Horizon at Sandy Point

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Architect in Santa Monica

If nothing else, Frank Gehry's house in Santa Monica makes you pause and think about what makes a home, or a house, or a habitation. From the street, it is a strange enclosed box of what we in Trinidad call "galvanise" - corrugated and flat metallic sheets as outside walls. Complete with chain link fencing and gate, it might be at home anywhere in Trinidad, except that the islanders have moved away to materials with a lot more weight and permanence - concrete, stone.
Entrance to Gehry's house in Santa Monica

The story of Gehry's house is a fascinating one. He bought a typical Santa Monica home in the seventies and re-made it - gutting and exposing the interior structure, opening space by building new exterior walls. The dining room, we gather, sits on what was once the driveway. Gehry is supposed to have said that he likes buildings best during construction. After the house was completed and hated by all the neighbours, he is reported to have said that so much of new construction was junk anyway!

As a child - before he was ever thinking of architecture as a career - he played with construction materials in a hardware store that belonged to his grandfather. Gehry was born Frank Owen Goldberg in Toronto. He studied Architecture in the University of Southern California.

Examples of his public buildings include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; the Walt Disney Concert Hall; the Dancing House in Prague; and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Glass panels at odd angles bring reflections of street and sky into the house

View of part of the original house

Street view of side wall

As 2012 starts, Frank Gehry's house has been named the winner of the American Institute of Architects 25 year award. This is given annually to one building that is at least 25 years old, that has proved its worth over time. The controversy over his work continues among architects, artists and the public!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Venice in America

At the end of the 1800s, a new development on the southern California coast was being patterned after Venice in Italy. It was conceptualised by Abbot Kinney, who - born on the east coast and having travelled extensively in Europe - found that his asthmatic condition was alleviated in the drier climate in the west. He acquired several large tracts of land in southern California and built Kinneloa - less successful - and later Venice of America.

Though the real estate project was not wildly successful, it did put Kinney on the map. Today, Venice is an eclectic, upscale and desirable residential district built around shallow canals and bridges and narrow walking paths. The low, modest early houses are gradually giving way to more palatial or contemporary expressions, mixing old trees with new exotic grasses and flowering plants.
Houses with balconies, gleaming windows and a boat!

Papyrus screen to one of the ultra modern homes

One of many bridges linking the pedestrian paths

Glass and blue green cubes, with pool on the ground floor

New concrete beside old wooden shingles

Elegantly scaled homes

The Venice Beach promenade is now one of the most well-known tourist attractions in southern California. Skate-boarders, surfers and the free-spirited congregate and attract a culture that now typifies Venice Beach. "Kush" doctors promote and sell medical marijuana. A row of  towering, steadfast and straight palm trees oversees a carnival of characters. Buskers, moonwalkers, one-man bands and other entertainers play to the kaleidoscope of the eccentric, the curious and the gawkers.
Entertainers everywhere

Palm tree lined promenade and a parade of people

If we follow the Venice promenade north, it runs into Santa Monica. Here, the carnival continues on the pier  and Cirque du Soleil's pavilion. But for many who come to the beach, it is the call of the sea that lures them. And the end of the pier is an excellent vantage point to watch the sun set day after day.
Coney island rides above, the surging sea below

Cirque du Soleil training ground

View north of the pier

Surging Santa Monica surf north of the pier

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Malibu: call of the sea

We drive north from Santa Monica along the Pacific highway to Malibu. The glamorous stretch of Pacific beachfront popularised by so many Hollywood movies. Oh to have a home on the edge of this wonderful seashore. Spanglish featured such a home - with the beach as the backyard, intimately close even at night.
An ark for a home on Malibu hilltop!
On the cliffs above the highway, more fabulous hillside homes. The bluffs are sand-coloured, with timber barriers and metal nets to hold back landslips. Do people think about tsunamis on the edge of this mighty ocean?

The Pacific is cold but tolerable to gulls and would be surfers. There are no waves today, no surfing, but paddlers walking on water. For a January day, it is warm but windy. Blue sky arcs over all. The appeal of the sea is undeniable - for those who would live here, and the many who drive daily to sit and stare, to relax and rest. Does anyone work here?
For serious surfers only!
Malibu Pier

Is it really so easy to walk out on the ocean?
Looking out for surfers
Paddlers, walking on water

The Adamson House is one of the oldest on Malibu. Built in a Mediterranean style, this house over a century old, is decorated with ceramic tiles made in the area. Salt water from the sea was suctioned under the sand and filtered for the swimming pool. Only since 1971 was it made a freshwater pool.

Quintessential Malibu home


Fountain feature

Crest in tile

Swimming cottage

Outside bathtub

Wall features natural stones and ceramic tile accents

Yard mosaic

We go inland along Topanga Canyon to see a different landscape, but island people that we are, the sea soon calls us back.

Catalina Island on the horizon from Malibu
(Photos for today's post were taken by Anjani.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Santa Monica Impressions

Crossing the Arizona desert and the Rockies east of California, seen from 40,000 feet up: so much sand, such craggy tors. Some snow-capped peaks studded with pines. That such vast uninhabited landscape could still exist is hard to believe when you come from a crowded hot little south Caribbean island.

Landing at Tom Bradley International Airport Los Angeles: a clear blue sky, three hours behind the time zone we had just travelled from, and four behind the little island's. Piece of the USA that is a bit more than the rest. Could be the separation created by the Rockies.
Bird of Paradise, blooming gloriously in mid winter

A morning walk down Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica Los Angeles, for the first view of the Pacific. No waves today, just quiet water lapping wide Baywatch white sand beach, under a big and seamless sky merging to the hroizon. If you look into the sun, the Santa Monica Pier stands like a crazy carnival against hazy light.

The Santa Monica's Farmers Market is bustling with fresh home grown produce. Tomatoes from bright red to orange and some purple green wrinkled heirloom variety.  Sweet navel oranges, tart tangerines. My favourite this morning are the Hachiya persimmons - over-ripe and plump and heavy with promise. Four of them from an elderly Oriental lady cost $2.50. I am already looking forward to the next market day, Saturday.
Purple carrots

Persimmons between oranges


Fried green tomatoes anyone?

We walk the streets admiring the architecture, mainly from the fifties. Buildings are low, no more than two or three stories, gracious, open facades catching the sun, light shifting and shimmering from the south. This is the south California coast, a most fortunate land, which makes it a worthwhile place to live, even with the thought of earthquakes in the back of your mind.

The January winter is mild. Bamboo green, pines and palm trees. Agaves and succulents suck water from the soil. The Bird of Paradise has made a home here; blooming in mid-winter.
Sea front at Santa Monica

Sand, sea and sky - on the edge of the Pacific

Wilshire Boulevard heading west