is the rare example when the reverse occurs; modernize it but work with the natural surroundings.  

A group of environmentally conscious developers, design and landscape architects created a 20-acre work space on the site of the former main distribution center for the U.S. Post Office in Playa Vista, re-imagining and reusing the space for something extraordinary. Taking the restored wetlands and wildlife preserve nearby as a cue, The Reserve, as the new office spaces are called, seeks to balance nature with a 21st century work environment.

In 2011, the former postal complex was purchased by two private real estate groups, Worthe Real Estate Group and Shorenstein Properties, with the intention of creating an appealing space for small businesses in the media and entertainment industries.

Purchased while in foreclosure, the space was bleak. One blogger described it as looking like “some abandoned complex at Chernobyl,” with lots of concrete and steel, not a nary blade or leaf of green in sight.  But its location, so close to the Playa Vista development, the beach, the Marina Freeway and Jefferson Boulevard, as well as the enormous amount of acreage gave the space tantalizing possibilities.

Fast forward to today: the former asphalt parking lot for post office trucks, is now an oasis of drought resistant grasses bordered by evergreen trees and hidden red and blue bird houses. Workers can stop by a private fitness center, dog walk, a bike shop and café or ride along miles of trails that connect to the beach. But some of the old was respected: the numbers painted on the walls designated for the big postal trucks remain.

Sony Play Station, Team One Advertising, the entertainment site TMZ and Microsoft have already signed leases.  More technology firms, digital arts, media groups and other forward-looking companies are coming.

With nearly two acres of garden spaces, including 600 newly planted trees, the building itself is Gold LEED certified, meaning the buildings are models of sustainable re-use and cost less to operate because they reduce energy and water bills. Natural light streams through the large windows and open spaces and a large lead glass window panel welcomes visitors into the lobby.   

The space is reflective of the newer trends in architecture, where visual design interacts with the people that use it. To counter the sedentary and often stultifying effects of traditional desk jobs, some architects now are also looking at “active designs” as a way to build buildings or recreational spaces and neighborhoods that support and promote physical, mental and social well-being.  Examples include the 2009 opening of the High Line in New York City, which converted miles of unused rail line into a public park. Chicago recently announced a $290 million-plan to create hundreds of new parks, community spaces and boat houses for residents.

While Los Angeles may be the land of freeways, increasingly it also is becoming a region that moves toward converting using already constructed spaces in dense urban areas into little villages and pockets of self-sustaining communities.

In the 1960s, contemporary architecture often looked to space exploration and other-worldly experiences to depict a lifestyle anchored in the world future.  Half a century later, we have shifted course; some of the most enlightened and inspiring architecture looks downward, promoting and encouraging human creativity in harmony with  respect and love for nature.

Before


After


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Shrine Auditorium

Shrine Auditorium

Photo: Courtesy of Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall


Photo: Courtesy of Shrine Auditorium & Expo Hall – www.shrineauditorium.com

 

 

Certain buildings have soul. Some of these structures are ancient and, having imbibed the human experience over centuries, achieved personalities of their own. Sometimes, however, they are relatively new. The wonder of Los Angeles is that in mere decades, so many of our landmarks have come to occupy a niche in the hearts and minds residents as well as people around the world. Why? Perhaps because they are the sites of high drama, of glamour, of dashed hopes and outrageous successes. Perhaps because television has made people who have never set foot inside the Forum, attended a movie at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre or eaten at Randy’s Donuts, feel as if they have. The Shrine Auditorium is another such place. It is not just a repository of historic events but a participant. Best known for having been home to the most glamorous events in Los Angeles, it did not start out playing host to the Academy Awards, the Grammys and other Hollywood big nights. The Al Malaikah Shriners built a civic space and club house in 1906, and 14 years later it went up in a blaze. Nationally, the Shriners, known for their children’s hospitals, perky red fezzes and that staple of any decent parade — miniature cars — were on a building spree. Across the country they erected “temples,” often in the Moorish Revival style, including the new auditorium. The new Shrine opened its doors in 1926. With seating for 6,700, it was the largest theater in the country; inside and out it defined fabulousness. We mean that literally. Designed in the Moroccan style by architects John C. Austin and Abram M. Edelman and with an interior by noted theater designer G. Albert Lansburgh, it evoked exotic lands and fable — Middle Eastern palaces, desert luxury out of Aladdin’s Lamp and touches of Granada’s Alhambra. Judy Garland would perform there, as would Michael Jackson. Sinatra and Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix and other legends left their mark. New management took over its programming last year, and as ever, we’re anxious to see what will be the Shrine’s next act.

