Archiv der Kategorie: On the spot

John Lautner, Sheats-Goldstein Residence, 1963, Angelo View Drive, Los Angeles

Everyone was looking forward with eager anticipation to visit the famous Sheats-Goldstein House that had been featured in so many commercials, magazines, and a number of movies such as Charlie’s Angels or The Big Lebowski. After getting an elaborate guided tour from James Goldstein’s assistant Roberta Leighton, we could gain a deeper inside into the renowned piece of architecture and our expectations were far exceeded. Not only did we learn about the house itself but also about the owner who is just as striking as his home. When our group gathered in front of the property, Goldstein was just about to leave and drove past us in his ivory Rolls-Royce.

The Sheats-Goldstein Residence sits hidden in the hills of Beverly Crest and is not visible from the streets. To arrive at the imposing house, we had to go down a steep and densely planted driveway where we already got a foretaste of the jungle-like garden that awaited us inside. On entering the structure, we crossed a path of concrete and glass stepping stones with no guardrails leading through a koi pond to the doorway. A large glass wall runs along the length of the walkway and you start to get a sense of the house’s principle characteristic – blending indoor and outdoor space. In this building the exterior is very much part of the interior, which is clearly shown by a lot of dynamic features. Frameless curtain walls open electronically towards Los Angeles and a huge skylight over the kitchen table provides an alfresco dining experience. In the living room, the triangular coffered ceiling with its punctuated glass windows scattering light into the room was even more impressive than expected. The borders between inside and outside seemed to dissolve. Lautner took the indoor-/outdoor architecture to an extreme by installing numerous glass walls and openings that create a feeling of transparency and bring additional daylight into the building.

Sheats-Goldstein Residence, Living Room and Pool Deck, photo taken by the author

The living room leads outside to a cantilevered concrete pool deck with magnificent views of Los Angeles and the wildly growing garden surrounding the residence. Goldstein transformed the site into a tropical forest with exotic flowers brought in by air. On a totally secluded residential estate with extensive landscaped gardens, the mansion has a sheltered and elevated character. It feels like the Sheats-Goldstein House is a modern architectural vision in the middle of the jungle. Concrete paths and stairways are leading to several hide aways throughout the property including small terraces and a James Turrell Skyspace art installation.

Attention to detail and passion for exclusiveness is demonstrated throughout the entire structure. With the press of a button, the wooden ceiling opens to let down a large LCD screen and an outdoor spa tub reveals itself from underneath the terrace. The triangular leather lounging areas perfectly suit the architectural style of the house and so does the movable built-in desk chair in the master bedroom designed by John Lautner himself. Right next to Goldstein’s king bed you will see viewing windows for the swimming pool above. Originally they were inserted so that the former owners could watch their children swim from the lower level. 

Sheats-Goldstein Residence, Master Suite, photo taken by the author

Tour guide Roberta showed us many hidden features like a see-through sink or a scale hidden in the floor to underscore the uniqueness of Mr. Goldstein’s home. As if we weren’t overwhelmed already, she also showed us the later additions to the property and took the tour to its ultimate point. When he bought the house next door to his residence, Goldstein added an infinity tennis court with an incredible panoramic view over the city. Ironically, demolishing a sibling Lautner house was part of the project building the annex which also includes offices for Mr. Goldstein and his assistants, as well as his own private nightclub appropriately named Club James.

Sheats-Goldstein Residence, Club James, photo taken by the author

Since 45 years James Goldstein and his architects have continuously developed and upgraded the house to a masterpiece of a home. It is hard to believe that this place was initially built for a family. However, it is quite conceivable to picture James Goldstein in this imposing structure. A reason for that might be the fact that the house is filled with self portraits of the basketball and fashion enthusiast. At the turn of every corner there are photos of Goldstein posing with namable celebrities and models.

