Category: Preservation

New Getty initiative aims to boost preservation of modern architecture

March 21, 2012 | 12:00 am


The Eames House in Pacific Palisades, built in 1949 by the husband-and-wife designers Charles and Ray Eames, was never simply a single-family residence. It was also Case Study House No. 8, among the best-known products of a campaign by the editors of Arts & Architecture magazine to commission stylish and modestly sized prototypes for postwar living.

Now, thanks to the Getty Conservation Institute, the house is poised to become a case study all over again -- this time in the service of historic preservation.

The Getty will announce Wednesday that it is launching a new international program, the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, in hopes of giving preservation architects new and more sophisticated  strategies to shore up 20th century buildings.

Susan McDonald, head of field projects for the Getty Conservation Institute, will oversee the new program. Its first project will be funding preservation-related research at the Eames House, which is operated by a foundation established in 2004 and run in part by the grandchildren of Charles and Ray Eames.

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'The Last Supper' by Leonardo da Vinci gets some help from USC

November 28, 2011 |  9:01 am


Leonardo da Vinci completed "The Last Supper" in Milan in 1498. Almost immediately, the fresco started to deteriorate. Over the centuries, the famous work has suffered from human carelessness, humidity, pollution, a war-time bombing and more.

The fragility of "The Last Supper" has been the subject of numerous studies. Preservation efforts have focused on minimizing human contact and keeping pollution out of Milan's Santa Maria delle Grazie, the church where the fresco is located. Recently, researchers from the University of Southern California traveled to Milan to conduct a study intended to aid preservationists in their eternal fight to save the masterpiece.

Costas Sioutas, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at USC, said his objective was to determine the effectiveness of the church's new filtration system, which was installed in 2009 to eliminate pollutants from the refectory where "The Last Supper" is on display.

Milan has long had an air-pollution problem. "The city is polluted enough to impress someone from L.A.," said Sioutas in a recent interview. "It's not as bad as Cairo or Calcutta... or even Beijing. But it is pretty polluted."

The team of researchers from USC and other organizations installed equipment to measure the seasonal variability of outdoor pollution that can find its way into the church. Their objective was to test the efficacy of the existing filtration system as well determine the sources of unknown indoor pollutants.

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Monster Mash: Martin Luther King Memorial stirs debate about Mall

August 23, 2011 |  7:45 am

Martin Luther King Memorial
Historic figure: The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial assumes its place on the National Mall, renewing the debate over how many monuments should be permitted there. (Los Angeles Times)

Preservation effort: A new study argues that street art by Banksy ought to be given better protection. (BBC News)

Tearjerker: "Ghost: The Musical" is scheduled to open on Broadway in April. (Los Angeles Times)

End of the line: The classical-music critic of the Toronto Star said he has been re-assigned to the paper's business desk. (Toronto Star)

Dancing about candy: The 2000 movie "Chocolat" is being adapted for the stage as a ballet. (BBC News)

Familiar face: Artist Ultra Violet, the muse of Salvador Dali and a friend of Andy Warhol, has unveiled a new work inspired by the Sept. 11 attacks. (New York Daily News)

Cutting back: The union representing Lyric Opera of Chicago's principal singers, dancers and other staff has agreed to a 5% pay reduction. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Back for more: Sahr Ngaujah, who originated the lead role in Broadway's "Fela!," will star in the national tour of the musical. (Broadway World)

Report card: A critical assessment of Des McAnuff's tenure at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. (Toronto Star)

Romantic interest: An interview with Jennifer Damiano, who plays Mary Jane in "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." (Playbill)

Inspiring: A disabled man who cannot speak uses art to communicate. (Chicago Tribune)

Same time next year: The annual Broadway on Broadway concert has been canceled for 2011 due to the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. (

Also in the L.A. Times: A profile of the jazz band Ninety Miles, performing on a Cuban-themed program this week at the Hollywood Bowl.

