Search results for "oscars"

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Pritzkers Take the Stage
Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, like many of their starchitect brethren, have not had an easy time of late in New York, from the stalling of 56 Leonard to the continuing reconfiguration of the Parrish Art Museum. (Yes, we know everybody's having a hard time of late, but that's a different story.) Well, the Basel-based architects just got their big break, as they say in the theater: a debut at the Met. No, they are not the latest hot shot firm to proffer an addition to the ever-transforming complex. Better yet, they've designed the set for a new production of Verdi's Atilla, which premiers tonight. We're not exactly sure what to make of the ghostly scenery that somehow floats above the chorus, from a forest picnic of sorts to post-apocalyptic-looking ruins (hopefully not the remnants of some failed project). Yet even in this unusual setting, the designer's unusual forms shine. Fashion doing about as well as architecture these days, does it come as a surprise that Miuccia Prada has lent her talents to the costumes? With any luck, Herzog & de Meuron will take over the Oscars next year.
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You Like Him, You Really Like Him
David Rockwell's star turn at the Oscars last year won the designer considerable plaudits, so he's been asked to reprise his role, according to UPI. "We loved the look and feel that David created for the Oscar show last year," one of the producers said. "David is so creative and has such a great big-picture approach to set design," said another. The well-known interiors ace has done considerable amount of work on Broadway as well as the Kodak Theater where the Oscars are taped, so really, it's like a homecoming.
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History Lessons
An elementary school has opened on the site of the old Ambassador Hotel, the first of three.
Tim Street-Porter

It’s only been about three years since Myron Hunt’s Mediterranean-style Ambassador Hotel—home of the Rat Pack, the Oscars, and, more somberly, the shooting of RFK—was unceremoniously torn down. But already, out of its rubble the skeleton of a major new school complex is rising. With an elementary, middle, and high school, the Central LA Learning Center No.1, as it’s called, borrows much of its form from the immense Ambassador Hotel whose decorative fittings were sold at a public auction in September 2005.

On the south end of the complex, the first phase, the new elementary school, opened its doors to 800 K-5 students on September 9. The two-story, 92,000-square-foot project was designed by Pasadena-based Gonzalez Goodale Architects, who are working on all three new schools in the 4000+ student complex, which share cultural and athletic facilities.

The school is unusually transparent for its urban setting, though suffused with light as a result.

Considering its historic site, the K-5 school is notably contemporary, hinting at a new direction for the LAUSD and a focus on modern design throughout its multibillion dollar bond program. “We’re helping create a new image for the LAUSD,” commented project architect Chung Chang.

The building is clad throughout with dark zinc paneling—which wraps around most of its corners—offset with painted plaster and perforated metal flashes of orange, gray, yellow-green, and white. Inside a lofty entrance portal, the school stresses transparency and connection: Most of the public spaces are open air, including outdoor hallways, an exposed grand stair, open flanking stairs, al fresco cafeteria seating, and skylit canopies. The east and west branches of the school are connected by two large courtyards. Circular skylights and perforations above provide more exposure.

Behind that large curtain wall is a double height library.

The double-height library, patterned in colorful orange and white and fronted with a large glass curtain wall, is the most dramatic public space in the school. Meanwhile, on top of the parking lot is a large track and playing field, which will be shared with the adjacent middle school. Public art pieces like murals and a large mosaic embedded into a play area add decoratively instructive touches.

The K-5 school, which houses two pilot schools—the NOW Academy and the UCLA Community School—literally looks up to the middle and high schools, which are several feet higher in grade. Those will be finished next fall. Much of the middle school’s exterior features similar wraparound zinc panels, while the 2,440-student high school is shaped to echo the form of the Ambassador, with its monumental entry and angled wings.

Finishes, however, will be contemporary, highlighted by a multi-floor glass curtain wall that will allow onlookers on Wilshire Boulevard to see into the classrooms in use. The school auditorium will take the same dimensions of the former Cocoanut Grove nightclub, incorporating that classic club’s eastern wall and one of its original canopies. As they prepare for future events, administrators will perhaps be challenged in a good way to compete with the ghosts of a past that once inhabited the nightclub.

 

A version of this article appeared in AN 08_10.28.2009_CA.

