Sunday, July 26, 2009

Excess in Encino

For the past two years I've worked in the San Fernando Valley. I've become quite fond of my local Starbucks and its creative, writerly vibe, and I resolved a while back never again to pre-judge the Valley.

But on a drive today through the Encino hills, south of the Boulevard, I ran across more than a few examples of the kind of architectural excess that can literally result in migraine. (Thanks to blogger Bobolini of proun 21 for suggesting the excursion.)

Pretension to grandeur fail!

With the possible exception of the air-conditioning, nothing about this house works, least of all its pompous portico. Corinthian??! In Encino?

Déja vu all over again, on a slightly larger scale.

Busy, busy.

I frequently have architectural nightmares, but this house, unfortunately, is real. Is it just me, or is the open-cylinder entryway making some oblique reference to the dreaded May Company building (aka LACMA West)?


I appreciate the severity of the façade (and its earthy, neutral color), but the proportions are disconcertingly wrong. And why the Shingle Style dunce caps?

A gate in Klingon Nouveau.

As I was leaving the area, I ran across what must the largest estate in Encino, with an unbreachable perimeter wall that goes on and on. The wrought-iron gate is equally forbidding: part Art Nouveau, part Klingon shield.


  1. While this is a wonderful opening salvo, you have yet to plumb the vulgar depths of the Encino - Tarzana frontier. You certainly caught some awe inspiring here are some notes from a designers perspective -

    The reason you see a sort of cacophonous repetition of parts is that these projects are either built by the same company or builder and they have a set of routines that they repeat over and over because it either sells well or pleases a certain market. Also, there are only so many mass produced serpentine columns and fancy grillages commonly available, so each client can choose from these large moldings and these columns and those pavers... and you have a design.

    Also, forget about a May Company reference - you are reaching to far. This building was likely developed in plan, with the designer moving things around until the owner said shoot. The origins in the plans could probably be found in every suburb in Tehran, with the turret being a typical neo-classical planning move. Your much despised May Co building is an awkward rendition of a German Secessionist/Mendelsonian expressionist parti. It is a kind of heavy handed modernism that you see along the Wilshire Coridor.

    Bruce Goff told me a story once. He said a client of Wrights and a client of Mies were having lunch and the Mies Client leaned over and asked - "Does your architect let you have closets".

    This typifies the architect who does listen to their clients, while the houses on Encino drive are probably deeply client centric. The client wants a bunny rabbit on the roof? The front door to look light a monkey's butt?

  2. Alas, money doesn't buy taste.

  3. "the vulgar depths of the Encino - Tarzana frontier" ... as someone who grew up there and subsequently got the eff out, I can say the Encino/Tarzana region is tops for craptastically ugly architecture.

    (I also think the average age of homeowners in tarzana is one of the highest in LA... spend 5 minutes in the parking lot at the Vons/Longs at Reseda & Ventura and try to find someone under 70 years of age. wonder who will be replacing them in the coming 10-20 years. hopefully more builders of tehranian-influenced, stucco-tudor monstrosities with faux-stone corintian columns.)

  4. very true...i recently moved to the area and am in my early 30s...however, the median age of tarzana residents is at least 60 yrs and there is definitely a large composition of Iranian immigrants who like their homes big, pompous ostentatious and well, ugly. The neighborhood could use more diversity with younger folk like myself, more East Asians, more whites, more blacks, etc.

  5. F! Throwing up a little over "Klingon Nouveau". Archi-comic genius.