2024-01-22

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?

•••
The northwest side of the Eagle Rock Nursery
A straight-on view of the northwest side of the Eagle Rock Nursery

I don’t think I know quite enough to unpack all the modernism references here. Is the X-brace an Eames reference? (I can’t pass up the opportunity to share Esther McCoy’s anecdote that when Charles Eames’ structural engineer told him the X-brace on the Eames House wasn’t necessary, he responded, But I wannit!)

Anyway, when I got home I immediately started searching for who designed the building, which wasn’t easy, since the building doesn’t seem to have a clear name or purpose. Is it a nursery school?

Is this the purpose of the building?

According to LA Parks, the official name is “The Eagle Rock Child Care Building,” which is straightforward enough, but even googling the official name didn’t surface an architect or an architectural firm.

So I turned to the LA permit search, entering the address and coming up with a scanned image for some interior work that noted the architect’s name: Stephen Kanner.

Not a name I’d heard before, but easy enough to find out about: a third-generation LA architect most known for two incredibly LA buildings: a gas station with a faux on-ramp and a googie-revival In-N-Out. A playful architect, then, which shows in the nursery. So maybe he was an Eames fan, then — not too many light-hearted architects out in the world, and the Eames did love to play; the yard here is full of those ubiquitous molded plastic seats for school children; those must be knock-offs of the side chair. (I think?)

A rendering, presumably from before 1998. Is the whole building meant to look like blocks?

I started reading a little about Stephen Kanner and found that he’d founded LA’s A+D Museum but, unfortunately, that he’d also died quite young. Probably not something really worth mentioning, except to say that when I read that Kanner died of pancreatic cancer, I suddenly felt very connected to the architect and his building. About a year ago my own mom passed away from pancreatic cancer, which is something I’ve never talked about online, though somehow it feels fitting to mention here, many paragraphs into a post on an architecture blog that no one reads. Although what else is there to say? Reminders of my mom are everywhere, which is something I cherish. Nice to be reminded of her when looking at photos of this lovely little blue building.

The south-east side, a gigantic G

All in all, I haven’t found out too much about this child care center, but here’s a nice remembrance of Kanner by Frances Anderton.

The northeast side, a lovely circle