Sunday, December 04, 2016

Castle Green

 
Castle Green tourists in its early days
 
I've been intrigued by Pasadena's Castle Green ever since I noticed what I now know is a bridge that used to reach across Raymond Avenue, connecting east and west structures of the Hotel Green resort. Built in the late 1890s, the magnificent hotel was a getaway for rich tourists wishing to experience Southern California's sunny climate. The eastern half of the resort was eventually destroyed, but the western half remains as a private condo complex. Although the property is open to the public twice a year—on Mother's Day and again in December—we've never been able to squeeze the tour into our busy schedule. That is, until today.

The grounds, first floor and several units at Castle Green were open today, starting at 1PM. Not wanting to drive all the way to Pasadena, we instead took three different lightrail lines from Culver City. We left the house at 11:15AM and arrived at the Castle 20 minutes early. There was already a line to get in. Twenty-five minutes later, we were inside, roaming around the first floor, while a choir sang Christmas songs. Taking a tip from someone who had done the tour before, we climbed seven flights of stairs and started at the penthouse, which was originally built as a conservatory for tropical plants. Its glass ceiling was covered during WWII and now the space is the largest apartment in the building. Its view of Pasadena is spectacular.

 
On our way into the building

 
 Lobby staircase
 
Penthouse

 
View of Pasadena

From there, we walked down the staircase to each floor, where several tenants welcomed us—and everyone else—into their homes. Most of the units were small—one bedroom at most—but each one was completely unique, reflecting the tastes and interests of its occupant(s). If I didn't love our house so much, I would have been ready to pack everything up and move to Castle Green in a flash. Of course, we would have to get rid of 90% of our stuff to fit into a one-bedroom unit, but what a wonderful place to live!

 
Wrought iron staircase

 
A Buddhist shrine in one living room

 
Another living room was completely Victorian

 
Kitchens were tiny, but a focal point—this one was recently
renovated

 
Another kitchen (my fave) was completely retro: mauve cabinets
with yellow counters, refrigerator, and . . .

 
stove (I want one!)

 
Yet another style of kitchen. As one woman said, how does
one even cook in here?

 
Bathrooms were fun, too—most with ancient
fixtures

 
I loved this pink one the best

 
Interesting light fixtures

 
Love this!

 
Two enormous lamp shades in the downstairs sitting room

 
View of the remaining bridge from one of the unit's balcony 

 
North end of complex

 
One of two distinctive turrets

 
Turret (detail)

 
Bridge (detail)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Guillermo del Toro @ LACMA

 

I do not enjoy horror genre, but I am a big supporter of Hispanic filmmakers, so Tim, Karen and I went to see the Guillermo del Toro exhibit at the L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA), on Tuesday, while waiting for the election returns. The mastermind behind such fantastical films as Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy, del Toro has been fascinated by macabre images since he was a child in Guadalajara. Indeed, his overly zealous grandmother was so concerned about his nightmarish obsession that she had him exorcised at an early age! Obviously the exorcism didn't work. 

Today del Toro is an uber collector of all things horror, which he displays in a home he calls "Bleak House." Many of his more prized possessions are being exhibited at LACMA as part of "At Home with Monsters," now showing through November 27. (Click on images to enlarge.)

 
Angel (of death?) greets exhibit visitors

 
Artist rendering from Pan's Labyrinth

  
Monster from Pan's Labyrinth 
(depicted above)  

 
Painting: "The Evil Eye" (Chet Zar, 2010)

  

 
Life-size sculpture of Frankenstein's monster
and his bride (Mike Hill, 1996)

 
Life-size sculpture: "Creation" (Mike Hill, 2009) 

 
Enormous mask: "Monster" (Mike Hill, 2011)

  
Monster magazines del Toro collected as a child—at one point,
he apparently had the biggest collection of comicbooks and 
magazines in Mexico

  
Props from the movie Hellboy

  
Tim taking it all in

 
del Toro also loves the dark side of Disney:
Marc Davis's "Medusa" (1969) from Disneyland's
Haunted Mansion

 
Eyvind Earle scary landscape

 
Mary Blair concept art for Disney's Adventures of Ichabod
and Mr. Toad (1949)

  
Eyvind Earle's concept art for Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959)

 
Nosferatu marionette

 
Life-size sculpture of Edgar Allen Poe

 
Tim admiring del Toro's collection 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Irving Gill Tour

 
Horatio West Court, Santa Monica
 
I fell in love with architecture in the 1980s when the library where I was working, in San Diego County, asked me to start ordering books in the 700s. For those who don't know, books in the Dewey Decimal 700s consist of art, music, sports, TV, movies, and, of course, architecture. Although adept at all the other subjects, I knew nothing about architecture, so I signed up for a tour of houses designed by Irving Gill. I was hooked.

A contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright, Gill started his career in Chicago, but in 1893 moved to San Diego, where he became a noted and prolific architect. A few years later, he began designing homes in Los Angeles and is now considered one of the leading pioneers of the early modern architectural movement. His work is characterized by clean lines, high ceilings, rounded archways, and natural use of light. His medium of choice: concrete.

Unfortunately, very few Gill homes still exist in L.A., so I was thrilled when the Southern California chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians offered an Irving Gill bus tour today. Tim and I bought tickets immediately.

Our first stop was the Horatio West Court, built in Santa Monica in 1919. Located on Hollister just a block from the beach, the courtyard features four small two-story homes, rescued from dilapidation in the 1970s and lovingly restored to their current glory. We weren't allowed to take photos inside, but the exteriors clearly declare Irving Gill's unique style. Tim and I were ready to move in right then and there.

 
Street view of the court

 
Plenty of windows and natural light in the second story

 
Windows detail

 Wonderful old garage doors

 
Front door detail
 
We next traveled to Santa Fe Springs, where we toured the Clarke estate, an 8000-square-foot mansion built in 1921 amidst 60 acres of orange groves. The enormous house was eventually deeded to the city of Santa Fe Springs and is now used as an event venue. Though the red balconies and doors are not original to Gill's design, they are nonetheless striking against clean, white concrete walls.

 
Clarke mansion, entrance view

 
Balcony, interior courtyard

 
Courtyard door, looking out

 
Rearview of the house

 
Side door and flowers

 
Front door and carport

 
Tim checking out Gill's handiwork
 
Our last stop was the 1800-square-foot, single-story White/Morgan residence, erected near Melrose and Vine in the early 1920s. We had visited the home 10 years ago. But, boy, what a difference a decade makes! The house has been completely restored and is magnificent. The concrete walls not only repel the heat, they also muffle outside noise even though the house is located mere feet from one of Hollywood's busiest intersections. I'm in love with Gill all over again . . .

Unassuming front door, off an enclosed driveway

 
 The living room

 
Bedroom

 
Kitchen

 
Dining room

 
Backyard patio

 
Guest house entrance

 
Enclosed driveway

 
Driveway door detail

 
Bathroom mirror selfie