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Neutra Strathmore Apartments Threatened
AN contributor Michael Webb not only writes about Modernism, but he lives it: for the last 31 years he has resided in one of the units in Richard Neutra's Strathmore Apartments in Westwood. According to Webb, developer Landventures is proposing to build a five-story block directly across the street from the Neutra apartments, which would block light and views, aggravate the noise and congestion on a heavily trafficked street, and "degrade an architectural masterpiece." He and other residents are encouraging people to attend tommorow night's hearing of the Westwood Community Design Review Board (7pm in the community room A of the Westside Pavilion at Pico and Westwood) to oppose the project. To see what the apartments mean to Webb, check out this essay he wrote about his unit a few years ago: I live in an apartment that feels like a tree house on a hilltop just north of Westwood Village, two blocks from UCLA.  I moved in 27 years ago, drawn here by the timeless beauty of a modern complex that was built in the year I was born—1937. The architect was Richard Neutra, an Austrian immigrant who settled in LA in 1925, quickly won acclaim for the Lovell Health house in the Hollywood Hills, and went on to design 300 modern houses in his 45-year career. Here, he borrowed his ground plan from the traditional bungalow court—a hollow square with an axial path leading through—but placed it on a steep slope with steps in place of a walkway and eight apartments climbing the hillside. Early photos show it as a white cubist sculpture standing alone; the trees that would shield and soften it came later. It proved a tough sell, so Neutra was delighted when Luise Rainer—another Austrian immigrant, who had won two Best Actress Oscars back-to-back—moved into what is now my apartment. She had separated from her husband, Clifford Odets, and was probably trying to elude her fans. In a letter to the architect she explained that she had always thought of modernism as being cold and unfriendly, but now felt a great sense of serenity. Orson Welles, newly arrived from New York, briefly lived across the way with Dolores del Rio, and Fritz Lang is reputed to have installed his mistress in a third apartment. However, the friendly ghosts in mine are those of Charles and Ray Eames, the designers who met at the Cranbrook School of Art, drove to LA in 1941 to pursue their careers undisturbed, and lived here until they built their own house in Pacific Palisades, eight years later. Ray Eames, writing in Mademoiselle, declared: “We live in the most modern house in LA.” For the Eameses, the airy hilltop apartment was a retreat as well as their first workshop, “offering moments of calm and rest and pleasure at the beginning and end of each day,” as Ray wrote. Neutra had provided “a beautifully clean and simple shell [that] imposes no style on the tenants, but leaves them free to create their own surroundings through color, texture, use of area and equipment needed for everyday life and activities.” I inherited a blank canvas and, having little to spend and no certainty I would stay, I camped out with a minimum of furnishings for the first 15 years, leaving doors and windows open through most of the year. The good proportions and abundant natural light were a blessed release from the claustrophobia of an old dark house that my ex wife had chosen in Washington DC. Then came the big quake of 1994, which spared the apartment and spurred me to celebrate the different traditions of modernity it stood for. With the encouragement of friendly professionals, and the participation of talented artisans, I’ve fleshed out the spaces as a tribute to the cool geometry of Neutra and the organic rigor of the Eameses. The goal was to foster a dialogue—enriched by personal memories and enthusiasms—between those giants, weaving together metal and wood, angles and curves, plain and colored surfaces. White stucco walls, ribbon windows with silver trim and a wood-strip floor provide the frame. To avert cabin fever--I often spend entire days at a time in this 1000-square-foot apartment when there’s a book to be finished--I wanted each space to have a distinct character. My bedroom is a homage to De Stijl, the Dutch modernists of the 1920s who enlivened their cubist compositions with primary red, yellow and blue, plus black, gray, and white. Everything in the room is in one of those tones and I felt justified in doing this because Neutra himself used iridescent blue tiles in one of the bathrooms. Waking, I feel I’m in a golden cornfield, with a clear blue sky above, and a comforting red glow behind me. The bed, Eames couch, and chest are black and a Navajo rug adds a splash of scarlet. The chest  was designed by architect Lorcan O’Herlihy as a Constructivist composition of cantilevered drawers, some faced with woven steel mesh. Tom Farrage, a skilled metalworker, made the chandelier—a brushed aluminum disc like a full moon, with branching arms that spotlight witty artworks by Saul Steinberg, Claes Oldenberg, and a photographer friend, Jenny Okun. Ingo Maurer’s Don Quixote lamp sits atop a Saarinen side table; a deliberate contrast of klutzy and sleek forms. I spend most of my time in the office—the Eameses’ workroom, where they kept their “Kazam” press and boarded Gregory Ain—so I’ve made it as serene and functional as I could. A broad ash ply worktop wraps around two sides of the room, supported on filing cabinets in the Cherokee red that Wright popularized, and industrial-grade Douglas fir plywood shelves, made by Jim Matranga, Frank Gehry’s favorite carpenter, complete the circuit. The stucco is painted celadon, the ceiling a shade lighter than the walls, complementing the charcoal gray sisal carpeting, two chairs--the Aeron and Gehry’s CrossCheck--and wood Venetian blinds. A row of turned wood bowls occupy the raised glass top of stepped bookshelves, and there’s a forcola (goldola rowlock) hand-carved in Venice by one of the last surviving craftsmen, and a fragment of beeswaxed paneling from an early English Tudor house—a crude provincial copy of a Renaissance model. Also, three vintage photos: Mark Shaw’s shot of the Kennedy’s sailing off Hyannisport in the election summer of 1960, Horst’s surrealist study of a Balmain hat taken in Paris in 1938, and Andreas Feininger’s 1942 view of mid Manhattan, taken from the Jersey palisades with a telephoto lens that flattens six blocks of backlit towers, giving the city the ethereal air of a Japanese ink wash painting. As in the bedroom, there’s a deliberately jarring juxtaposition: Maurer’s whimsical Mozzkito table lamp and Sapper’s rigorous flat screen IBM computer. Handcarved Finnish birch birds dangle from a ceiling light. Black and white vintage photos are a passion I’ve had to curb for lack of wall space. I still believe with Mies that “less is more”—though I’m always willing to consider one more treasure. The hall leading past the kitchen (Neutra’s floor plan is as traditional as his exterior is modern) is hung with shots of Paris in the 1950s, culminating in a classic image by Melvin Sokolsky of a fashion model appearing to float in a plexi bubble on the Seine. In the living room, everything is sensuously rounded—from the molded plywood frames of the Eames and Aalto lounge chairs and a tubular metal sofa by Gilbert Rhode, to the truncated glass oval of the dining table, and the sexy Philippe Starck side chairs. The living room is my laboratory, a place to mix elements and see what the chemical reactions may be, and a place to show off favorite things. A hand-tufted Chinese silk rug, designed by two young Americans in an abstracted wood-grain pattern, is echoed in the wire base of a Warren Platner coffee table and a bamboo sculpture of torqued curves by Syoryu Honda. Bamboo pieces by Kenichi Nagakura—one inspired by a bird’s nest, another by a Henry Moore draped figure—complement the Honda. (A third is pinned to the bathroom wall). Two sculptural paper lamps by Ingo Maurer cast their reflections in Nolli’s map of Rome with its labyrinth of streets and squares. A Richard Serra etching, as violent as an explosion of molten lava, arches over a curvilinear drinks trolley with glass shelves and a goatskin-covered frame that was made in Italy around 1950. An Australian aboriginal painting—a stylized map of white dots—is displayed against a black Eames screen, and the Eameses’ leg splint—mocked up in this apartment in 1942—hangs over the entrance. Finnish glass, metal sculptures, framed photos of Rainer and the Eameses in this apartment, along with fragments of celebrated buildings sit atop wall-mounted book shelves of glass and black-laquered wood. Sixty four steps lead up to my front door, dense foliage shuts out the street noise, and my desk is a few steps from my bed. So it’s tempting to live the life of a recluse, surrounded by books and art, enjoying the play of sunlight through the day, and writing without distractions.  For most of the year I can sit out on the narrow terrace among the tree tops. Sitting there, I reflect on how Neutra’s machine has been swallowed up by its garden, and how the house that was new when the Eameses moved in has become one of LA’s youngest Historic-Cultural Monuments.
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South Central Farm Documentary Up For an Oscar Tonight
As you're dazzled by light refracting off one million Swarovski crystals at a very Rockwellian Oscars this evening, there'll be one award worth watching besides the Mickey Rourke vs. Angelina Jolie faceoff for Biggest Lips. Up for best documentary feature is The Garden, the story of a 14-acre community garden in South Central that was the largest of its kind...until it was bulldozed in 2006 by developer Ralph Horowitz to make way for a Forever 21 warehouse. Since 2006 the plot has sat vacant while the 350 families locked out of their plots have mounted a massive campaign to combat the warehouse and boycott the retailer. Local residents have even accused project supporters City Councilwoman Jan Perry and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of corruption; last year, the mayor recieved at least $1.3 million in donations from the fast-growing retailer and even took the company's founders on a trade mission to Asia in 2006. This weekend, protests at Forever 21's Pasadena location seemed like bittersweet promotion for the documentary, which is currently making the festival rounds. We'll be pulling for the film—and the displaced farmers—tonight. Update: The Garden didn't win, but that's okay with us because another architecturally-significant film, Man on Wire, about Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers, did. After accepting the award, Petit balanced the Oscar on his chin.