Sheats-Goldstein Residence, Living Room, photo taken by the author

The home is stacked with magazines and books about architecture, basketball, and fashion. Goldstein’s eccentric designer clothes are proudly on display in the master suite. As a matter of fact his wardrobe, filled with exotic leather jackets, works automatically and with the push of a button, the clothes rack will revolve. It seems like the prestigious property is an architectural self-display of its owner who, together with John Lautner and his successors, reshaped the 1963 home into a total artwork that incorporates Goldstein’s vision. The extensive tour enabled us to experience all the architectural features of this impressive mansion and to learn about the man of the house. James Goldstein’s assistant Roberta Leighton was passionately devoted to show us around and our group greatly appreciated the opportunity to visit such a unique residence which is truly in a class of its own.

Sheats-Goldstein Residence, Master Suite, photo taken by the author

Josefine Rauch

John Lautner, Garcia House, 1962, Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles

Garcia House

The day we visited the Garcia House was fully dedicated to John Lautner. In the morning, we had an exciting tour with Roberta, the breezy and cheerful assistant of James Goldstein, owner of the Sheats-Goldstein Residence in Beverly Crest, a neighbourhood of Beverly Hills. Everybody was overwhelmed with the house’s architecture and the strange self-fashioning of its owner, who had just left the property in his white Roll’s Royce the minute we gathered in front of the dwelling.
Even though the Sheats-Goldstein Residence was hard to top, we decided to stick to our agenda. Chemosphere was supposed to be the next stop.



The Chemosphere stands on the San Fernando Valley side of the Hollywood Hills. This urbanized valley north of the Los Angeles basin is defined by the mountains of the Transverse Ranges. Most parts of the San Fernando Valley belong to the city of Los Angeles, although there are a few other incorporated cities like Burbank or Calabasas within its area.

On our way to the Chemosphere we drove along the 34 kilometers long and mostly two-lane Mulholland Drive, connecting the Santa Monica Mountains and the Hollywood Hills. We turned off Mulholland Drive as it crossed Laurel Canyon Boulevard, following our route to John Lautners most popular dwelling.

After having arrived we realized that the space shuttle-like house was barely visible from below. The house is not located directly at the street, since a driveway leads to the funicular of the Chemosphere. Unfortunately, prospering trees were blocking our views. We tried to spot the Chemosphere from different points along the streets, but in the end either trees, houses or natural mounds were blocking our view. We got a glimpse of the upper part of the house and the struts connecting the ‘flat’ part of the house with the concrete steel; the steel itself and the funicular were not visible. Simply put, we were a little bit disappointed after the impressive impact we had in the morning at the Sheats-Goldstein Residence.

Obviously, some famous actors were living in the neighbourhood, since more than one ‘celebrity-spotting’-tourist bus crossed our way as some people of our group were siting along the street. The tourists in the busses were clearly wondering why there were people sitting on the ground – something very unusual in Los Angeles.  To cap it all off we were sent off by an armed guard when we tried to turn our cars.

Garcia House

After our stop at Chemosphere we decided not to follow the “celebrity-spotting”-tourist busses but to cruise along Mulholland Drive to our last planned John Lautner stop – the Garcia House.
On our way to the eye-shaped house we learned that the Mulholland Drive was as serpentine and bumpy as described in the books and movies like David Lynchs ‘Mulholland Drive’, yet very picturesque.

The Garcia house was hard to find. Since our group was split into three it was not easy to stick together all the time. We tried to communicate via messenger, but in the end not all the cars made it to the Garcia House at the same time. Our car first tried to spot the house from the street above, but the sight was blocked. We decided to turn around and try it again from below –  successfully.

Garcia House

The eye-shaped building sitting on V-shaped beams 18 meters above the ground presented itself literally in full bloom. The flowers and plants around were blossoming and framed the house beautifully. The photos we had seen in our course had been taken from a distant point, capturing the house at eye level. The house was somehow sitting enthroned above the little valley. On the spot, we only had the chance to view the dwelling from beyond. Parts of the beams were covered, again, by trees and plants; but nonetheless it was easier to get an impression about the structure and the shape than at Chemosphere. In the photographs the narrow beams connoted a feeling of fragility. In real life, the house seemed to be well anchored; an impact that was enhanced by the framing trees.

