Search results for "frederick fisher"

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Jane B. Eisner Middle School
Takashige Ikawa

The Jane B. Eisner Middle School is the latest chapter in a success story for Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, a community-based association that has combined idealism and a firm grasp of practicalities in educating children in LA’s immigrant communities. Like Green Dot and other non-profits, it offers a free alternative to failing public schools. In 1999, Camino Nuevo hired Daly Genik Architects to create their first school from an empty mini mall in MacArthur Park, and the firm has extended the Burlington Campus three times since then. For their seventh school, Camino Nuevo selected Frederick Fisher and Partners (FFP), which had never before designed a school but offered experience in cost-efficient renovation. The school, named for the Jane Eisner Foundation, is located in Harvard Heights, a historic neighborhood just west of downtown.

Exposed bow trusses (left). Circulation space at the new school is bright and airy (right). 

FFP is best known for its art spaces, most recently an addition to the Colby Museum in Maine, and college buildings from Otis to Princeton. But they got their start doing low-budget loft conversions for artists who anticipated the recent renaissance of downtown LA by thirty years. So they responded enthusiastically to the challenge of turning a 1920s PacBell service facility into a creative environment, as they had with the Bergamot Station tram depot. The building is an LA Historic-Cultural Monument and its windowless cement plaster walls and cast stone Churrigueresque portals were left untouched. The raw interior, with its concrete floor, exposed brick walls, and bow truss roof vaults was divided with minimal white walls that enclose nine classrooms, an assembly hall, computer library, learning lab, administrative offices and service spaces. The former service yard became a playground.

Seismic reinforcement was a priority, and much of the budget was invested in a structural steel frame that exceeds the usual requirements for historic structures. Roof openings bathe the interior in natural light and are supplemented by industrial light fittings. Broad corridors run around three sides and down the middle, feeding into the assembly hall, which can be separately accessed for community events after hours. Bowed wood slats conceal the insulation inside the roof vault, incorporate sprinklers, and muffle noise. Cable trays are bracketed to corridor walls for easy maintenance of the extensive wiring.

Computer-filled classrooms receive indirect natural light (left). The historic Spanish facade, seen from a playing surface from the street (right).

The whole job was brought in for the surprisingly low figure of $225 per square foot. But the sensitivity of FFP’s interventions lift the spirits of teachers and students. It helps that this is a solidly built historic structure with interiors far loftier than those of new-built schools. It’s already a local landmark that is well loved by the community. For Fisher, it has the same creative potential as a loft for tech startups in Santa Monica or SOMA. Found materials are accented with tones of red and green, and the whole space is a subtle play of light, shade, and varied textures.

“We believe our buildings should contribute to community pride and support a collective culture of learning,” said Philip Lance, president of Pueblo Nuevo Development, and co-founder of Camino Nuevo. “Hiring talented design architects that embrace this philosophy is essential to a successful partnership.” In contrast to the LAUSD, a Gulliver constrained by a net of bureaucratic procedures and regulations, the charter schools encourage creative freedom for designers and teachers alike. Some have failed, but that is the price of experimentation. Walking around Jane Eisner and watching the attentive faces of its students restores one’s faith in the promise of free education.

