News
03.11.2009
Eavesdrop

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THESE PICTURES?
We know these are tough times for newspapers, but something wasn’t right with the list from The Los Angeles Times at year’s end entitled, “The best houses of all time in L.A.” The panel assembled was stellar, if odd: Ray Kappe, Hitoshi Abe, Ron Radziner, Steven Ehrlich (none of whom were allowed to nominate their own work, even though Kappe’s own house made the top 10), David Travers, Crosby Doe (uh, real estate agent who represents plenty of the top picks), Linda Dishman (LA Conservancy=agenda), and non-LA-based Karrie Jacobs (why not choose a voice from our own city—we don’t know, maybe the newspaper’s own architecture critic?). Jurors were given no guidance other than to pick the “best houses,” and thanks to a bizarre point-assigning metric, the result was rather narrow. Although the paper defined Southern California as “Santa Barbara to San Diego, including Palm Springs and the desert,” the top 10 consisted of mostly midcentury homes built from 1920 to 1960 (“of all time”?), almost all of which can be seen on a short drive around the Hollywood Hills. No Spanish Colonials, no Victorians, no Frank Gehry residence, none of the bazillion houses built since 1968. Concerned, UCLA professor Dana Cuff asked a group of advanced architecture students to determine what the heck went wrong with this experiment. The verdict? Even seasoned critics fell victim to the fame game, said student Esra Kahveci: “The absence of a guide led the jury to the most banal version of exploration, and the question of what constitutes ‘the best’ becomes the question of iconic image,” noting that 80 percent of the selected houses had been photographed by Julius Shulman. Even more icky was the accompanying story, an opportunity squandered with descriptions that mostly focused on all the movies shot within them.

JOHN CHASE UNLEASHED
Is West Hollywood urban designer John Chase the most flamboyant practitioner of California architecture? At a December event co-organized by your faithful Eavesdropette, Chase lived up to his reputation and then some: Dressed in a Prince-worthy fluorescent orange-and-purple ensemble, he described the too-hot-for-Eavesdrop details of inviting a homeless man into his house to discuss “public vs. private space.” (The story was obviously no shock to Chase’s husband Jonathan Cowan, who shook his head good-naturedly in the front row.) A few weeks later at a panel discussion for the re-release of Chase’s book Everyday Urbanism, guests entering the Hollywood gallery LACE had to walk past a projected film of naked young men playing an innocent game we’d venture to call Slap the Weenie. We asked Chase if he had anything to do with the choice of that particular film. “That was me,” he quipped, “before the change.” As the panel started, fellow editor John Kaliski thanked his daughter, while Chase thanked Monica Lewinsky, “for being such a wonderful subject.” Or perhaps you’ve been on the receiving ends of one of Chase’s famous emails that include some very NSFW websites (to be fair, they do prominently feature design as well as, um, other prominent things). Anyway, it’s all very, very naughty, John! And we love you for it.

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Alissa Walker