  

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Young Musicians Hitting All Chords

Alexandria Garcia, 15, cannot imagine life without her trumpet. Now thanks to the seven year old Youth Orchestra LA program (YOLA), brainchild of LA Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, the petite freshman at Foshay Learning Center in South Los Angeles does not have to. For the past five years she’s been practicing at least 2 hours a day, every day, honing her technique, musicianship and abilities so that in a few years she can attend a conservatory and eventually, play professionally in an orchestra.

“When I tried the trumpet, it was just calling my name,” she said. As it is now, she can’t imagine her life without her trumpet or music. “Music gives children something productive to do with their lives instead of sit at home and play video games. I don’t know what I would be doing if I didn’t have music.”

Garcia is one of the more than 600 students whose lives have been forever changed by the youth orchestra program. Inspired by Venezuela’s revolutionary El Sistema, a rigorous music instruction program that also teaches children about leadership, teamwork and becoming thriving citizens, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its community partners — Harmony Project and the EXPO Center, a Los Angeles recreation and parks center, Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) and the LA County High School for the Arts –provide free instruments, intensive music training and academic support to a select group of students every day of the week.

One of the YOLA sites includes three orchestras that rehearse at the Expo Center in South Los Angeles. Each orchestra is made up of children ranging in ability from several schools from the area. On May 10, six of YOLA’s orchestras will perform at Walt Disney Hall for their families. This year, 10 of the advanced orchestra students, including eight from the Second District, were selected to travel to Boston where they met the famous cellist, Yo-Yo Ma and were coached by musicians from one of the city’s world-renowned music conservatories. Then the students themselves coached younger musicians in community music schools and performed an open rehearsal under Dudamel’s baton at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

They enjoyed visiting the conservatories, but to some of the students, mingling with Dudamel and Ma is just par for the course of being a YOLA musician.

“The kids are almost celebrities around here,” said Belinda Jackson, executive director of the Expo Center, where three YOLA orchestras practice every day of the week. “I mean, they have played at the Hollywood Bowl.”

But nothing gets the students more excited than the music. At a recent rehearsal, the students fluttered like a flock of birds at feeding time when it was time to play Mexican composer Arturo Marquez’s Danzon No. 2. Conductor Bruce Kiesling, tapped his baton on the music stand and brought the room to order. Then clarinet and the oboe began, weaving together in perfect harmony, slowly building as the violins swooned into a rising tempo. As the brass joined in, the room exploded into a tropical danzon, with the children dancing in their chairs, unable to contain themselves.

“I move so much that my butt is going to fall out of my chair,” Garcia noted, whose favorite piece is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2. “Moving just shows the real passion I have for music.”

Voices from Willowbrook

Willowbrook, a community near Watts and Compton, originally was a farming area settled in the 1800s that derived its name from the willow trees and rambling brook that decorated its landscape. This year, we are featuring Willowbrook on our website to highlight its vibrant community and burgeoning development.

Thanks to a $600 million-investment from Los Angeles County in new gardens, building, public art and infrastructure, the community is poised to emerge as a regional hub for health care, transportation, culture and civic activity. Catalyzing its resurgence is the development of three modernist buildings on the New Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus: A Center for Public Health, the new MLK Outpatient Center and a new state-of-the-art hospital. To date we have featured Wilowbrook in our monthly architectural feature and with the digital version of the book, Willowbrook Is… Willowbrook Es.

But nothing is more valuable than the voices from the community. Willowbrook is home to residents and retains an old fashioned sense of neighborhood. For the next two months we will be featuring one interview each week with a Willowbrook resident. The interviews were recorded by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; each voice is unique but the common thread is the pride residents have in their homes and community.


1. Delores Glass

Community, family and God — that’s everything to me.

I’ve been a resident of Willowbrook for 49 years. I came to Los Angeles as a small child from Arkansas. As a result of our family being from a rural setting, we sought out a similar neighborhood. Willowbrook was known for being the country in the city, so to speak, having 350 foot by 50 foot lots. And so that’s where my family decided to purchase property. And our family has had property here ever since.

We have a rich history. The name Willowbrook came forth as a result of this land being a marsh land with these stream and willow trees that originally was part of a ranchero situation because of the fact that most of the people that purchased property here purchased that property because they wanted to raise livestock. They wanted to have the extended garden areas and a lot of space for them and their families.

I still reside in Willowbrook. I have no intention of living any other place. I still marvel at the fact that many of the families from Willowbrook to Mona and Imperial to El Segundo. They’ve been there for fifty plus years and they still maintain their property there. It’s a good feeling to know that the comraderie is still here. The sense of community is still here.