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Frederick Fisher Gets Gold in Los Angeles
The AIA Los Angeles has awarded its 2013 Gold Medal to Frederick Fisher. Founder and principal at Frederick Fisher & Partner Architects, Fisher has been practicing architecture in LA for more than 30 years. During the late 1970s he was part of the “L.A. School,” a group of architects including Thom Mayne, Frank Gehry, and Eric Owen Moss who staged exhibitions at Mayne’s in-home architecture gallery.Fisher worked in Gehry’s practice for several years, yet in his own designs Fisher eschews the mind-bending geometry for which Gehry and some of his other contemporaries are known. Instead, Fisher’s work is characterized by a combination of lightness and restraint. Many of Fisher's projects have been art museums or educational buildings. Adaptive-reuse cultural projects include the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York, the renovation of A. Quincy Jones’s The Barn, now the home of the Chora Council of Metabolic Studio, and the Sturt Haaga Gallery of Art at Descanso Gardens. Among Fisher's work for educational institutions are the Jane B. Eisner Middle School, housed in a building originally owned by the Southern California Telephone Company, and the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Center for Information Science and Technology at Caltech.  Fisher also designed the Sunnylands Center and Gardens at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands and the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica. Fisher will receive his award at the AIA Los Angeles Design Awards Gala on October 28th. Other presidential award winners include LA mayor Eric Garcetti, LACMA director Michael Govan, and artist James Turrell.
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Lose the Architectural Insularity, LA
Neil Denari's Alan-Voo House in Los Angeles.
Benny Chan

The southern California architecture scene just received a well-deserved slap in the face from local critic Christopher Hawthorne. In a recent Los Angeles Times review of A New Sculpturalism, at the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Hawthorne labeled the exhibition the product of “an architectural ruling class in Los Angeles that is not so much dysfunctional as increasingly insular.” The city, which considers itself a leader, or the leader of American architectural experimentation and creativity, may see Hawthorne’s review as simply a criticism of a failed exhibition. But it is more accurately a condemnation of a scene that is top heavy with a few design stars, a local educational model that promotes the notion of individual genius, and a culture that celebrates formal innovation over civic engagement.

I once had a prominent L.A. architect claim when I asked him to suggest good architecture writers, “we don’t need criticism here because our buildings are critical and they carry on an architectural debate with the history of the city and our contemporaries!” Well that may be true in the mind of a few star L.A. architects but Hawthorne believes that the MOCA exhibit is a troubling sign “that the city’s most talented and ambitious young architects are struggling to complete for even small projects in an increasingly dense and risk-averse city and step out of the wide, insistent shadow cast by their world-famous older colleagues.” He blames these older colleagues, including one—Thom Mayne—who stepped in and reinstalled the MOCA exhibit when the museum pushed aside its original curator, Christopher Mount, for creating an exhibition that “is even more unapologetically a celebration of white male architecture, floating in a bubble of its own making, hardly pausing even to glance in the direction of contemporary Los Angeles and its cultural complexity.”

A review of this “confused” exhibit is hardly the most important criticism that Hawthorne is leveling here. Rather, he is bravely taking on the leaders of the city’s architectural establishment. He writes that Frank Gehry, Thom Mayne, and Eric Owen Moss who though they are “influenced deeply by the antiwar politics of the 1960s and the counterculture, having cast themselves for so long as rebels and outsiders,” are behaving “as though they are still underdogs, still marginalized and misunderstood.” It may seem odd that this city, which prides itself on a lack of tradition, has evolved an architectural culture that is un-generously strangling its younger generation of architects. Hawthorne—who represents a newer voice in the California city—is supporting this younger generation who must sometimes feel overwhelmed by the legacy of the older generation, who are still winning competitions and getting big commissions.

It is true that southern California is a center of a uniquely creative architecture—even New York’s own Ada Louise Huxtable admitted as much in her writings. New York has benefited in recent years from thrilling new structures by Neil Denari, Morphosis, Frederick Fisher, and Frank Gehry. But so much of Los Angeles public discourse and debate has the ring of Chamber of Commerce self-promotion (How many more exhibits and lectures can it produce on Austrian emigrant architects in L.A.?) and breast beating about what a great culture it has created. In fact, the rest of the country needs L.A.’s creative design spirit and lack of traditional tropes. It would be a shame if its design community does not take Hawthorne’s remarks to heart and reinvigorate its culture—much in the way it seems able to constantly spin out inspiring new architectural forms.

