Kesling Modern Structures
Saturday, February 09, 2002
On Sunday, February 9th, SAH/SCC will host a tour of five Streamline Moderne homes built in the 1930s by William Kesling in the Silverlake and Los Feliz areas. The tour celebrates the publication of Patrick Pascals book on this unsung modernist, "Kesling Modern Structures: Popularizing Modern Design in Southern California, 1934-1962"(Balcony Press, 2002).
On February 9th, well enjoy a slide lecture by Pascal followed by a tour of five Kesling houses, ranging from his first Model Home to his largest houses, and ending with refreshments and a book signing. Tour-goers will see three houses in Silverlake: the Model Home (1935), the Skinner House (1936), and the Hough House (1935), then two houses in Los Feliz: the Ulm House (1937) and the nearby Johnstone House (1935).
The cost is $60 for SAH/SCC members; $65 for non-members. For an additional $20 you can reserve a copy of Pascals book, which will be held for you at the tour check-in table. The book retails for $27 (including tax), and a few copies will be available to purchase the day of the tour for that price. The tour has limited space, and you must specify either the 11AM or 12:30PM session.
One of Southern California's claims to architectural fame is the number of Streamline Moderne structures built here during the Depression. William Kesling was one of the more prolific designers in this style, yet he remains little known. One reason is that Keslings career was brief (1934-1937) and marred by scandal. A second reason for Keslings obscurity is that his work has received little publicity. Pascal's book and this tour aim to correct this. Of the 35 homes Kesling built in Los Angeles in the 30s, only 20 remain recognizable - and they are treasures.
During the 1930s depression, as building construction came to a near standstill across the country, Southern California clients erected a surprising number of Streamline Moderne houses and business buildings. Kesling was in the right place at the right time. The new look can be traced back to transportation designers, who tested their designs in wind-tunnels and fluid tanks to produce aerodynamically advanced designs for train engines, automobiles, airplanes, and ships that enhanced forward motion by reducing wind (or water) resistance. Industrial designers discovered that refrigerators, toasters, and pencil boxes with the same curves and wind lines appealed to consumers over earlier boxy models. Shoppers were even willing to pay more, maybe because these modernistic gadgets seemed futuristic in the same way the eras science-fiction films and comic books painted a future technologically freed of all problems.
Buildings referenced this fascination with speed and efficiency by exhibiting curved corners, ships rails, and porthole windows. They also featured modern-age materials, such as chrome-plated steel interior trim, magnesite flooring, and glass block, which drew forward-thinking clients, even if hard times limited house size and curtailed the number of clients who could undertake new house construction.
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