An idealized portrait of the crumbling Cuban capital, which offers very incomplete coverage of the modernist treasures of the 1940s and 1950s. The subtitle is more exact: The early decades of the 20th century saw a wonderful flowering of Beaux Arts and Art Déco, including a scaled down version of the US Capitol and the exuberant Bacardi Building. Those decorative styles occupy more than half this book, but the images must have been extensively photo-shopped to achieve such pristine elegance. In reality most of these houses and public buildings are shabby and decayed, even on the verge of collapse.
Entries in architecture (77)
By Michael Webb
An invaluable compilation of 50 museums, completed or begun in the past decade, all over China. Jacobsen has selected these projects for their architectural value, and she has cast a wide net, from MAD's Ordos Museum—a scale-less blob that anchors a raw new development in Inner Mongolia, to the Museum of Handcraft Paper, a woodsy cluster by Trace Architecture in a remote southwestern village. There's a good mix of Chinese and Western firms, and the Pritzker Prize laureates include Wang Shu of Hangzhou.
With offices in Rome and Paris, SCAPE has established well-known profile throughout Europe since its founding in 2004. Recently, the architecture firm, known for its facilty on a range of projects, opened its first American outpost—in Culver City. Intrigued, we reached out to one of the firm's four co-founders, Paolo Mezzalana, to find out what prompted to move into the Los Angeles market. He shares the impulse behind it with us and fills us in on his thoughts on our architectural past, present and future.
Why did your firm choose to expand to Los Angeles?
LA has been in our hearts since 2009, when we worked on an incredible project Downtown (never completed). The singer, producer, actor, director and model Vincent Gallo asked us to do a design for his house and recording studio. The project lasted approximately one year, and we worked together with for a concept inspired by Italian design of the Seventies. It was a dream and as it often happens the dream didn't came true. But the love for Los Angeles became real and never passed. From a professional point of view we think that LA has a lot of potential for our work and our way of thinking about architecture.
What is appealing about Los Angeles’s architectural culture?
It's may be not easy to understand, but for a European, Italian, Roman architect, Los Angeles is synonymous with freedom. What I want to say is that we are used to think, work, in a "milieu" that has a very old background of cultural rules. And sometimes these rules become unacceptable! Personally, every time that I'm in Los Angeles I feel free. The architectural culture of LA is open to new ideas, new experiences—the city doesn't judge you at all times. And you can feel it when you drive through the hills. You can admire a mix of styles that in Europe is not even thinkable. But this crazy mix in some ways is in equilibrium (well, not always!). What keeps everything together is, first of all, nature. The relation between nature and urbanism in LA is so strong. The second binder is the infrastructures.
Finally what we really envy is your space. In Italy, we don't have any more space.
What will your firm contribute to our architectural culture?
We are Italians and we have a plus: We are used to studying and understanding the context. That means that we know how to make projects in harmony with the surroundings and the city. Then of course we have the Italian touch!
What sorts of projects will you be focusing on here in LA?
Architects are of course open to everything and our cv is a mix of very different programs and very different scales. (That's the concept of our name SCAPE: It's a suffix that doesn't exist alone. We chose it to express that we work at different scales, from city-SCAPE to land-SCAPE). But in Los Angeles we are most of all interested in private houses, retail, renovation.
What types of opportunities does working in LA bring?
The cultural scene of the city changed a lot in the last years. Los Angeles is the right place to meet interesting people that have something to say and to start new projects.
Finally, and most importantly, what do you think of the food scene here in Los Angeles?
I think that the food culture in LA is a mirror of what I said fabout the architectural culture. Los Angeles accepted all kind of influences from Europe, sia, South America. At the beginning it was confused but now the food experience became very sophisticated. A few of the Italian restaurants in LA have a very high level
Having said that, to make me happy, bring me to Father's Office. I'm burger addicted.
There never was and probably never will be another architectural critic as impassioned, omnivorous, and outspoken as Ian Nairn (1930–1983). Largely self-taught, he conducted a one-man crusade against the outrages of post-war British architecture, which he contrasted with the best work of past centuries. But he was no reactionary: He found excellence and mediocrity in every era, dismissing one Gothic cathedral as mechanical and unfeeling—the same deficiencies he found in the widely acclaimed Royal Festival Hall of 1951. "What I am after," he wrote, "is character, or personality, or essence." He accepted the wartime destruction in London as the price paid to defeat evil; now "It is burning again, but this time only to satisfy developers' greed, planners' inadequacy, and official stupidity."
Next week, our own Michael Webb, contributing writer to our print edition and frequent face here on the Web site with his pithy book and exhibition reviews, will receive a 2014 AIA|LA Design Advocate award at the ceremony. To celebrate his achievement, we thought we'd run one of our favorite recent features of Michael's his 2013 story on color in urban architecture. He traces its history and offers a compelling call to bring more of it into city living.
By Michael Webb
Most cities have a distinctive palette. In London, the older residential areas are built of yellow or red brick, the monuments of white Portland stone. Some are still blackened from coal smoke, others have been scrubbed clean. Looking over Paris from Sacré Coeur, the expanse of gray slate and stone is interrupted by the multicolored Pompidou Center—much as the PDC stands out in West Hollywood. St Petersburg is a joyful symphony of pale blue, green, yellow and pink.