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About Face
View of the exhibition.
Joshua White

A Confederacy of Heretics:
The Architecture Gallery, Venice, 1979

SCI-Arc Gallery
960 East 3rd Street
Los Angeles
Through June 15

The ability to regenerate is in LA’s architectural DNA. It happened in the 1920s, in the 50s, and then again in the 70s—the subject of A Confederacy of Heretics at SCI-Arc, part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time Presents series.

Curated by Todd Gannon, Ewan Branda, and Andrew Zago, it focuses on a group of young architects in the 70s and 80s, including Craig Hodgetts, Robert Mangurian, Thom Mayne, Michael Rotondi, Coy Howard, Frederick Fisher, Eugene Kupper, Eric Owen Moss, Peter de Bretteville, Frank Dimster, Frank Gehry, and Roland Coate, Jr.

This group is still making a mark on international architecture through buildings and teaching. Confederacy of Heretics invites us to observe the spirit of fresh exploration and rebellion that gave their ideas birth.

The 1960s and 70s demanded renewal. In the era of Nixon, there was plenty to rebel against. Mainstream modernism was stagnant. These “heretics” (the word traces back to the Greek word for “choice”) chose to strike out in many new directions.

Stamps, 1979, Morphosis Architects.
Courtesy Morphosis Architects
Left to right: Gehry Residence, 1978, Frank O. Gehry; Daniel Studio, 1980, Coy Howard; Five Condominiums, 1981, Eric Owen Moss.
Grant Mudford; Coy Howard; Tom Bonner


Where Modernism was highly polished, several of them picked and chose from the visual richness of LA’s commercial, industrial, and construction industry vernaculars, especially those seen in Venice (then still funky), where many had their offices—see Mayne and Rotondi’s messy Sedlak house. Where mainline modernism considered history taboo, some of these rebels helped themselves to traditional architectural forms. Where establishment modernism was intensely serious, these architects embraced the new age of pop, of Ruscha, Moses, and Oldenburg, of Venturi, Scott Brown, and Izenour, who awakened us to what was out there on the streets.

For all their rebellion, it was also the ongoing themes of LA architecture that drew them: the freedom to explore unconventional ideas, and the irresistible provocation of advancing technology.

Seven of the architects who participated in the Architecture Gallery, from left to right: Frederick Fisher, Robert Mangurian, Eric Owen Moss, Coy Howard, Craig Hodgetts, Thom Mayne, and Frank Gehry at Venice Beach, 1980.
Ave Pildas

Confederacy of Heretics shows us how these ideas energized this group of architects. The Alexander house by Roland Coate, Jr. draws from the sweeping forms of freeway engineering. Peter de Bretteville and Michael Rotondi’s Ajax Car Rental agency, a gem of FotoMat-like architecture, tunes up the big, bold graphic signs of the LA commercial strip. The pop/tech drawings of Craig Hodgetts and Robert Mangurian’s Southside Settlement house are annotated, grafittied, and ennobled with imprints of comic books, Jack in the Box wrappers, Fiorucci glam, toys, robots, and a sleek adding machine as handsomely crafted as anything recovered from King Tut’s tomb.

Just as this exhibit reveals the birth of deconstructivism (see Frank Gehry’s house), it also shows a rebellious interest in the history of architecture, which came to be labeled, then derided, as postmodernism. The classical symmetry and forms in Fred Fisher’s rock star drawing of a solar crematory were taboo in the world of late modernism. So is the Piranesian plan and presentation of Studio Works’ “The River and The City” model.

These days, the show’s gorgeous hand-drawn Prismacolor drawings may seem closer to the fine craftsmanship of Marion Mahony’s gorgeous prairie house renderings than to today’s fly-through CGI graphics. We may think of the 1970s as modern, but it is startling to realize that the pinnacle of high-craft presentation media then was the color Xerox machine, a medium used in many of these presentations. Imagine what a drag on creativity such a limitation would seem today—but look at what they coaxed out of it!

These buildings and ideas stand up. They are tied to L.A. They drew on its identity. And then they took the city in yet another new direction.

