Los Angeles

“1962 Awards Pasadena Chapter, AIA”

Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena

This is a rather sparse exhibition of ten buildings selected by a jury of five architects (Maynard Lyndon, H. J. Powell, John L. Rex, George Vernon Russell and Clar­ence J. Paderewski). Few architectural exhibitions are really worth the bother, either as examples of exciting visual dis­plays or for their content, and this ex­hibition, like most of those sponsored by the AIA, is extremely dull. Unless one were acquainted with these build­ings it would be impossible to under­stand them as they are here presented. Several of them are presented in such a cursory, fragmentary way that they even lack floor plans or interior views. Like the annual national awards spon­sored by the AIA this local awards ex­hibition tends to be a good barometer of the average-to-dull, rather than a group of truly inspired buildings. It is doubtful that in five years, let alone ten, any of these buildings will be remembered. The most satisfactory of the lot are two houses, the Dr. Walter Thomp­son residence at San Marino and the Dr. Sidney Fine residence in West Los Angeles by the firm of Buff, Straub and Hensman. Both are a current statement of the California redwood bungalow tra­dition. Of the two, the Fine residence is the more sophisticated, although in truth it could never hold a candle to the earlier work (of the thirties) of H. H. Harris, William Wurster and others. The only other building worthy of mention is Burge-Roach, Henry Charles Surge’s Universal Savings and Loan Association building at Rosemead with its rather successful use of a long narrow walled court to separate the building from the street and sidewalk. Kenneth M. Nishi­moto (who has produced some excel­lent work) is here represented by a dis­appointing, cliche-ridden Passenger and VIP lounge for Japan Air Lines Co., while W. L. Duquette and G. Bissell Jr.’s Den­tal Office Building in Pasadena can be considered not as a serious positive de­sign, but as having the negative virtues of avoiding so many of the current de­sign cliches. On the other hand the two buildings by the firm of Ladd and Kelsey, the Stuff Shirt Restaurant at Newport Beach and the First Methodist Church at Laverne present an all too visual mirror of the Neo-classic Mauso­leum style which is now becoming the newest fashion in American design. Here in two examples of a renewed outburst of mannered eclecticism, one may dis­cern a mixed salad composed of exterior arches, rococo-like chandeliers, late Vic­torian drapes and rugs, effeminate de­tails of all variety and shape, a tinge of Japanesque, and a final pinch of McKim, Meade and White: all adding up to a highly indigestible offering. 

If one studies the remaining build­ings, it is possible to discover here and there a detail well presented, but any totality of vision is entirely lacking. If this exhibition is really an indication, which is doubtful, of the present state of architecture in southern California, we are indeed in for hard times. 

David Gebhard