A Most Architectural Trailer
Over the weekend, I caught a screening of Burn After Reading, which turned out to be better than the reviews would have you believe. But the biggest surprise was the trailer for The International. Watching the opening scene, you're probably thinking the same thing I did: The financial crisis, coming to a theater near you. But beyond the (once?) absurd plot of a the world's largest bank funding murders and coups, the movie looks like it could be the most architecturally savvy since The Fountainhead. To wit: The opening scene (of the trailer--the movie's not out until next February, no doubt in time for the Oscars) is a shot of Cass Gilbert's Woolworth Building, once the city's tallest and still one of its most recognizable. While countless movies open with aerial shots of skyscrapers both recognizable and not--Wall Street, Ground Hog Day, in the near future Blade Runner--few so lovingly embrace iconic buildings, both new and very old, in the way The International does, or at least seems to. From the typically non-descript post-post-modern glass towers of modern finance to more refined and identifiable landmarks like Zaha Hadid's Phaeno Science Center and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, architecture approaches a fetishitic level in the film/trailer. (Limited edition AN tote bag to the first reader who can actually identify the seemingly contrived headquarters/rendering at the 0:47 mark. Leave a comment if that thing is for real.) All this high level design could simply be a reflection of the zeitgeist, as bold-face architects like Hadid and Frank Gehry have become ubiquitous marketing brands in recent years. How then to explain the film's most shocking architectural gesture: a shoot out in Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum. Just as director Tom Twykers (of Run Lola Run fame) picked the perfect moment to launch a movie about an evil bank-- whether he knew it or not--maybe he also was right on the mark in heralding the death of high design. Or maybe it's just a movie trailer. Check back in a few for a full report.
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R.I.P. The Grove


