Gehry’s Westside Ride
The new Frank Gehry exhibit at LACMA opening September, 2015, got us thinking about his work outside of the more iconic designs he’s known for, like the famed Walt Disney Concert Hall in DTLA and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain. Gehry made a particularly strong mark on LA’s Westside early on in his career, so we thought we’d show a little love today for three of his designs in Venice that we adore.
As early as 1970, Gehry has been instrumental in adding a dose of the modern to the architecture and aesthetics of some of LA’s most beloved landmarks. The Hollywood Bowl, Loyola Law School, the Wells Fargo building in Toluca Lake, and others have all received Gehry’s signature stamp of fabulousness while pushing the city further into important conversations about urban architecture.
But it was really the controversial construction of his own home on the Westside that first anchored Gehry in LA’s architectural community. Gehry purchased a small, pink Dutch Colonial bungalow in Santa Monica during the late 70s and began transforming the space into what many initially disdained as an eyesore. Though the disdain didn’t last: critics such as the New York Times’ Paul Goldberger hailed it as ”a major work of architecture – perhaps the most significant new house in Southern California in some years.”
The Gehry Residence is largely regarded as an example of deconstructivist architecture because of the architect’s impulse to reduce the home to its frame and rebuild from the ground up. At first, he stripped nearly all of its interior and rebuilt it with a mix of materials that included corrugated metal, plywood, and chainlink. Not surprisingly, his well-to-do neighbors in the 90403 were none too pleased. Over time, Gehry performed several transformations of the home to get it to the uber-Gehry level that it is today. Not far from his famed residence, there are more Gehry legends to behold. Out of the nine Frank Gehry-designed buildings in LA designated as historical sites of interest on LA Conservancy’s list, there are two others on the Westside besides the Gehry residence, The Norton House and the Indiana Complex.
Not far from his famed residence, there are more Gehry legends to behold. Out of the nine Frank Gehry-designed buildings in LA designated as historical sites of interest on LA Conservancy’s list, there are two others on the Westside besides the Gehry residence, The Norton House and the Indiana Complex. The Norton House, built in 1984, is located at 2509 Ocean Front Walk, just a stone’s throw away from the beach that inspired it. Mirroring the same deconstructivist manner of his own residence, the home is a vibrant conservation piece in a city replete with vibrant conversation pieces. Gehry designed the home using a variety of shapes, materials, and colors to evoke aspects of nature and the fundamentals of modernist design for which he’d become well known.
The pinnacle is probably the home’s purple studio, situated at the top of the home and according to Archdaily, only accessible via an exterior staircase. Designed in the style of a lifeguard station, the studio sits perfectly perched above Venice Beach.
The home was designed for artist Lynn Norton and her writer-director husband Bill L. Norton. Bill has extensive directing credits that include The Guardian, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Roswell, and others. He’s also the son of screenwriter William Norton, whose illustrious obit in the New York Times reads like something straight out of a John Grisham novel. From gunrunning to Ireland to fleeing to Cuba to being wanted by the F.B.I., Mr. Norton, Sr. lived quite the life. Less than two miles away from the Norman House, you’ll find the Indiana House/Arnoldi Complex designed in 1987. The 15K+ square foot complex (an apt pun, perhaps) is kind of an architectural anomaly in that it features a main house adjacent to a triplex of condominiums, with a smattering of luxury offerings like a lap pool, spa, landscaped yard, and pool house in between the two.
Gehry designed the freestanding triplex of condominiums at 326 Indiana Avenue in his signature stark, deconstructivist fashion. The main house, designed by Brian Murphy, is similarly a modern masterpiece. The 4 bed/3 bath 6251 sq. ft. property was owned by Dennis Hopper until his death in 2010. Since then, the complex has flitted through ownership–the home was sold in 2012 for $5 million only to go back on the market a year later.
The Canadian-born architect also designed the Chiat Day/Binoculars Buildings at 340 Main Street, now occupied by Google. In addition, he designed the interior of a former local favorite, Rebecca’s (now closed), a Venice café owned by Rebecca and Bruce Marder as well as the Spiller House, a beach house with an atrium-style design built in 1980.
When the Gehry retrospective opens next week, we expect they’ll be much ado about his larger, more fantastical designs, which certainly deserve the love. But until then, we’ll keep reminiscing over what we think are his true roots, in LA’s Westside.