Sacha writes from LA…

June 22, 2011  |  Comments Off on Sacha writes from LA…  |  by ross  |  News

This week was a busy and crazy week in Santa Monica and Los Angeles. Very unfortunately highway 1 (the beautiful scenic route along the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles) is partly closed due to a landslide where part of the highway is now in the Pacific Ocean! So we took two days to travel along highway 101 (a more generic highway – but also offered some wonderful views of the farming planes and mountain ranges). We stayed the night at a small coastal town called San Simeon, and also visited Hearst Castle (thanks to Andrew for the great advice to check it out – and next time you are here you should also make the effort, it is quite spectacular!) Even the setting of the Castle is beautiful, atop a huge mountain looking back over San Simeon and out to the ocean.
From Santa Monica, we got our first experience of a Gehry building – the Gehry Residence. I was quite delighted to experience it in reality and very happy that this was my first impression of Gehry – his simple, experimental beginnings before the dazzling (literally) Walt Disney Concert Hall. It was beautiful to see and sketch in real life – and looked so much more lovely and refined than the images you see of a crazy house, designed by a delusional man with material like corrugated iron and chain mesh. The setting was also perfect – in a middle class, quite neighbourhood, with beautiful manicured lawns, large shady street trees and a cool ocean breeze. A lovely gentleman out walking his dog asked us if we would like our picture taken. He then informed us that Gehry had bought the block next door, where we had noticed a large, layered timber fence. He said that Gehry had plans for landscaping and a garden in that block.
We did so much more in Santa Monica that I would love to tell you about, but im afraid this email could easily turn into the thesis! We saw Gehry’s Chiat Day Building, Edgemar Place and the Venice Beach house. Also unfortunately Santa Monica Place designed by Gehry has been demolished and a new shopping centre built. We still checked it out and it was a beautiful indoor/outdoor shopping plaza, which they have so many of in America (from what we have seen so far anyway). Its a great way to shop, weaving in and out of shops, under awnings and between trees, rather than being inside a big Westfield or Stockland shopping centre box!
Anyway – some more good news and a little bad news. The bad news is that i was unsuccessful in gaining access to Gehrys office. They now have very strict policy in place where only clients and contractors are allowed entry into the building. Obviously they are a busy firm and can not make exceptions for one student from Australia – otherwise they would have to let everyone in. Gehry is very big here – just like one of the stars. There are several architects and architecture schools influenced in one way or another by his work. I had trouble even gaining access through the contact I had made with Edwin Chan and Larry Tighe, both partners at the office.
On the brightside, I was very fortunate to make contact with an architect from a suburb called Thousand Oaks, outside of LA. Francisco Behr was extremely kind and very generous with his time, knowledge of the city and fuel in his car! Francisco is a director at BehrBrowers Architecture ( and we were very lucky to have him pick us up from our hotel in Santa Monica and show us something special in Culver City. He took us to a site where a developer had given Eric Owen Moss free reign to experiment with his design theory, materials and ideas in one place. There are about half a dozen projects designed by Moss in the one location. Mostly offices but they can range to something as static as a stair that one can climb up….then back down. He is heavily into the deconstructivist theory, similar to Gehry – but on the one hand Gehrys architecture is VERY intuitive and comes from the heart, where as Moss’s theory is applied and calculated and comes from the brain. Both very intriguing and fanciful architecture! and its all so exciting!!
Then Francisco took us for a drive and tour around downtown LA, than dropped us at the Getty Centre. Also another fantastic site which I could talk about for hours!! The next day Francisco again picked us up and took us out to Anaheim (the location of Disneyland). Here there are two works by Gehry, the Mighty Ducks Practice Ice Rink and the Disneyland Administration building. After that Francisco also took us to a few other special sites – the most special being SCI-Arch, on of the many Los Angeles Schools of Architecture. It was amazing to see this, and so special to gain access through Francisco. The school is located in an old and very long warehouse building and Thom Mayne is an associate professor there. There school is also very deconstructivist and influenced by Gehry, Moss and Mayne. The school was fantastic – they had awesome large scale models built from timber, styrofoam and perspex. They are really encouraged with hands on model making and actually building small scale projects throughout the city. They have very impressive workshop facilities also from a cnc router, laser cutter and a crazy robot computer cutting multi-arm router device!
Anyway, please see my facebook page for some images, ive only uploaded a very select sample as I have about 12 gig worth of photos already! As I mentioned – I could go on for days and i would be here all night!
Love from Los Angeles,

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