Giant Ducks Land in Monteith Park

Duckies 1

If you visit Monteith Park in the View Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, you can hardly miss an unusual sight: a 6-foot-tall bright yellow mother duck followed by her three 4-foot-tall duckies on a splash of emerald green grass. What are they doing there, you ask?

Well, it’s another art installation by the Los Angeles-based artist “Wild Life,” known for his “guerilla art” installations that are meant to inspire Angelenos into think about art and outdoor space. “Wild Life,” who keeps his identity secret for artistic purposes, is known for his art hijinx.

In 2012 a family of life-size sunbathers in an empty downtown lot; and then a papier-mache deer mysteriously popped up among the weeds of 4th and Hill streets. A wooden tree sprouted from a stump near Spring and 2nd streets that same year.

Also, eight random spots in downtown L.A. were marked with what appeared to be official city plaques, but with a twist: instead of marking architectural monuments and historic sites, they offered elaborate background information about the dumpsters, city blocks, and signposts, at least as reported by The Lost Angeles Times.

The duckies, which flew in on March 20, are meant to signal the first day of the Equinox—or the first day of Spring. They will be nesting in the View Park neighborhood until May 1 and then will go as quickly as they landed.

Funded by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission hatched the plan with Wild Life.

“It’s a nice unexpected surprise in the landscape,” said Jennifer Lieu, Civic Art Project Assistant for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. “This is meant to be lighthearted and fun and unexpected.”

So, the question remains, where will they fly off to next in their unexpected L.A. voyage?

Willowbrook is E-Book

To capture the spirit of Willowbrook and its unique sense of place, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission hired artist Rosten Woo to chronicle the stories of its residents, their homes and surroundings. The result is a beautiful book of essays and photographs called Willowbrook is…Willowbrook es, which was unveiled Saturday, March 14, at a public book signing event. The book is also available for sale at the AC Bilbrew Library, with proceeds to benefit the nonprofit Friends of the Library.

Click here for the full experience.

Silk Road Opens at NHM

From spices to gold and rubies, leopard skins or peacock feathers, silk, poetry and ideas, the Silk Road was an ancient route that changed the way humanity interacted by creating a hub for political and economic interactions between the civilizations.

Angelenos can now travel into that mystical world by visiting the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum and touring the new exhibit, Traveling the Silk Road. The exhibit’s seven sections, which highlight the route’s golden age, from AD 600 to 1200, include such curiosities as three life-size camel models decked out in full caravan regalia, carrying trade goods and a 41-foot long portion of a full-sized model of an Arab dhow—or sailing vessel—loaded with cargo of ceramics and elaborate metalwork. Stretching from eastern China through the cities of Central Asia to the Middle East, the Silk Road wound its way through a network of land routes that stretched 4,600 miles across blazing desert sands and snowy mountain passes.

Organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Traveling the Silk Road has been seen in Asia and in Rome.  But in Los Angeles, perhaps the most diverse city in the world, the Silk Road carries special meaning. So, the museum has plans to host music, dance and martial arts performances and demonstrations throughout the months of January to April. In addition, the music inspired by the cultures can be heard on Silk Road Radio curated by KCRW’s Tom Schnabel and a special section devoted to Silk Road in L.A., will give viewers suggestions on where to go for Asian, Indian and Persian food and goods.

“There can be no more thrilling way to inaugurate our renovated gallery for temporary exhibitions than to invite visitors to glimpse the spectacular sights of the great ancient civilizations of Asia and the Middle East, to smell the spices, hear stories and music and marvel at the production and pathways of the world’s first great luxury cloth,” states Dr. Jane Pisano, president and director of the museum.

For more information visit: nhm.org

Willowbrook Is…

Willowbrook, a community just south of downtown and only four square miles, has long been in the shadow of its larger and more well-known neighbors, Compton and Watts.

However, with the opening next year of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital and Outpatient Center, the upcoming renovation of the Rosa Parks Metro Station, a parks master plan and a streetscape improvement project for Wilmington Avenue—about half a billion dollars invested into the community—Willowbrook is primed and poised to emerge as a destination in its own right.

Willowbrook resident Aurelia stands in front of her home.

To capture the spirit of Willowbrook and its unique sense of place, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission hired artist Rosten Woo to chronicle the stories of its residents, their homes and surroundings.  The result is a beautiful book of essays and photographs called Willowbrook is…Willowbrook es, which was unveiled Saturday, March 14, at a public book signing event. The book is also available for sale at the AC Bilbrew Library, with proceeds to benefit the nonprofit Friends of the Library.

