Do you love Los Angeles and its architecture? Are you crazy about hand-made drawings, three-dimensional models, ambitious plans, and visually stunning graphics? If you answer yes to both questions, please read on. I want to tell you about three exhibitions that are absolute must-sees for architects, planners, and just about anyone interested in Los Angeles, architecture, and/or urban design.
You may have seen the banners promoting Overdrive on major streets like Vermont Avenue and wondered what it is all about. Well, Overdrive is an outstanding exhibition that showcases Los Angeles’s complex urban landscape and diverse architectural innovations between 1940 and 1990. According to the Getty Museum, Overdrive refers to “the extraordinary pace and worldwide impact of L.A.’s impressive growth…The term also alludes to the fact that an engine churning at incredible speed may overheat.” The exhibition offers a very engaging view of the region’s diverse urban environment, including its extensive freeway network, eclectic cultural institutions, sleek office buildings, popular shopping malls, whimsical coffee shops, and refined steel-and-glass residences. One of the buildings featured in the show is the iconic Theme Building at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX); of course, this is also the structure shown on the street banners. L.A.’s built environment is often underappreciated, but after seeing the animations, drawings, films, models, and photographs, visitors should gain a newfound understanding and appreciation for the region’s urban landscape. I would give you a glimpse of the show, but photo-taking was not allowed inside. If you are interested, check it out soon. The exhibition ends in less than a month (on July 21, 2013). Also, if you are an avid reader and/or a collector of books, I recommend purchasing a copy of the Overdrive book which contains the drawings, models, and images highlighted in the exhibition. There is a chapter entitled “Dreams Deferred: Parks and Open Space” which as a park planner, I found particularly interesting because it discusses the visionary 1930 Olmsted and Bartholomew Plan for a comprehensive system of parks and open space in the L.A. region.
Housed at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, A New Sculpturalism is an exhibition that examines the work of 38 major and emerging practices in contemporary Los Angeles architecture of the past 25 years. I was most impressed by the quality and variety of hand-made drawings, three-dimensional models, and other preparatory works which are effective in giving visitors a sense of the processes the architects used to design and experiment. Photographs of the resulting built structures along with the architects’ verbal explanations are integrated into the overhead multimedia installation. Since I am not an architect, I lack the knowledge and insight to provide a critique of the exhibits. However, I must say that I found the works on display fascinating. Most of the architects represented are affilitated with the Southern California Institute for Architecture (SCI-Arc), the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at UCLA, and the USC Department of Architecture. Among the earlier generation of represented architects are celebrities in the field like Frank Gehry, Thom Mayne, and Eric Owen Moss, from whose practices have emerged younger generations of architects. The show ends September 16, 2013. While you are at the Geffen, you should also check out a portion of the amazing Urs Fischer exhibition; the rest of the show is at MOCA on Grand Avenue. If you are curious, take a look at the pictures and review on LA-eats for a preview of Urs Fischer’s work.
Never Built: Los Angeles explores the “what if” Los Angeles by featuring a variety of projects that only saw the drawing board and were never implemented. To be housed at the Architecture and Design (A+D) Museum, this exhibition is co-curated by Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin and designed by Clive Wilkinson Architects. As its title suggests, the show looks at visionary works that had tremendous potential to reshape the city, such as iconic buildings, master plans, parks, and transportation proposals, any of which could have transformed both the physical landscape and popular view of Los Angeles. Examples of these projects include: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Civic Center Plan and Huntington Hartford Sports Club; Pereira and Luckman’s original LAX scheme; CE Noerenberg’s Los Angeles River Railroad Terminal; Steven Holl’s proposed Natural History Museum Transformation; and Murphy Jahn’s Figueroa Tower. On June 20, 2013, a preview party was held at Union Station’s Harvey House that gave attendees a chance to see some of the models and drawings in the show. Never Built is an exhibition I have been eagerly anticipating for a while. Originally planned to be held earlier this year, the show will now be on display from July 28 to September 29, 2013.
As I have shared previously on UrbDeZine, Los Angeles is most definitely a museums capital (see posts dated 11/28/12 and 1/31/13). The quality of the above exhibitions further justifies my assertion. I would highly encourage all of you to visit the Getty Museum, MOCA, and A+D Museum, and check out the exhibitions I highlighted above.
Note: All photos by author.