-- David Ng

Photo: The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is seen on the first evening of its "soft opening" ahead of its dedication this weekend in Washington. Credit: Charles Dharapak/ Associated Press

Richard Neutra's Kronish House spared, for now

August 3, 2011 |  4:49 pm


Richard Neutra's Kronish House in Beverly Hills has been spared demolition, at least for now, the L.A. Now blog reports. The owners of the Modernist structure have agreed to postpone its demolition until at least Oct. 10, in order to give preservationists time to create a plan to save the residence.

The decision comes after much outcry from community leaders and preservation groups. Among the organizations to lobby the city were the Los Angeles Conservancy, the American Institute of Architects and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Kronish House, which dates from 1955, is one of the largest homes that Neutra designed in Southern California. The residence occupies nearly 7,000 square feet and is located on the north side of Sunset Boulevard., near Mountain Drive The residence is not visible from the street.

The owner of Kronish House is Soda Partners, a limited partnership that purchased the property in January.

On Wednesday, the Beverly Hills City Council also asked the community's Planning Commission to devise a historic-preservation ordinance. The move is significant because it would be the first such ordinance for the city.


Critic's Notebook: Neutra's Kronish House in the cross hairs

Neutra, Schindler and the course of L.A. modernism

Last-minute effort fails to save Beverly Hills house designed by John Lautner

-- David Ng

Photo: Kronish House in Beverly Hills. Credit: Marc Angeles / Unlimited Style

NEA awards Watts arts grant amid Towers skate park controversy

July 12, 2011 |  3:04 pm

WattsTowersSinco As controversy mounts over whether creating a new recreational opportunity for Watts youth would undermine the neighborhood’s leading cultural attraction, the Watts Towers, the federal government announced Tuesday that it will pump $350,000 into Watts and neighboring Willowbrook in hopes of sparking an arts-driven revitalization of the historically poor neighborhoods.

On Monday, the top state parks official in Los Angeles complained that councilwoman Janice Hahn’s plan to build a major skate park next to the Watts Towers is being railroaded through city government, and called for a full-scale environmental review of the project rather than the relatively cursory one contemplated by the city’s Recreation and Parks Department. 

Sean Woods, superintendent for the state parks department’s Los Angeles sector, says far more information and public input is needed regarding the skate facility and how it might affect the fragile, state-owned towers, a national historic monument that’s considered one of America’s greatest folk-art masterpieces. For the full story, click here.

Meanwhile, the National Endowment for the Arts rolled out the first wave of funding under its new Our Town initiative, launched by NEA chairman Rocco Landesman, a former Broadway producer who named it in honor of Thornton Wilder’s signature drama. The program provides money to partnerships between local governments and private arts groups, aiming to use the arts as a tool to revitalize cities. The NEA announced 51 grants totaling $6.6 million.

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Alston and Woodruff site-specific murals are endangered

March 23, 2011 | 12:18 pm

Allston When Michelangelo climbed the scaffold and began to paint the Sistine Chapel in 1508, he brought his exceptional intrinsic perceptions and artistic skills to three powerful extrinsic forces. The artist had to deal with the physical architecture of the space, the conceptual role of the chapel within the Vatican and the specific demands of the decisive patron, Pope Julius II.

The artist's brilliant negotiation of these intrinsic and extrinsic forces is integral to the masterpiece we see today.

Can you imagine, if such a thing were possible, the effect on Michelangelo's paintings if they were removed from the chapel and installed in the galleries of a museum? The images would remain unchanged, virtually identical to what they are in their present location, and many more people would get to see them than can be accommodated in a chapel of relatively modest size. But the aesthetic loss would be enormous. Michelangelo's Sistine murals are site-specific, drawing power and meaning from the place for which they were made.

Something similar, if on a lesser scale, will be argued in a Los Angeles courtroom Monday. As Times columnist Tim Rutten notes in a Wednesday op-ed, two site-specific murals completed in 1949 for the lobby of a major building in L.A.'s West Adams neighborhood may be ripped from their moorings and shipped off to a museum's galleries in Washington, D.C. Rutten has the details behind the possible loss. But the reason can be succinctly stated: Valued at $750,000, the two paintings were made on canvas that can be readily taken down from the walls.