We had a little discussion about the house’s condition and about whether the flashy coloured glass windows, being responsible for the name “rainbow house” were still in their original position.

It occurred to us that the street we were parking in was in vast change. Almost every other house was in or under construction. The Garcia house seemed to be the oldest yet most unimpaired house in the neighbourhood. With a clear conscience, knowing that the house was well taken care of by its new owners, we left the side road and continued our sunset ride on Mulholland Drive. After a quick stop on a platform with a panorama view over the Valley we decided spontaneously to end the day with a beautiful sunset in Malibu, where we had a little glance at one last Lautner house, the Segel Beach house.

Elena Schmidt

sunset on Mulholland Drive

All pictures are taken by the author.



Beach Houses in Los Angeles


The beach is one of the Four Ecologies of Los Angeles as described by Banham. He states that the Angelenos like to spend a lot of time by the water. Banham compares the surfboard with the, for Los Angeles crucial, automobile. He writes that the Angeleno is ‘most himself’ when he is either on the Freeway or on the beach[1].

Needless to say, there are quite a few dwellings near the seafront of the Pacific Ocean, where people wanted to settle.

Some of the wealthier citizens might even own multiple houses. One on the beach and one in another part of the city. Like the physician Philip Lovell who commissioned a house near Griffith Park in the foothills by Richard Neutra and a Beach House by Rudolph Schindler, located in Newport Beach, California. Sadly we could not visit the latter on our trip.


Richard Neutra, Lovell Health House, CC by Viola Menzendorff

During our stay in Los Angeles we got to see some examples of life on the beach. The houses in – and around – Los Angeles show a lot of diversity. We stayed in Santa Monica, in walking distance to the beach. To get there we had to cross the well-known Pacific Coast Highway, which starts at approximately the middle of Santa Monica’s coastline.

When following the little Ocean Front Walk, heading north from Santa Monica Pier, one finds a few small houses. Those only grow bigger further down when the California Incline joins the Highway. This is where the jumble of people – mostly tourists – gets less bundled.

The Highway leaves Santa Monica behind at that point, and the beaches turn narrower, until there are only public beaches, lookouts and cafés or restaurants to be found.

Following the Pacific Coast Highway further, one reaches Malibu. This is where the famous ‘Billionaire’s Beach’, or Carbon Beach is located. House prices there are high and there is a good chance to be living door to door with a celebrity. There, the estates sit directly on the beach, with private exits through the backyards. The beach has only been open to the public for a short period of time.


Malibu Beach, CC by Viola Menzendorff

The individual sites are a lot larger than the slightly packed ones in Santa Monica and the houses are more spacious. Most of the properties seem quite plain when passed by on the highway, where one can only make out closed up façades and front doors. The buildings open up towards the sea though, with huge windows and glass doors, impressive façade designs and backyards.

One of those is the Segel House by the architect John Lautner, which is being discussed in its own blog entries.

John Lautner, Segel House, CC by Viola Menzendorff

If you head the opposite way from Santa Monica Pier, down south, you will find more story buildings, mostly occupied by restaurants and hotels. Adjacent to Santa Monica is Venice. Here, one can visit the well-known Venice Beach, where Muscle Beach is located next to alternative shops, and people sitting on the foot walk vending DIY products and junk goods. Behind all the touristy bustle there is a closely-built row of one family houses. The design and layout of which vary a lot, fitting into the alternative and experimental environment of Venice Beach.

The architect Frank O. Gehry uses this as a site for one of his most salient designs. Oddly, this little Beach House does not even stand out a lot, but rather matches the surroundings.

