Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Adventures in Hedonism - Neverbuilt Los Angeles

Sunday I visited the Architecture + Design
Museum for the first time. I went to see the "Neverbuilt Los Angeles" exhibit, a collection of architectural models and drawings of proposed buildings and structures that never made it past their design phase. It was a great show and great afternoon.

One of the nice things about this museum is that it is located right across the street from LACMA. This allowed us to make a day of the trip, starting with cocktails and brunch at the Stark Bar at Ray's. Everytime I go here, I wonder why it’s been so long since my last visit. I love the way LACMA has evolved - and as a cocktail sipping hedonist, the Stark Bar is a cornerstone of that evolution. Craft cocktails created with homemade infusions such as, masala rye whiskey; or unique cocktails such as the Morning Glory Fizz - made from scotch, absinthe, egg white and and freshly squeezed lemon, or the Silk and Gators - made from Cognac, Sherry, Vermouth, and Fernet. Honestly, I could have just spent the afternoon here and had a wonderfully hedonistic time sampling their cocktail menu.

But we Came for Neverbuilt Los Angeles, and that was delight itself. Part of this year’s Pacific Standard Time collection of integrated exhibits celebrating LA, we'd already seen the Modern Architecture exhibit at the Getty which told the story of LA’s growth and evolution. This show, on the other hand presented a fantasy view of LA, the LA the could have been. A massive Frank Lloyd Wright makeover of downtown, complete with underground speedways, a forum, and airstrip. Towers to rival the Empire State Building, or a chain of man made islands off Santa Monica bay complete with freeways and boat slips.

I think I took particular pleasure in all the proposed mass transit systems. All monorails and people movers - this was the future promised me in my childhood. Disneyland expanded into everyday life. Every building had a helipad or landing strip. Airport waiting rooms in their entirety plucked up by helicopter to pluck it down just outside the airplane ready to board. I suppose somewhere along the line we began to realize how unpleasant a sky full of noisy helicopters might be, and so many of these visions fell by the wayside, opposed by neighbors or left unfunded.

It's hard not to take an imaginary ride through these potential futures. This was aided by some clever additions to the exhibit. The first being three large lenticular portraits that overlaid some of the proposed structures over their present day landscapes. Second, a collection of animated renderings of some of the structures, allowing us to do a flyby of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Downtown LA.

Of course along with the fanciful where the horrific. Structures that thankfully never got funded and remain in the imagination - including my own favorite neverbuilt, City of Angels Monument. A 350 foot Angel atop a 750 foot tower/pedistal. It was a gaudy cross between a hood ornament, the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty and the Monument to the Third International. I love it for it's absurdity as well as the audacity that thought it could be built.

The show appealed to the child in me, the unstoppable imagination of impracticality. I can imagine myself sitting before a pile of legos ready to build my own monument, museum, or country club without a worry of who else might actually live there, or what other’s might think. The show is a treat, seeing the LA that never was.

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