Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Clean, Well Lighted Place: Zaha Hadid

Being a native Angeleno and having a mother and father who were curious worked to my advantage. I grew up in a very liberal home in a sea of Catholicism that was and is East Los. The popular image of LA is Tinseltown but many aren't aware that it is a world class city for architecture, and because of the slight edge I had with my upbringing, I was always receptive to creative things. At a young age I can remember being aware of the Bradbury and LAX's "space restaurant" (The Pereira & Luckman's "Theme Building" which included a team of Welton Beckett and LA's Paul Williams, one of the pioneering black architects).

By far the biggest impact on me as a kid were LA's movie palaces, the classic Hollywood premier locations of Broadway (The Orpheum , Broadway & State) and of course the granddaddy, Grauman's Chinese. Again, timing is everything, and I was fortunate to be a kid at the tail end of the last flickers of life they would have. In fact, I saw Taxi Driver by myself because I wanted to concentrate, so I went to the State, as I recall, and sat in the first row of the balcony.

As a kid, the palaces were spectacle themselves, so over the top and full of the pop baroque pretensions the moguls themselves had. But to a kid into music, MAD Magazine, comics, and movies, it was gone. It influences you in ways the empty sterility of the "starbucks theaters" have no inkling of.

Later, when the Music Center opened it wasn't the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion I noticed but the Mark Taper Forum, also a Welton Beckett project. Beckett's greatest influence upon me, with a nod to Bucky Fuller, was his Pacific's Cinerama Dome.

That's pop or "Googie architecture." The serious stuff of LA's architecture must be pursued, partly because of our sprawl; the other half is that it just isn't a popular notion to associate with the city.

Many of the modern greats have rolled through here; the work of Julius Shulman attests to that.

Eames House

Pierre Koenig's Case study House 21

Neutra's Chuey House

Just last weekend Fish and I went to the Schindler/Kings Road House, which I hadn't been to in at least a decade. With age and more history in my noggin, it was inspiring to think that both Schindler and Neutra inhabited it. I was also reminded of something Zaha Hadid once said, and I paraphrase, that architecture is - should be - about well-being.

It's such a perfect answer, because when you consider the role of design in the world, it's everywhere. Although I'm not a Wright groupie, anyone who has stepped into the Ennis House or a well-designed space knows what she means.

Hadid would be one of my guests at a living artists dinner; it'd be interesting to hear her current views on Iraq, which she only recently touched upon on Charlie Rose's show. I like her work which appeals to my searching nature - by that I mean the feeling her work produces in me appeals to my restless spirit. I also like the organic, biomorphic quality that appears now and then. Hadid's not always my cup of tea, but at the same time, when she's on, I think she's one of the most talented of the living designers.