Frank O. Gehry, Beach House, CC by Viola Menzendorff

[1] Banham, Reyner: Los Angeles. The Architecture of Four Ecologies, University of California Press, Los Angeles, 1971, S.203.


Viola Menzendorff

Frank O. Gehry, Residence, 1978, 1002 22nd St, Santa Monica, Los Angeles


As a private residence the Gehry residence in Santa Monica is not open to the public. Hence it was not accessible to our group during our stay in Los Angeles.

It is situated in a nowadays wealthy residential area in Santa Monica and surrounded by mostly smaller single-family houses. The house is assimilated into the neighborhood while standing out simultaneously. One can sense why it must have been a source of turmoil at the time it was built. It stood out because the architect covered parts of the original house dating from the 1920s with pre-fabricated materials, such as corrugated metal and chain-link fences. Today, however, it appears rather integrated into its surrounding.

The architects’ desire was to construct a home that was expressive and conspicuous whilst still being a private and cozy hideaway for his family and himself. Therefore, the house seems private and open to the public at the same time.

Gehry Residence, Main entrance from the street, CC by Viola Menzendorff

He made sure passersby could not look inside the house by inserting windows higher than eyelevel. A high wooden fence, which is slotted by square cutouts, reveals insight to the garden, while protecting the house and its inhabitants from curious looks.

Gehry wanted to influence what the viewers see of his architecture and how they see it. He wanted the outside of the house to be eye-catching and achieved this by using mostly ‘basic’ materials, such as corrugated steel, glass, plywood and a chain-link fence for its casing. The striking façade construction is additionally supported by the placement of the site at the very peak of an intersection. We experienced this effect of a salient outside while driving down the street by car. Already from far away the house is clearly noticeable.

We parked the cars at the side of the road and walk across the street to the house to find out what we could see up close.

Gehry Residence, View of the corner to the intersection with plants from the front lawn, CC by Viola Menzendorff

The walls coated with corrugated steel and the high windows make the house look uninviting and more like a fort to offer its inhabitants shelter from the people on the street.

Gehry Residence, View from the side of the house with corrugated steel casing, CC by Viola Menzendorff

The chain-link seems to keep the people from the inside away from the outside as well. The main entrance is hiding behind high growing plants in the front lawn. But those plants have not always been there. They grew higher over time but could not have shielded the house from views when Gehry bought it.

Gehry Residence, View of the main entrance hidden behind plants, CC by Viola Menzendorff

Gehry definitely reached his goal to provide shelter for the inhabitants. However, the fort-like exterior not only keeps nosey onlookers away, but also makes the viewer curious of the inside of the house. Is it really as comfortable and cozy as the 1920s house peeking out underneath the covers suggests?

We could not get a glimpse of the interior without jumping or climbing the walls, perfectly illustrating the control over what Gehry wants the viewer to see that he has achieved with this construction. We did not find any reliable information about the current ownership and use of the house. It is said that the Gehry family moved out of the house and sold it to someone else but we do not know if that is only a rumor. We could – from our location on the sidewalk – not make out if the house was being lived in at the moment, and if so by whom. Only a package next to the front door, visible from the street suggested someone was inhabiting the place. Members of our group tried to decipher the label on the package and we speculated if it was addressed to Mrs. Gehry.


Viola Menzendorff

William Krisel, Ocean Ave. Towers, 1972, 201 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica

Ocean Ave. Towers, View from Ocean Ave.

The Ocean Ave. Towers met all my expectations. The L-shaped high-rise twin condominium is easily to identify from the Santa Monica coastline. If you get closer to the building it really possesses a specific atmosphere of a huge block. It nearly looks like a massive cuboid which opens in the middle due to the connecting wing and the outreaching terrace on which the pool is placed on. The weald and flat environment of the building additionally leads to a monumental effect. The tilt angle of the ground on which it’s built is excitingly perceptible from the street at the backside of the building (to be seen on the first post). Also exciting are the falling lines of the building that exaggerate the tension of capturing the building.