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LA’s Radicals in Retrospect
Seven of the architects who participated in the Architecture Gallery, from left to right: Frederick Fisher, Robert Mangurian, Eric Owen Moss, Coy Howard, Craig Hodgetts, Thom Mayne, and Frank Gehry at Venice Beach, 1980.
Ave Pildas
Left to right: Twelve Houses at Cabo Bello, 1976, Roland Coate Jr.; South Side Settlement, 1975-80, Studio Works; Reidel Medical Building, 1976, Morphosis Architects.
Joshua White; Courtesy Studio Works; Courtesy Morphosis

In 1979, Thom Mayne opened a temporary gallery in his home, the first dedicated architecture gallery in the Los Angeles area. Each week, Mayne showcased young and established LA firms, garnering reviews by the Los Angeles Times architecture critic, John Dreyfuss. The gallery and its influence are the subject of a new exhibition at SCI-Arc, A Confederacy of Heretics: The Architecture Gallery, Venice, 1979, which is part of the series of Pacific Standard Time exhibitions initiated by the Getty. The heretics turned out to be some of the leading architects of the 1980s to the present, including Mayne and his then-partner Michael Rotondi, Frank Gehry, Craig Hodgetts, Frederick Fisher, and Eric Owen Moss. While architects in the East and in Chicago were puzzling over the in-jokes of postmodern historicism, these West Coast radicals were redefining architectural form and practice in ways that remain bracingly contemporary. Curated by Todd Gannon with exhibition design by Andrew Zago, A Confederacy of Heretics is on view through July 7 at 350 Merrick Street, Los Angeles.

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Get Going This Weekend In Los Angeles: Venice House Tour, SCI-Arc Party, CicLAvia
For those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s, it's time to feel old. As part of its "Curating The City" series, the Los Angeles Conservancy is tomorrow hosting an amazing tour called Venice Eclectic: Modern Architecture from the 1970s and ’80s. The event features looks inside whimsical buildings by, among others, Frank Gehry (Indiana Avenue Houses/Arnoldi Triplex), Steven Ehrlich (Ed Moses Studio), Brian Murphy (Hopper House, above), Frederick Fisher, and Frank Israel. Yes, it's time to appreciate these decades for more than disco and Madonna. After the tour there will be a panel featuring Ehrlich, Fisher, and Murphy. And that's just the beginning of a busy weekend for LA architecture and urbanism buffs. There's also SCI-Arc's 40th birthday party on Saturday night and CicLAvia—with an expanded route going all the way to the ocean for the first time—on Sunday. Get going.
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Commission Slams AEG’s LA Convention Center Plans
LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's "Vision Team," a group of eight architects consulting on the city's planned football stadium and convention center expansion have issued a damning report on the latter project, reports the LA Daily News. The center is being designed by Populous and developed by AEG. "This is not good city design," Norman Millar, dean of Woodbury University School of Architecture, and a Vision Team member, told the Daily News this week. Among the team's complaints, they worry about having visitors enter the new hall through a dark passage created by bridging the building over Pico Boulevard. The team also frets about possible fumes under the tunnel, the configuration of the center's huge ballroom, and the amount of natural light that would enter the building. The Vision Team also includes Hitoshi Abe, chairman of Architecture & Urban Design at UCLA; Scott Johnson of Johnson Fain; Joseph Coriaty, a partner at Frederick Fisher and Partner; and Paul Danna, principal at SOM. The group has met at least three times. Villaraigosa's spokesman Peter Sanders told the Daily News that the mayor knew about the Vision Team's concerns. "We believe we have the best plan given the constraints that exist," Sanders wrote.  The project's EIR goes before LA City Council tomorrow. 
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Challenging Modernism
James Burnett's desert landscaping and oasis-like water features harmonize seamlessly with Frederick Fisher's new visitors center.
Dillon Diers, The Office of James Burnett

Sunnylands, the 200-acre estate outside Palm Springs commissioned by Ambassador and Mrs. Walter Annenberg and completed in 1966 by A. Quincy Jones, opened to the public on March 1. The house restoration and new visitors center, both by Frederick Fisher and Partners, will serve primarily as a high-level retreat. (Think modernist Camp David in the California desert, plus private golf course.) Fisher’s addition actually fulfills the spirit of modernism better than the original house.

