May, I had the great pleasure of participating in a panel discussion on
historic resources of the “recent-recent past” at the California Preservation
Foundation Conference in San Diego. The phrase “recent-recent past” was meant
to distinguish between those resources about to be eligible for the National
Register’s 50-year threshold to be listed, and those from the 1980s forward,
which are increasingly becoming part of the dialogue.
California is a leader in
preservation practices for 20th-century buildings. As a result,
forward-thinking city planning departments are beginning to think about
architecture’s cultural contexts from the late 20th century. The recent
adoption of the LGBT context for the City of Los Angeles’ SurveyLA project is
just one example of this trend.
Co-panelist Adrian Scott Fine,
Advocacy Director for the LA Conservancy, provided a compelling presentation on
the importance of Latino heritage and the identification of resources that reflect
that specific architectural, cultural, social, and political history.
Katie Horak, Senior Associate at
Architectural Resources Group (ARG), shared the current plight of Mariners’
Village (Peter Kamnitzer, AIA, 1972), a 23-acre multi-family residential
development in the unincorporated area of Marina Del Rey. The complex’s
shed-style modern design of wood shakes features a central view tower and lush
landscape with ponds. Modernization plans to add more retail and density don’t
seem to jibe with the site’s history.
The Mariners’ Village scenario
highlights how ill prepared many architectural historians are for understanding
the relative importance of architecture from this era. Is it good? Is it
exceptional? Is it important? How do architecture and planning balance one another
in 1970s-era development? What are the very best examples of this type of
development, and why do those rise to the top of the heap?
the decades, art institutions, such as the Museum of Modern Art and LACMA, have
curated shows from “The International Style” to “100 Years of Architecture” to
help us place our built world in context. A survey of the recent exhibitions by
these institutions suggests museums have abandoned efforts to connect the dots,
in favor of monograph exhibitions that focus on the work of a singular
architect. Would it not be more interesting to understand Southern California’s
role in the rise of Deconstructivism, instead of a singular focus on Frank
Gehry, FAIA? While there is no denying the importance of work of the master
architect, understanding the work of other deconstructivists
is important as well, and set Gehry’s work in greater context.
has an opportunity to play an important role in educating people about our
recent-recent past. Soon, we are proud to present a lecture by Coy
Howard—designer of one of the few seminal deconstructivist
houses. His perspective will help us all as we attempt to
write the ongoing history of Southern California architecture.
that in mind, I challenge you all to broaden your interests. Embrace the recent
past—even if you lived it the first time around. SAH/SCC welcomes your
suggestions for programs that take us beyond the norm. Let’s explore together.