Detail of the corner of the building

Fine details are hidden in the arrangement of the facade. The corners of the building are windowless and due to its angle and incline, each floor benefits from a similar view – either of the sea or of the vegetation of the hills. The cover panels between the apartments ensure more privacy. It seems that even though the buildings are l-shaped and positioned to each other, that the specific angle and the additional cover panels prevent the view from one apartment into another. Furthermore, an interesting observation of the facade composition were the string courses which separate each floor horizontal. They nearly enclose the whole building, even its windowless corners of the building. The only interruptions ensue at the corner pillars of the backside and outer side of the building where presumably the staircase is located.

Detail of the opaque structure

At this point the light grid pattern of the building is dominated by the vertical proceeding opaque facade structure of the staircase, that includes small rectangular windows. All in all the whole facade is structured into a strong but minimalist grid pattern, that is formed by the horizontal containment of the string courses and the vertical formation of the continuous walls.

Detail of the grid pattern

The embedded window panels are additionally punctuated with filigree white frames, that repeat the grid pattern of the building. The perception of movement was in that case unexpectedly exciting. The building is invested with spatial niches, that lead into shiftings.

In the perception these subtleties create an discreet accent, which is unfortunately too discreet. By regarding the whole condominium-complex these details don’t obtain enough validity. Our impression is dominated by the massiveness and repetitive pattern of the building.

Detail of the niches and shiftings

That’s why I can sadly retrace the fact that the building is highly featured on commercial websites for real estate agencies. If I didn’t know that this condominium-complex was built by William J. Krisel, I would have guessed that it’s part of a hotel chain or something similar. It really has a commercial touch, with its reproducible, basic signature look. Its environment and location feels exchangeable and anonymous. These impressions even more indurated as I walked into the lobby of the building. It possesses a reception with concierges. The lobby is quite spacious with a marble floor and warm lights. From outside the white facade cladding has a cheap look, it looks like some kind of synthetic material. These impressions lead to the perception of no overwhelming atmosphere, despite those interesting approaches for which you should step further towards the building.

All pictures taken by the author.

Begüm Inal

Richard Neutra, VDL Research House I / II, 1932/1966, 2300 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles

Thrilled finally to examine the VDL Research House by perceiving it through movement and intensify the theoretically acquired information by our own experience, we ran into a big disappointment. Due Spring Break, the house was closed. Currently the VDL House is supervised by students of the Cal Poly Pomona College of Environmental Design and unfortunately we weren’t informed in spite of reservation, that just at that weekend as spring break began, we would stand in front of closed doors.

VDL Research House, View from Silver Lake Blvd.

The environment of the VDL House is a quite silent neighbourhood at the famed Silver Lake. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting such an impressive piece of architecture in such an inconspicuous street. Hidden between houses with tall fences and green bushes and trees, the VDL House guardedly appears with its narrow entrance.
Adorned by many bushes, dainty banana trees, huge palm trees and several aloe veras to count a few, the entrance resembles an oasis compiling examples of the typical Californian flora.

Landfair Apartments by Richard Neutra, view of the yard

In contrast to Neutra’s Landfair Apartments, which are currently used as a student housing, I was glad to see that the VDL Research House was in a much better condition than other works of famous architecture. Other famous buildings  which aren’t privately owned were in similarily as badly conserved as the Landfair Apartments. The window frames in particular seem to fall apart because of their neglected wooden structure. In general, very distinct conditions of preservation could be observed, depending if the architectures were in private or public ownership.

The first part of the construction that caught my eye were the vertical shades in metallic optic, which react to the sunlight. The shades adapt to the falling sunlight and move autonomously. They reach out from the ground to the roof of the building.

Detail of the vertical sunshades

The Facade of the VDL House can be structured into three areas: the high shades, the entrance area and the window facade.