Architect A. Quincy Jones, the original Sunnylands architect, best known for his Eichler tract homes, was not doctrinaire in his aesthetic approach, nor obsessed with the ways of concrete or steel. He was, however, keenly interested in crafting joyful spaces using innovative materials, if it served the user and the client. A seminal project for Jones was the 1949 Brody house in Holmby Hills. The Brodys’ decorator, Billy Haines, suggested Jones to the Annenbergs for a new home in Rancho Mirage, about 20 minutes southeast of Palm Springs. Responding to the Annenbergs’ interest in Mayan forms, Jones’ final design features a pyramidal form over the main living area. The skylight on top illuminates a Rodin sculpture placed on a rotating base set in a fountain surrounded by bromeliads. The kitchen, dressing rooms, offices, and master bedroom extend outward from this arrangement.

the Visitor Center, with living room comforts, opens to the renewed landscape. (annenberg retreat at sunnylands)

The 20,000-square-foot house, with only one bedroom for the owners, focuses on the universal space for a very high-powered couple. (Most famously, this area was transformed for New Year’s Eve galas, which President and Mrs. Reagan and other luminaries attended.) There are long, lava-stone walls, an unusual background for a staggering collection of impressionist and postimpressionist paintings. But even Jones’ bold moves were challenged by Mrs. Annenberg’s color, furniture, and decorative preferences. When Mrs. Annenberg saw Jones’ red steel columns with punched holes holding up the concrete roof, she had the vertical members painted celadon and the holes plugged with wood dowels. Decorators Billy Haines and Ted Graber (later the Reagan White House decorator) developed the style, which combined English, Chinese, and other influences.

The floor in the main area is mostly pink marble. Much of the home’s exterior is also pink, inspired by Mrs. Annenberg’s love of the pale desert light. This is Hearst Castle for the jet set. Thanks to the design team’s skill, the simple forms and grand décor reach a kind of détente. This was one of the advantages of Jones’s modernism. It could almost handle extreme Hollywood Regency.

Left to right: Fisher's minimal addition hugs the landscape; fisher's light touch has renewed the original house, with its eclectic furnishings and mid-century sensibilities.

Fisher, who has worked repeatedly for the Annenberg family, clearly understands the Jones oeuvre, completing infrastructural improvements with an invisible and sure hand. At the visitors center he accomplished what Jones could not at the main house: a humble, light-filled structure with a strong roof that focuses on the landscape. In this desert climate, it is important not only to see the distant mountains but also to feel sheltered from the heat.

The off-white center houses meeting, exhibit, educational, café, and retail spaces. As at the main house, many of these spaces are flexible. Visitors can always see daylight and follow the path to the garden. The famous lava stone, cut in slightly larger dimensions, covers the two walls in the main public space. The palette, however, is more subdued. The building doesn’t feel nostalgic; rather it is respectful to the Jones legacy, while being contemporary.

James Burnett’s stunning new landscape design, featuring a wide range of desert plants, was inspired by Annenberg’s legendary painting collection. Fisher’s subtle work, meanwhile, points to the enduring power of humble modernism—something A. Quincy Jones almost accomplished 45 years ago.