The nightclub and coffeshop on the Ambassador Hotel site. COURTESY LAUSD

In late December the Los Angeles Conservancy and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) reached a settlement in their longstanding battle over the historic Cocoanut Grove Night Club, a Los Angeles icon that had been a vital component of the now-demolished Myron Hunt-designed Ambassador Hotel since it opened on Wilshire Boulevard in 1921. The result: the Conservancy will allow the LAUSD to demolish the Grove and replace it with a replica using new materials and containing an auditorium and lounge for the Central Los Angeles New Learning Center #1. The 4,000-plus student complex under construction is on the site of the Ambassador Hotel, which was dismantled in 2005. In return the LAUSD will contribute $4 million toward the Historic Schools Investment Fund, which provides grants to help repair and restore historic LAUSD schools.

The cabaret-style, tropical-themed Grove, which was remodeled in the 1970’s, had welcomed performers like Bing Crosby, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis, Jr., and had even hosted the Oscars. Along with the Ambassador, it had eventually fallen into disrepair and the LAUSD gained ownership of the buildings in 2001. 


Rendering for Gonzalez/Goodale’s high school. COURTESY LAUSD

In 2004 the LAUSD board voted to dismantle the Ambassador in favor of the new complex, designed by Pasadena-based Gonzalez/Goodale Architects, but opted in its final impact report to preserve and reuse the Grove and its adjacent Paul Williams-designed coffee shop. That plan was scrapped earlier this year when the District’s engineers noted that the building lacked “integrity and seismic stability,” said the new school’s project manager John Kuprenes. The LAUSD board then approved an additional environmental impact report on September 25 of last year, with a plan to tear down the Grove and rebuild it in the same dimensions using newer materials. 

The Conservancy had organized an injunction on December 7 to stop demolition of the Grove, arguing in an October 25 lawsuit that the LAUSD’s claim that the club was “technically infeasible” to maintain had not been clearly proven. A court date to decide the building’s future had been set for February 25. But in a statement the Conservancy said it decided to give up the fight due in large part to the “increasing realization that true preservation of the site’s remaining resources had become impossible due to what had already been lost.” Much of the Grove had already been damaged by LAUSD construction crews and looked like a shadow of itself sitting alone in the Learning Center’s construction site. The Conservancy will also drop its effort to save the Ambassador Hotel’s pantry—where Robert Kennedy was assassinated—which is now housed in pieces off-site. 

The other, perhaps more important, factor was the District’s agreement to donate $4 million to the Historic Schools Investment Fund. That fund, administered by the California Community Foundation, was established in 2005 with $4.9 million in settlement funds from the 2004 lawsuit over the Ambassador Hotel’s demolition.