Detail of the entrance

The glass panels of the window facade are embraced by wooden frames in a brownish steel optic. A quite interesting part of the house is the balcony right above the entrance. It seems as if the balcony was open-ended on its left side. In combination with the shattered glasspanels it creates an illusionist effect where the differentiation of inside and outside becomes blurry.  If you take a look at the photographs it is not clear where the line between the inside and outside of the house intersects, so the limit becomes indistinct.


Detail of the balcony

A beautiful detail is hidden in the crossing roof elements. The concluding wood ceiling joists don’t end up in clean edges, they form fine crossing structures that provides a lightness to the building. A more dramatic look the ceiling might get at night time due to the discreet light slates and light spots which are embedded inside of the ceilings joists.

Detail of the crossing ceiling joists

The crossing element can also be found internally. During our visit at the Getty Research Center we were lucky to be supervised by some former students who worked at the VDL House. They told us some exciting aspects, like the continuation of the crossing elements in the inside of the house. They also told us that Neutra had tried to rebuild the original VDL House after the fire, as an homage to the original structure, but unfortunately there were new rights which didn’t allow him to construct it 1:1. That’s why he was urged to make some differences in the declaration, called the guest house as a garage e.g.. An added element are the steel pillars which ground the house. It’s the only structure of the house where he could used steel. This element has a similarity to his piano in the inside the house which he had transported originally from Austria and which also stands on steel feet.

Detail of the rooftop

At our meeting with the architecture class of the Pomona College we gained further information about the perception of the inside of the building. The inside of the building is sensually perceived as quite cool and continues with the play of the visual unclearness between the tension of outside and inside. Neutra also included natural phenomenons into the structure of the house. For example there’s a small pond on the roof of the building, which awakes the impression of an infinity pool.

I’m still disappointed about the fact, that we couldn’t experience the building ourselves, and also the fact that I have nearly no further leading information about the guest house. But I’m grateful to have met such interesting persons with the same passion for architecture in special for the VDL House and Richard Neutra Architecture. Particularly to have had the chance to exchange our thoughts and information about the VDL House, including their subjective impressions about the house which are really precious to me.

Detail of the facade

To sum up the comparison between the impressions we had before we saw and gained additional information about house and after, the main difference lies in the atmosphere of the house. I hadn’t had any feeling for the dimension and effect of the house until I stood in front of it. It’s discreetly enclosed by the breath taking Californian flora with which it is in perfect harmony. If you take a step further and stay right on the small gateway of the entrance it plays with the opposites of lightness and mightiness. The house possesses a strong occurrence which is underlined by its interest-stimulating fine details. It automatically leads to questions like ‚how do the shades work?‘, ‚are the frames made of steel or wood?‘, ‚how can this dominant building look so light and open?‘ and takes your time while you try to clarify those points. Unfortunately, pictures aren’t enough to relive these precious experiences.

All pictures taken by the author.

Begüm Inal

Frank O. Gehry, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 2003, 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles


On March 28th, we visited the Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank O. Gehry. The very fact that the entry into the underground parking lot is part of the main experience, makes your visit much more interesting.

The first impressions about the building are connected with mixed feelings. On the one hand it`s really amazing to see this giant, round shapes which are harmonious flowing into each other, but on the other hand the building is too large to capture the total composition with the eyes. When you stand in front of the hall and follow with your eyes the wave-like curves you perceive this musical movement.

Walt Disney Concert Hall/ photo by the author

The Broad, another modern building, is located next to the concert hall. It is a contemporary art museum, designed by the architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro. I notice, that these two buildings harmonize with one another, although the structures are completely differently. The Broad is, in contrast to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, clearly defined. Meanwhile the concert hall appear to be free of any rules. The geometric shapes harmonize with each other, like a symphony. The composition of its shapes seem unstructured and accidentally put together although there exists a well-ordered balance. It is true that this Gehry-Building fits appropriately in Downtown of Los Angeles. The concert hall harmonize with the other buildings in this area.