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Going West: Palm Springs Modernism Week, February 16-26
AN is headed out to California for the third year running for one of our favorite architecture events: Palm Springs Modernism Week (February 16-26). Palm Springs--and its surrounding towns, spas and arid California landscape--is home to what the organizers call "desert modernism." The city is an extraordinary gridded landscape of modern car-ported flat-roofed houses and dozens of iconic homes, shops, and landscapes. The 11-day celebration focuses every year on an outstanding example of residential modern architecture, and this year it will highlight Sunnylands, the A. Quincy Jones-designed mansion (interior by William Haines) for the Annenbergs in nearby Rancho Mirage. The estate is surrounded by an art garden, labyrinth, private nine-hole golf course (currently being restored), and a new visitors center designed by Frederick Fisher. Other highlights of this year's celebration are tours of modern banks, an architecture film series, and visits to the Albert Frey and Raymond Loewy houses. Since this is southern California there will also be an exhibit of Loewy-designed Avantis from the 1960s and a new Airstream trailer designed by architect Christopher Deam. We will report back next week about these and other Modernism week highlights, as well as the new Sagauro Hotel (designed by New York architects Stamberg Aferiat) where we are hanging our hat for the week.
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Takashige Ikawa

Sturt Haaga Gallery of Art at Descanso Gardens
1418 Descanso Drive
La Cañada Flintridge, CA
Tel: 818.949.4200
Architect: Frederick Fisher & Partners

One of the hidden gems of Los Angeles is the lush Descanso Gardens, located in the small town of La Cañada Flintridge, on the property of former LA Daily News owner E. Manchester Boddy. Contemporary architecture is a rarity in this area full of landscape and history, but a notable exception is the new Sturt Haaga Gallery of Art, an adaptive re-use and expansion of the historic Boddy House garage into art spaces by architects Frederick Fisher & Partners.

Two galleries have been fashioned from the landmarked Boddy space, which had to be “rebuilt from the inside out,” as Fred Fisher put it, maintaining the historic shell but completely updating the rest. A third gallery was built from scratch and then camouflaged with green screen structures and tucked into a hillside with an additional outdoor room added for sculptures and events. “We used plant materials as brush strokes,” explained Fisher. Inside, the new gallery features 12-foot ceilings, a large skylight, and indirect lighting around the perimeter. In the existing spaces skylights could not be installed due to preservation restrictions, so much of their lighting is created through tucking fluorescent lights behind fabric and plastic scrims to establish a uniform illuminated surface.

“We wanted to create these very calm, serene spaces for viewing small scale works of art,” said Fisher, noting that the light helps the spaces feel much larger. “It feels like it’s really expanding because of the quality of light.”

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UCSB Names Dream Team For New Student Housing Complex
  Why can't every school be like the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB)? First it's located on a lush, sun-soaked site overlooking the Pacific Ocean. And then this: the school just named a team led by SOM and including Daly Genik, Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, Kieran Timberlake and WRNS Studios to design the San Joaquin Apartments, a new student housing complex. The project will include two apartment buildings housing a total of 1,000 students; a 600 car mixed-use parking structure; a new dining commons and a renovated 78,000 square foot neighborhood center. Other big names on the shortlist had included Brooks+Scarpa, Machado and Silvetti, AC Martin, Stanley Saitowitz, Lake Flato, Moore Ruble Yudell, Frederick Fisher and Partners, and several more. Stay tuned for info and images in the coming months.  
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UCSB Shortlist Has All The Big Names
Yes, things are slow these days, so we're looking at every RFP we can. One of the biggest in Southern California is for the new San Joaquin Apartments at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), which will include two buildings housing 1,000 students as well as a revitalized neighborhood center. The RFP was issued in June, and we just got our hands on the shortlist, which was posted on August 26. The winner should be announced very shortly. Below are the finalists, including some very impressive names. AC Martin;  Carrier Johnson + CULTURE; David Baker + Partners and Brooks + Scarpa Architects;  Hornberger + Worstell and Lake Flato; KieranTimberlake; Koning Eizenberg Architecture; M+M Creative Studio; LMS Architects and DesignARC; Machado and Silvetti Associates and Cearnal Adrulaitis; Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners; RBB Architects Inc. and Frederick Fisher and Partners Architects;  Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Stanley Saitowitz/ Natoma Architects Inc.; STUDIOS Architecture; Wolf Architecture.