- Second District
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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, 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.
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.
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, 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.”
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.