Walt Disney Concert Hall/ photo by the author

As we enter the lobby of the music hall, I immediately recognized this huge plastic clouds above the escalator. On the website of the Los Angeles Philharmonic they considered this clouds as a performance and sound installation, named Nimbus and realised by the team of The Industry with its artistic director Yuval Sharon.

With our private tour guide, we had the possibility to explore the inside of the hall. The inner space was painted white and had everywhere this red carpet. Such carpets were very modern in the nineties but today nobody uses this element anymore. The design inside was entirely different, from the outside. Inside you hadn`t much this feeling of standing in the middle of a typical building designed by one of the most famous architect ever. The whole interior seemed rather unsophisticated

Inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall/ photo by the author

Another detail that we have seen, is the inner structure, in other words, the steelwork which shores the outside wall. It was a pity that we couldn`t enter the main auditorium. We were told that the Los Angeles Philharmonic were at practice.

At the end of our tour we went over to the garden of the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It is called the Blue Ribbon Garden. It is open to the public and is located on the roof. It is a beautiful place to calm down and to escape from the big city stress. The trees harmonize with the building. Some flow along the walls of the hall and the shapes of these trees are similar to the shapes of the building.
The reflected sunlight from the concert hall expose the whole garden in a beautiful shining. One highlight is the fountain A Rose for Lilly, designed by Gehry. It is a tribute to Lillian Disney and her love for porcelain vases and roses.

The backyard/ photo by the author 

After I have seen this amazing construction I must think of Philip Johnson, because when Sydney Pollack asks him in his documentary about Gehry, if it was possible to get his buildings in two dimensions on film, he responds: “Hopeless, you better give it up. Become an architect!”.

Yannick Bemtgen

LAX – Theme Building – Update

William Pereira, Charles Luckman, Paul Williams, Welton Becket, James Langenheim, LAX Theme Building, 1961, World N Way, Los Angeles

The terminal building at which we arrived was nothing special. The border controls were nothing unknown to most of us. Everything here could have happened or been at any place in the world – common airport architecture. A corridor here, a large window with a view onto the airfield there, a crowded arrival hall over there.

The first minutes in Los Angeles were quite ordinary.

We were looking for a driver to bring us to our hostel. We had not much time to look at the things around us. The first moments outside of the airplane did not promise any objects of interest.

As the taxi started to roll, we finally realized where we were. Now we had the opportunity to scan our surroundings without being forced to find a fast way to get from a to b. And then the moment arrived. The moment which showed that we were not anywhere on this planet. We were in Los Angeles. The taxi drove around a corner and we could look at the LAX Theme Building. We had just a few seconds to get an impression. Small and plump were the first words, which came to our minds. The Theme Building looked as if it was quite lost or had been unattentively dropped between the control tower and a lot of uninteresting constructions. I was in some way disappointed about the scale of the building, disappointed also about its surrounding.

Nevertheless, the expected function as a sign was still given. The Theme Building crushed the monotony of its place. It made us want to see more of the city. It had shown that we were in a city where modern architecture is much valued – on the most cases by the initiative of private owners.  A city which is open for contemporary architecture but somehow stuck in the middle of the last century. It has a lot of hidden places. Places you must look for. Because they are well hidden amongst ordinary constructions.

Julius Emmel

Restaurant Swingers 1993, 802 Broadway, Santa Monica

On March 26th, after a long day of having explored some modernist buildings like for example the Sheats-Goldstein-Residence and the Chemosphere/Malin Residence, both designed by the architect John Lautner,  we had dinner at the Swingers Diners, a Googie-style Restaurant in Santa Monica.

It`s really amusing that our visits at these Lautner-Buildings coincide with a Googie-Restaurant due to the fact that John Lautner is also considered as the founder of the Googie-Architecture. Our professor came up with this great idea to combine the Googie-Restaurant with the Lautner-Buildings, because of its similarities.