Willowbrook, a farming area settled in the 1800s, derived its name from the willow trees and rambling brook that decorated its landscape.  As its population grew, the neighborhood became known for its homes with deep lots and a community of residents determined to protect it from the encroaching development.

“I wrote this book in the hopes that it will help readers see Willowbrook more vividly, more tenderly and more accurately,” Woo said.

Longtime residents have seen the area undergo a demographic transformation over the years, from white, to African American to predominately Latino.  For more than a year, Woo knocked on doors and found residents who would tell their stories.  Pastor Delores Glass of the Fellowship Baptist Church, for instance, has lived in the community for 48 years and has, in her words “seen the best of times and the worst of times as the community has wedged forward and survived, holding on to its passion for family, friends and the simple life.”

There are people like 35-year residents Otis and Olinda (last names were not used) who have planted sweet corn with seeds from Arkansas every summer in their large lot and have shared their bounty with friends and neighbors for 33 years now.  Then there is 16-year resident Aurelia, a green thumb gardener whose agaves and elephant ear plants adorn the front entrance to her white bungalow or Maria and Jose who remodeled their stucco home to become a rancho, drenched in a vibrant yellow.  These individual stories capture the ebbs and flows of changing demographics and immigration but mostly, they highlight the pride residents have in their homes and community.

“All of these projects were aimed at creating a way for people inside and outside of the neighborhood to appreciate it,” said Woo. “I tried to become a conduit and provide a framework for residents to present the things that they were proud of—the things that that they had made.”

The individual stories from the book will be posted here.

 

 

Helping Young Men of Color

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As a trained pediatrician, California Endowment CEO Dr. Robert Ross knows what it takes to raise healthy children. And so as part of a broader campaign to improve public health in California, Ross recently announced a $50 million California Endowment investment to help boys and young men of color improve their third grade reading levels, reduce school absenteeism, increase prosecution diversion programs, increase enrollment in health care coverage and reduce the number of school suspensions.

Unveiled at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, the “Sons and Brothers” campaign, seeks to increase support for young men of color by partnering with organizations, schools and nonprofits that can focus on the issues holding many back.

The statistics reveal the hardships, struggles and challenges facing these boys and young men.

Young men of color have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any group and one of the lowest entry rates into college, Ross said; they have one of the highest homicide rates and are among those most likely to be born out of wedlock.

“We have a strategic and moral imperative,” said Ross to the crowd of students, educators, elected officials, law enforcement and nonprofit leaders listening attentively to his words. “These kids are telling us, at very early stage: ‘I am losing hope.’ Our job is to focus on these early warning signs and begin a new narrative.”

Considering that people of color will make up the majority of Americans in the near future, it is in the state and the nation’s best interest to address these issues by working together to help.

“Our work is cut out for us,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We cannot let these young people down. We must invest in education, we must invest in summer youth job programs. We must invest on the front end.”

One of the first steps in the campaign will be to improve reading achievement. More than 80 percent of black boys do not read at grade level by 3rd grade. This severely hampers future academic achievement, and the slide continues into high school, with those boys being four times more likely to leave school without a diploma.

Actor and activist Edward James Olmos, who rallied the crowd, asked “What is the single most important thing you can do? Get an education.”

Following his lead, 17-year-old Manual Arts student Mister Johnson spoke about his past, his stints in juvenile hall and joining gangs—until someone at Manual Arts took the time to tell him that he too could go to college. He left the gang life behind, turned his grades around and now hopes to go to college and major in criminology or sociology.

“With support and investment, anything is possible,” he said. “I am living proof.”

Indeed, as Ross noted, there is a lot of work to be done, but the message needs to be clear to young boys and men of color: “The new narrative needs to be, you are loved, you are valued and we need you to move this nation forward.”[/raw]

Marian Wright Edelman Honored for 40 Years Helping Children


Marian Wright Edelman, the indefatigable leader of the Children’s Defense Fund, called on all Americans to reduce gun violence, invest in early childhood education and address the enduring cycle of poverty affecting millions of American children at a gala celebrating the organization’s 40th anniversary in Washington D.C.

“Every 32 seconds today, in the richest nation on earth, a child is born in poverty—11.5 million children,” said Wright Edelman, who as an attorney in the 1960s was active in the Civil Rights Movement and the War on Poverty. “If Dr. King were alive today, I have no doubt he would be, along with Robert Kennedy, calling for a poor people’s campaign.”

