Venice Design: More Than Big Binoculars and a Clown Headed Ballerina
Venice Eclectic: Modern Architecture from the 1970s and '80s, toured buildings connected to designers and artists like Frank Gehry, Dennis Hopper and Charles and Ray Eames.
California’s Venice has been known by many names, from “The Slum by the Sea” to “Bohemia-by-the-Beach” to the “Rollerskating Capital of the World,” but there are two unique aspects of the area that will always stand out: its canals, built by developer Abbott Kinney to resemble Italy’s, and the work of its boundary pushing designers and architects.
The latter were attracted by Venice’s airy, experimental atmosphere and abundance of vacant lots. Vacant lots by the beach? Well, once oil was discovered in the area, it became spoiled with oil equipment and shanties, and many of the original buildings were abandoned or fell into disrepair.
But in the ‘60s, city fathers demanded that all the blighted buildings be demolished — that left 550 empty lots close to the beach, and the architects and designers knew a good thing when they saw it.
Everyone knows about the famous “Binocular Building,” that was built originally for advertising giants Chiat-Day by Frank O. Gehry, but now houses Google; and the Renaissance Building with the strange clown-headed ballerina sculpture on the corner. But the tour took viewers inside more discreet structures as well, like the Hopper House, designed for actor, filmmaker, art collector and artist Dennis Hopper, to be used as a studio, gallery and residence. Although it has a plain, corrugated metal façade, its unique design has made it a local landmark.
Tour goers also got to see inside and learn about the former “Tasty Spuds” potato building, which artist Charles Arnoldi turned into a unique studio and gallery. Many recognize the unique shark mural on the building’s exterior, painted by a local graffiti artist as a tribute to Arnoldi’s daughter, who was a marine biologist.
The tour also passed through the “Bay Cities Garage,” on Abbott Kinney Boulevard. Few people know that the famous Eames chairs were born and built there by legendary designers Ray and Charles Eames. The brick warehouse building known as the “Bay Cities Garage,” was eventually bought and updated by Frank Israel for the design firm of Keith Bright and Associates.
Those who have been wondering
about what appears to be a massive barn on Palms Boulevard, got to peak inside
the home and studio of famed LA minimalist artist Ed Moses, who had architect
Steven Ehrlich build a place for him to work and live. The artist described it
as “…something Hawaiian style…but which, of course, had some magic in it.”
Other interesting stops on the tour included the Caplin House, inspired by a boat and a wave; the Arnoldi Triplex, a group of studios built on a vacant lot by Frank Gehry; and the Windward Circle Building, that currently stands on the site of the lagoon of Abbott Kinney’s original “Venice of America,” and was filled during the ‘20’s to accommodate — get this — automobile traffic.
Couldn’t make the tour? Don’t worry – you can still see these fascinating works of Venice architecture in our gallery. Once you know the stories behind these buildings, your trips to the renowned Venice Beach Boardwalk, or to the fabulous eateries in the area, will never be the same.