One thing that strikes you immediately when you go along the front of the dining room is the red neon lettering. Neon signs are typical elements for the Googie-Architecture to catch driver`s attention and you also have an easy access with your car because of a huge parking lot in front of the restaurant.

Inside this retro coffee-shop one starts to feel like one is transported to a former time. The furnishings looks exactly like the interior equipment you know from a bar from the 50s/60s. I was very fascinating to notice how it was decorated with care in every detail. It is, in my opinion, a very well-done reproduction of a 50s/60s Diner restaurant. Inside the restaurant you have a continuous space, guaranteeing you a clear view through the saloon. The space is flooded with light because of the huge windows and the pitch of its roof. These are typical elements of the Googie-Architecture. The furniture, like for example the covers of the chairs reminds me of picnic blankets and the lamps have these futuristic shapes.

If you want to perceive this American way of life you must eat at one of these restaurants. They stand in a stereotyped, but also somehow true way for the American gastronomy.

All pictures taken by the author.

Yannick Bemtgen


Richard Meier, The Getty Center, 1997, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049, USA

On our second last day of the field trip we left Santa Monica early in order to be in time for our full day at the Getty Centre on top of Santa Monica Mountains. After parking at street level, we journeyed to the Campus by tram. Upon our arrival we were greeted by a wide set of stairs leading up to the main access point. From here all the different parts of the Centre are walkable.

The Getty Center, photo by the author

The off-white travertine and the baked aluminium panels of Richard Meier’s design glistened in the sun as we made our way to the Getty Research Institute. Our group received the warmest welcome by one of their curatorial staff. In the commencing two hours we were given the opportunity to study a various number of plans, architectural sketches and photos from the Getty’s archives. With amazement we discovered many details in the sketches and plans as well as gained a greater understanding of how many of the buildings we went to see earlier on our trip came into existence and were structured. The architecture of John Lautner, Richard Neutra, Rudolf M. Schindler, Franklin D. Israel, William Krisel and Frank Gehry, photographed in many instances by Julius Shulman, was easier to comprehend thoroughly because of the material we were allowed to study. Engrossed in these treasures, we greatly enlarged our understanding of the houses history, structure, functioning and design. The development of each architect’s idea suddenly became much more coherent.

The session followed a guided tour through the building itself. While we were introduced to five different architectural models, exhibited in various spaces of the Institute, we gained a grasp of its departments. Architecturally, the library especially revealed itself as a fascinating space to us. In decadent clarity rooms and hallways sit within the building while the orchestrated flow of sun rays constantly permeates the visitors view.

After a short lunch break at one of the local restaurants we joined an officially guided tour through the Getty Center’s architecture and garden. Gaining knowledge about Richard Meier’s artistic intentions as well as the history of the Getty itself made this an intriguing event. We were made aware of intricate details like the grid which Meier arranged all across the outside design. Continuous, straight lines dictate the entire surface of the building.

The Getty Center courtyard, photo by the author

The manufactured look of the Aluminium panels is contrasted with the natural travertine. Handpicked feature stones were selected by the architect to display the inlayed fossils, directing to the materials origins. Walking along the outer museum’s walls we were able to observe the textured surface of these feature stones. Meier, responding to the Californian weather, also integrated outside rooms to the outdoors area. These are an expression of his grander architectural philosophy.

After our tour, we spend the following two and a half hours exploring the campus on our own. Many of our group investigated the various exhibition wings of the Getty Museum, enjoying all of the collections treasures. The Getty’s garden lend itself to a few refreshing minutes in the Los Angeles sun.

The Getty Centre Garden, photo by the author

After an art-filled day our group returned to the peace and quiet of Santa Monica by the beach, full of new impressions and inspirations of how research in the field of history of art potentially could unfold itself. Our expectation towards the Getty Research Institute and the architecture of the Getty Center were superseded.

Talitha Breidenstein