The event, which was attended by Hilary Rodham Clinton, Rev. James Lawson, Geoffrey Canada, of the Harlem Children’s Zone and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, was held against the backdrop of the government shutdown. Already struggling to recover from the Great Recession, millions of poor Americans will be the most affected by cuts to programs or delays in funding for programs like Head Start, which provides grants to increase preschool education, or the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, a lifeline for millions of children and families.

“The work of the CDF and Marian Wright Edelman is important and will continue,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “Here in Los Angeles, we have seen how children have benefited from the Freedom Schools program, how they have been empowered to learn and reach their highest potential.”

Clinton noted the important role the Children’s Defense Fund has taken in giving American children a voice in political corridors, including bills that help to expand health insurance coverage for children and another that reduces the number of children languishing in foster care.

Not only has the CDF lobbied for stronger laws protecting children but also created programs such as the CDF Freedom Schools literacy program to help break the cycle of poverty by teaching all children the value of reading and education.

“Freedom Schools are a brilliant intervention in children’s lives,” said Clinton.

Edelman’s passion for helping the poor was ignited at a young age. She exposed poverty to people like Sen. Robert F. Kennedy when she took him to the Mississippi Delta to meet sharecroppers and their malnourished children. She was on the frontlines of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty where she advocated for creation of the “social safety net.”

But perhaps the evening’s highlights came when Young Advocate Leadership Training alumni spoke of their experiences learning how to lead, including Michael Tubbs, currently the youngest member elected to the Stockton City Council and Amanda Aguirre who completed a fellowship at the White House Office of Public Engagement. There was a performance by a cello protégé, Malik Kofi, 12-year-old cellist, and his mentor world renowned cellist Udi Bar David, a tap dance performance by the Manzari Brothers, singing by the Washington Performing Arts Society Children of the Gospel Choir and the grand finale singing performance by Annisse Murillo with Freedom Scholars holding lanterns surrounded Wright Edelman and Clinton on stage.

The work will continue for Wright Edelman, whose energy and passion seem undeterred.

“When 1 in 3 black boys and 1 in 6 Latino boys is at risk of going to prison, we’re at risk of creating a new apartheid if we don’t stand up, break it up and transform it,” she said.

Perhaps Clinton summed it up best when describing her longtime friend: “As Marian has said, ‘This is the work of a lifetime. CDF’s values are what American is really all about. They are making the case for the children of our country.”

Willowbrook Murals Win Prestigious Art Award

Los Angeles artist Louise Griffin knew she had a challenge on her hands when she saw the ribbed concrete walls lining the Augustus F. Hawkins Mental Health Clinic courtyard. Hired by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission to conceive of a project for the facility, Griffin knew that the textured walls, with their folds and edges, would be challenging for a mural. But the folds reminded her of the paper origami cranes she would make with patients in recreation therapy. So, incorporating the folds into the work, she designed a mural with brightly colored cranes flying over a landscape of blue, green and orange mountain peaks.

As it turns out, others also thought her idea was innovative and creative. The project was so engaging that it recently won an international competition called the Collaboration of Design + Art Awards (CoD+A Awards) for work in a public space. There were 433 entries submitted from more than 29 countries. A prestigious panel of judges narrowed the contestants down to 100 and then opened the competition to voting from the public where only 8 winners were selected.

[raw] Griffin wanted to make sure the residents at the health clinic participated in the making of the mural, so she included them in priming for painting, painting and touching up the areas all with the supervision of their recreation therapists. The two outdoor courtyards each measure more than 4,000 square feet.

“As the artist, I would stay near the patients, encouraging them and reinforcing their contribution to the mural’s overall success,” said Griffin, describing the process. “As more color was put down and the patients’ excitement grew, we saw doctors, psychiatrists and nursing students come out to help paint and be part of the mural’s process. The transformation of the courtyards brought on a positive reaction in both the patients and the staff long before the murals completion.”

The mural project, which was funded as part of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town “Project Willowbrook: Cultivating a Healthy Community through Arts and Culture,” is part of an ongoing effort to bring more civic artwork to Willowbrook, a small community between Athens and Rancho Dominguez near Compton. Project Willowbrook, is also part of a broader investment in the community, in particular with the construction and completion of the new MLK Jr. Hospital and Outpatient Center as well as the upcoming renovation of the Rosa Parks Metro station.

Griffin, a Los Angeles-based artist, has focused much of her work on environmental sustainability including an installation, Rooted which is a series of glass panel at East Rancho Dominguez Library comprised of collaged layers of photographs of neighborhood trees, historic maps showing East Rancho Dominguez and how it grew over time and children’s library books.
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