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It Takes a Village Green
SAH/SCC Members’ Celebration
Saturday, September 06, 2014

This year, SAH/SCC celebrates our members with a very special visit to the Village Green (Reginald D. Johnson and Wilson, Merrill, & Alexander—architects; Fred Barlow, Jr.—landscape architect; Clarence S. Stein—site planner; 1941-42) in Baldwin Hills. If you haven’t been to the Village Green, this is the time to see it!

Architectural historians and SAH/SCC members Steven Keylon and Holly Kane will be on hand to share the history and architectural significance of this beautiful post-war housing community. The Village Green was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2001, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, and became Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #174 in 1977.

Formerly known as Baldwin Hills Village, the site is considered the best and most fully developed example of Clarence S. Stein’s “Radburn Idea” of neighborhood community planning, which calls for decentralized, self-contained plans that conserve open space, separate vehicular from pedestrian traffic, promote environmentalism, and encourage community life. The buildings and the site plan are largely unchanged, and constitute one of the finest examples of progressive idealism directed toward providing high-quality urban housing.

According to the Historic Structures Report prepared by Architectural Resources Group in 2010: “The style of the buildings, now characterized as Vernacular Modern, was called ‘contemporary California architecture’ in theLos Angeles Times. The simplicity of the style was typical of the era, but it also illustrated the designers’ goal of creating cost-efficient housing that focused more on spatial layout than on high style architectural design. Eight building types were created. Variety was found in the placement of buildings, the unique landscaping of each garden court, and the paint colors of the buildings. The earliest paint scheme included vibrant green, blue, salmon, and canary yellow on building exteriors; these changed to muted earth tones such as brown, green, blue and gray around 1946. The sleekness of the façades was reinforced by their long spans of stucco finish and wide eaves as the sun cast shadows according to the time of day. Balconies and ground floor patios broke up the flat look of the façades, and the placement of steel casement windows and wood doors provided a differing visual rhythm.”

“Baldwin Hills Village had an advantage over other large-scale, multiple housing projects of the era in that the designers were afforded vast open land at the then Los Angeles city limits rather than in dense urban locations. Baldwin Hills Village was also innovative in its inclusion of private outdoor living spaces (patios and balconies), which, according to urban planner and author Catherine Bauer, was the first time these amenities were included in large-scale rental housing. In addition, the apartments themselves were noteworthy for their size and thoughtfully designed interiors.”

The report continues: “The Village Green represents the work of a collection of highly talented individuals who sought to solve the physical and social problems of cities through new ideas in planning and design. Such solutions included reducing population density, designing open spaces for recreation and community activities, providing well-designed cost-efficient housing, encouraging positive social interaction, and incorporating the automobile without compromising the quality of life for a community.”

After the presentation, members will have the opportunity to enjoy refreshments and socialize, as well as tour the grounds and selected residential units. Come see one of the most unexpected oases in urban Los Angeles. And let us thank you for your support in 2014!

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