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Anyone up for a Road Trip?

For the past 4 years, I’ve run a race in Ventura that takes place the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.  This year I decided to fit in a self-guided architecture tour on the portion of the drive to/from LA.  (Yes, tours guides take tours in their spare time!) The tour was put together by my friend Ward Thompson. Ward is an architect who runs Entasis Architecture Tours in LA.  Stops were planned to view residences in Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades and Malibu by architects Frank Gehry, Ray Kappe, Tadao Ando and Harwell Hamilton Harrison. A special tour of the Eames House (case study house #8) was also included.

Day 1 – Drive north to Ventura, with stops in Huntington Beach, Santa Monica and Malibu

Huntington Beach Public Library Richard and Dion Neutra 1975

On the way north from San Diego, I added a stop in Huntington Beach to visit the public library because I had seen pics posted online. Richard Neutra and his son Dion won the commission for the library, but Dion completed the project after his father passed away before groundbreaking.The library was well worth the stop. Not only is it next to the Central Park but there are water features inside of the building, too. An abundance of glass and greenery help library visitors feel like they are in nature.

Since I got started later than planned, I hit Santa Monica in the late afternoon light which turned out to be a nice time of day to view the two Gehry residences and the Ando beach house. A bonus was catching the Santa Monica stairs that people use for their stairclimbing exercise.

Frank Gehry House 1978

Tours notes provided to me: “In 1977, Frank and Berta Gehry bought a pink bungalow that was originally built in 1920. Gehry wanted to explore with the materials he was already using: metal, plywood, chain link fencing, and wood framing. In 1978, he chose to wrap the outside of the house with a new exterior while still leaving the old exterior visible.”

Gehry Adelaide Drive House 1917

Tour notes provided to me: “In January 2011 Frank Gehry and his wife Berta bought a 5,295 SF house overlooking Santa Monica Canyon. The house was built in 1917 on a lot of 0.53 acres. Construction of a new house was begun in 2014 and should be complete in 2017. The new house comprises two distinct parts – the North House and the South House.

The photo on the left shows the Gehry Residence viewed through the front yard landscaping. The middle photo show a spectacular NW view overlooking the Pacific and Santa Monica Canyon. The photo on the right shows one of the Santa Monica staircases which allows residents and visitors a shortcut through the neighborhood of roads that wind through the hillside. I observed that people used the stairs as a outdoor "stair climber" for their exercise.

Ando Beach House 2016

From street side, I could appreciate the clean lines of the concrete beach house. I had been instructed to time my visit when the tides would allow me to walk on the beach to view the west facing side. Peering through to the ocean, I could tell the tide was too high for me to access the beach and made a mental note to try again on my way back south.

Day 2 – Free time for a half-day trip to Santa Barbara

I had time for a day trip to Santa Barbara from Ventura and made stops in the Funk Zone, the Museum of Contemporary Art at the Upper Terrace of the Paseo Nuevo and my favorite coffee shop, Handlebar Coffee Roasters. The Free Play exhibit at MCASB was quite fun - featuring contemporary furniture, architecture, artworks, and objects from an international selection of designers, architects, and artists.

Day 3 – Race Day and return to LA

This year I ran the Mountain to Beach Half Marathon instead of the full.  At the time of registration, I had just got out of an arm cast and wasn’t sure I would be able to train for my spring marathon. This was my first “away” half.  I usually reserve travel expenses for marathons, but the blessing in running a half versus a full is that I felt I could handle sitting in a car for the road trip back to LA after the race.

I reached Malibu in late afternoon and as luck would have it, the tide was low enough to allow me to take a nice stroll on the beach and view the Ando house. There was an open house nearby and a realtor kindly showed me the nearby hidden public beach access path.  Otherwise, I would have used the one that was more visible, but farther away.

Day 4 – Drive to Pacific Palisades, Eagle Rock and south to San Diego

I like to stay in Korea Town when I visit LA and usually fit in a morning run from K-town to the sculpture garden at LACMA.  However, since I had just run a race in Ventura on Sunday, I drove to LACMA instead, took some pics then proceeded the John Entenza House, the Ray and Shelly Kappe residence and then Eames House (Case Study House #8).

Entenza House by Harwell Hamilton Harris 1937

Entenza House.jpg

Harwell Hamilton Harris is the architect of the house that John Entenza lived in from 1937 through 1949. Entenza then moved into his own Case Study House #9. From the notes provided by Ward, “It is generally acknowledged that the Case Study Program was conceived and developed from this house.” The house is only 850 SF (79 m²) and was faithfully restored in 1998 by Michael Folonis, FAIA.

Ray and Shelly Kappe House 1968

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Next up was the house designed by architect Raymond Kappe, FAIA, as his own residence. It is a modern design built into a heavily treed hillside. Per notes provided by Ward, “It is large at 4,000 SF distributed over seven levels and attached to six concrete towers connected by 2 ½’ deep laminated beams.  The house is built on only 600 SF of land, leaving the hillside undisturbed.  Kappe overcame nearly unbuildable ground conditions on the 45° site with natural springs coursing through it.  At the top of the site is a rectangular pool concealed by the surrounding landscape.  

Ray has always been engaged in architectural education. In 1968 he became the founding chairman of architecture at Cal Poly Pomona.  In 1972, Ray and six of the teachers left and started a new school - SCI-Arc, the Southern California Institute of Architecture, which fast became internationally recognized for its open, experimental attitude and teaching methods.”

Eames House Case Study House #8,  1949

Charles Eames designed the Eames House in 1949. The house is built into a hillside behind a row of Eucalyptus trees on a bluff above Pacific Palisades. Charles and Ray Eames lived in the house until their deaths. I had been to Eames House once before and noticed again how magical the light is here.

There happened to be a group of architecture students from Finland the same time I was visiting the Eames House. I knew that later in the week, I would lead a tour of the Salk to students from Finland, so I asked if the group planned to visit other sites while in the US. It turned out they would travel to San Diego later that week to tour the Salk! A coincidence, for sure, but not surprising as both Eames House and the Salk are part of architecture pilgrimages in the US. Their next stop after Eames would be the Gehry house on Adeleide Drive, the one that I had visited on Day 1 of my trip.  I pointed in the distance that it was visible from the Eames house J

Helene Kersner House by Harwell Hamilton Harris 1937

As a bonus, I got to visit the Kershner House in Eagle Rock. It was built in 1937 by Harwell Hamilton Harris, the same architect of the John Entenza house that I saw earlier in the day. However, it has a very different look and feel. A friend in LA has always wanted me to visit her friend’s house, and as luck would have it, he was throwing a barbeque the day I was in town.

All in all, it was a full, fun weekend of architecture touring. I enjoyed discovering parts of LA that were new to me and sharing with my architecture loving friends.