Friday, June 19, 2009

A tale of two buildings

To judge from its exuberant façade, the new Versailles apartment building in Koreatown (one of at least three apartment houses with this classy-sounding name in Los Angeles) has all the right stuff: a throwback to the great French-inspired postwar buildings of Leland Bryant, complete with turrets, balconies, peaked roofs and, most important, a sense of play and fantasy.

The Versailles, Koreatown

The interior, however, tells a different—and disappointing—story. So-called "bedrooms" in this massive block-long building (S. Oxford between James M. Wood Blvd. and San Marino) are the size of closets.

Good luck opening that bottom drawer!

The dining room doubles as the apartment entryway (of course) and the cool turrets are non-functional paste-ons with blind windows (couldn't they have been closets, at least?).

Dining table in the entryway, useless turrets.

The worst may be the living rooms, which are cramped and miserly in size.

A living room at the Versailles, Koreatown.

Just down the street
, at 900 South Serrano, is the St. Germaine, a thrilling 1929 Leland Bryant building (an obvious model for the Versailles) with generous living spaces, including spacious living rooms, real dining rooms, and full-sized bedrooms. And the turrets are functional interior spaces, with real windows that admit more light into the apartments.

The St. Germaine, Leland Bryant architect (1929).

Interior of the St. Germaine: generous living spaces and a functioning turret room.

A real, adult-size bedroom at the St. Germaine.

There is much to be admired about the projects of Frost/Chaddock, the developers of the Versailles, but they should be ashamed of their avarice in trying to squeeze as many residents as possible into this new building at the expense of quality of life.


  1. How many charming pre-war buildings, filled with great materials, were demolished to make way for that Versailles abortion?

  2. "... they should be ashamed of their avarice ... " ?

    Excuse me, but they're just operating under the market conditions - set primarily by the city, which require low-income set asides, ridiculous parking allotments, and who knows what else.
    In order to squeeze in the welfare units, something has to give elsewhere.

  3. I didn't know French cities were known for their spacious living quarters.

  4. Small units are fine. After all, this IS a cramped, crowded city with millions of residents - most of whom don't need much space, especially if they're single. It keeps costs down.

    Also, not all one-bedroom units have that layout and square footage. There are two-bedroom units if you want more space.

    1. Keeping cost down? you have got to be kidding. There is a tremendous cost to live in this building of small spaces.

  5. In comparing the Versailles with the St. Germaine, it's curious that you chose to focus on bedroom size. To me, the vulgarity of the new building's expression is its real failure.

  6. I live at the St. Germaine, and it is truly wonderful. In addition to the space, the amazing architectural detail present in each apartment, the light, and the views, the building is incredibly well-maintained by a caring landlady, custodian, and cleaning staff. And the neighborly tenants gets along too!

  7. The Versailles is a real ugh but the critique that follows is a string of cliches lifted from narrowly acquired 80's Sam Hall Kaplanesque blurble.

    Many of our most universally adored building have "useless spaces" and have awkward interior layouts.

    The Versailles "fun" exterior is a builders nightmare, randomly and boorishly proportioned and mixes architectural languages with such abandon that what you get is design gibberish.

    BTW the above excuse regarding code and zoning smacks of the silly notion that government should butt out of the development process. There are many, many great buildings that comply with these codes and are a great success. In a world without zoning and codes you would have huge fires and urban blight.

    The St. Germain is done by a better, more educated designer. It is fairly well proportioned with care given to things that matter like thoughtful waterproofing details and attention to material changes. It is well detailed, nicely proportioned and has aged well.

    It's language is also strained and historically weird.

    The Versaille will on the other hand look much worse as it wears. The details, roof intersections and cladding choices will not wear well and it will look like a heap of cacophonous crap that is weathered very soon.

  8. I am a resident of The St. Germaine. I fell in love with the big, bright, beautiful open space here! All the staff is wonderful and the neighbors are great. I stopped looking at apartments in the valley because they were like The Versaille! No matter what kind of show was going on, on the exterior, the interiors were all the same. Thankfully, this little castle is as aesthecally pleasing on the inside as it is on the outside!

  9. People aren't forced into renting at the Versailles. Although it's unfortunate that the developers missed alot of opportunities, that neighborhood is one of the more densely populated areas of the US (even over much of NYC/Manhattan) and many of the surrounding buildings are basically junk. Perhaps they are marketing it for a Zen lifestyle by very thin people with not many things who aren't there much.

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