Bowling Square (1961)

A dramatic cantilever over some lovely articulated masonry

I finally got to stop by 1020 S Baldwin Ave with a camera. I’d been meaning to photograph this building for quite a while, as I’m always struck by the dramatic cantilever and brickwork whenever I drive past on Baldwin in Arcadia. Turned out to be a handsome building; I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the overhanging forms on the south side were.


Luther Burbank Middle School

Looking southward along the western elevation

Absolutely love the colors at Luther Burbank Middle School in Highland Park. Judging from historical Google street views, the building was repainted from a drab brown (or raw brick?) sometime during the pandemic.

The building seems to date to 1975, and was designed by Mal Gianni & Associates, a firm specializing in school construction. The New Formalist vocabulary is interesting, though so much more interesting in the bright colors it sports today, particularly on the tiny columns holding up the small arcades.


75 N Santa Anita

Looking up at the southeast corner

Saw this weird old modern with an incredible sun breaker across the street from my dermatologist’s office in Arcadia: 75 N Santa Anita Ave.

Not a lot online but apparently designed by a local Arcadian architect named Richard K. Weimer. This building (early 1960s), perhaps once housed his office.

A post on loopnet advertises the whole complex as a tear-down.


The Helman Building

A detail of the southern elevation

I spend a lot of time driving east and west along Foothill Blvd.

In some ways, that 35-mph stretch between Arcadia and Monrovia is the entire basis for this blog: every time I make the drive, I look out for a few minor modernist buildings along the way, all done by mid-century USC grads: a barrel-vaulted church by Smith and Williams, a low-slung dentists’ office by Robert F. Gordon, and a lovely little office building with a vintage sign on the front facade: 160 E. Foothill.


Ladd & Kelsey’s Herrick Chapel

The 1968 Herrick Chapel at Occidental College;
a gathering of curved walls on the southern elevation

Having lived near Occidental College for a number of years, I was always struck by the little chapel near its entrance. A smooth white-ish building. Every wall is curved, though I wouldn’t say every wall is a curve. More like a rectilinear building that’s been rounded, like a rounded font. Actually that’s exactly what it is: a rectilinear cruciform church that’s been worked over with rounded edges. Is curvilinear the word for that?


Details at Geisel Library

Detail of the eastern elevation

Finally made it down to La Jolla to see William Pereira’s Geisel Library. (Or was it Gin Wong?)

Not a cheap or thin building, but a really incredible one. Exterior is a 10/10. Very evil-headquarters when approaching from the north and the hulking thing first reveals itself from behind the trees, but then the closer you get the less evil it seems.


Koenig House 2

A tracing of Pierre Koenig’s aerial view of Koenig House 2 (1985)

When I saw Koenig House 2 pop up on modernist real estate Instagram, my first thought was: is there going to be an open house? I’d read about the house before, in the two Koenig books I have, though as a house from 1985, it falls outside his “heroic” period of the late 1950s and early 1960s, when his steel frame houses began popping up around Southern California and — most notably — in the pages of Arts & Architecture and its Case Study House program.

His most well-known house is undoubtedly the much-filmed and much-publicized Case Study House 22 (The Stahl House) of 1960, which hangs over a cliff in the Hollywood Hills, though the house that made the biggest impression on me when I first leafed through a book on the Case Study House program was 1958’s CSH 21, the Bailey House, an incredibly simple little structure that contrasts a deep-black steel frame with bright white steel walls and roof. Stark, really, and made only more so by its lack of overhanging eaves.

Anyway, I’d never been in a Koenig house, so when I saw that there was going to be an open house, I knew I had to try and make it there.


Kanner’s Nursery

Stephen Kanner’s Eagle Rock Child Care Center, 1998

When visiting Neutra’s basketball court, I’d never thought much about the building just up the hill. I’d noticed the great big painted letters on the exterior, sure, I’m always looking out for letters.

This last time I went to visit the Neutra and after I had taken a few photos, I started walking to my car and turned to look back down at the Neutra from a distance, but what caught my eye wasn’t the red building down the hill, it was the blue building right next to me — its northwest elevation, specifically, not the southeast one I’d seen before. Gosh, what a lovely building! A beautiful little steel structure joined with a pair of concrete block ones. Almost kind of high-tech looking, with little spider-leg support nods to Neutra.

So I quickly walked around the building and snapped some iPhone photos, all the while wondering: who designed this little blue gem?


Neutra’s Basketball Court

The Eagle Rock Recreation Center Clubhouse in Los Angeles

We must’ve been looking for a place to walk our neurotic dog. I can’t think of any other reason why we would’ve ended up at the Eagle Rock Rec Center in 2016, to take a walk on the big field that stretches out below the building pictured above. I must’ve wondered who designed the building, since I’ve known Neutra designed it for as long as I’ve known about the building, but back then — when “Neutra” was just a name I remembered from an architectural history survey course — it wouldn’t have meant much.

What struck me then was how dilapidated the whole thing was. Crumbling concrete, peeling paint. Not tragically dilapted, just… kind of cruddy, in an oddly exciting way. Here was an architect mentioned in every 20th century architectural history textbook you can find, and yet, here was an incredibly normal building that people played basketball in. No fences, no guards, no tickets. Just a Neutra, next to some tennis courts, above a baseball field.


How Cheap and How Thin

Neutra’s Kaufmann House in Palm Springs

Note This blog was originally called “Cheap & Thin,” but the more I’ve posted here, the more that (A) I’m writing about building that aren’t particularly thin (as they’re made of concrete), and (B) I’m writing about little known architects whose descendents might not be flattered by their work being implicitly described as “cheap.”

“Cheap and thin.” That’s how Frank Lloyd Wright famously described Richard Neutra’s Lovell Health House in 1932. It’s a criticism I love not only because it illustrates how much of a dickhead Frank Lloyd Wright was, but also because it’s accurate: Neutra’s houses were cheap and thin.

And not by mistake. His designs, and the many more those inspired, were intentionally cheap and thin.


Coming Back to Buildings

The Schindler House

Once upon a time, in a small village in rural France, I walked with two architectural history professors on a narrow road. Our shoes crunched on the gravel for a while until one professor stopped to look up at a small rustic building. You see that beam there? We turned to where he was pointing. Amazing to think that’s how they did that. The other professor agreed and they started to discuss the beam in great detail.

This was the summer after I had just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architectural history. The two professors were there in France to photograph Gothic churches, and I was there as an assistant. It was an unforgettable three weeks; the cathedrals we visited were some of the most incredible spaces I’ve ever entered. But as I stood there on that road looking at that beam, I knew I could never muster that kind of passion for buildings, and made a mental note to cross “Architectural historian” off my list of possible careers.