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Monster Mash: 'Rent'-heads rejoice; music man Anthony Hopkins; Michael Maltzan's big moment

February 25, 2011 |  8:19 am

Forget the Great White Way
: Producers of “Rent” are taking their off-Broadway-to-Broadway musical  back off-Broadway for a revival. Follow that? (Playbill)

Hannibal Lecter would approve: Anthony Hopkins is a musician? Who knew? (Wales News)

In the spotlight: Michael Maltzan may finally have his breakthrough moment with the San Francisco State arts center. (Los Angeles Times)

Critics, take note: Why posts like this and this are important for audiences and for those who review shows. (Washington Post)

Such a deal: L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority buys Union Station in downtown Los Angeles for $75 million. (Los Angeles Times)

Do it for Don Draper: The L.A. Conservancy is urging people to have a drink at La Basque Villa in Vernon -- where “Mad Men” was shot -- then tell its owners to stop gutting the place. (Curbed LA)

May the force be with him: James Earl Jones goes from driving Miss Daisy to playing a former president for his next Broadway role in Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man.” (Playbill)

Told you art school would pay off: A retired animation artist sketches a con-artist couple who  confronted him in his home. (Los Angeles Times)

Check-up time:  A Riverside County Superior Court judge orders a medical evaluation of blues singer Etta James. (Los Angeles Times)

The price of waiting: The Santiago Calatrava-designed transit hub at the World Trade Center site now is expected to cost $3.44 billion. (New York Times)

“Cage” fright? Has Jeffrey Tambor lost his confidence on the Broadway stage? (New York Post)

Stamp(s) of approval: England honors British musicals on postage stamps. (BBC)

Friday fun: So you think you know art? Try this. (Sporcle)

And in the Los Angeles Times: Art critic Christopher Knight on the Smithsonian’s empty promise of a public forum to discuss art censorship issues and theater critic Charles McNulty reviews “In Mother Words” at the Geffen Playhouse.

-- Lisa Fung

Photo: The Broadway cast of "Rent" in 1996. Credit: Joan Marcus

Watts Towers ready for their closeup at conference, if not yet a skateboard park

October 22, 2010 | 10:45 am

WattsTowersLuisSinco Scholars, activists and artists who are gathering Friday afternoon for the start of the three-day Watts Towers Common Ground Conference at UCLA and in Watts will arrive to some good news: After a contractual snag over liability and insurance issues had held up the deal, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and L.A.'s Department of Cultural Affairs have found some common ground of their own, and LACMA will become officially involved in helping to conserve Simon Rodia's folk-art masterwork, as well as pitching in with help in fund-raising for the towers and with ideas for marketing them as a cultural-tourism attraction.

Another issue that may stir some chat among conference-goers is City Councilwoman Janice Hahn's controversial proposal to plant a major skateboarding park on a strip of vacant land that begins about 40 yards from the towers. Some of the towers' most enthusiastic advocates say that although it would be great for kids in Watts to have a skate park, the government-owned land around the towers should be for culture and quiet relaxation.

The notion of putting a skate park next to the Watts Towers is "ridiculous ... it's almost offensive," said Luisa Del Giudice, the independent scholar who spearheaded the Watts Towers conference and a companion event last year at the University of Genoa in Italy.

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Rose Bowl score: Historic preservation, $1 million; public art, $0

October 14, 2010 |  9:04 am


Pasadena's Rose Bowl became the focus of a different kind of competition this week: Call it the Bucks for Aesthetics Bowl, with historic preservation matched against public art in a contest over which would get nearly $1 million in development fees expected to flow from the stadium's planned $152-million renovation.

Historic preservation won, leaving art proponents miffed at their ongoing losing streak before the Pasadena City Council. Usually, city law requires developers to pay 1% of major construction projects’ cost to a public arts fund, to be spent on commissioning new art works at the development site. But when a project involves renovations to a historic landmark, such as the 88-year-old Rose Bowl, officials have the choice of commissioning new art with the 1% fee, or applying it to restoring worn or damaged historic elements of the site so they look new again.

In approving the renovation plan, which will be paid for mainly with federal and local bond revenues,  council members OKd the Rose Bowl operators’ request to use the 1% fee for historic renovations rather than to commission a new work of art.  The council overruled the city's Arts and Culture Commission, an advisory panel of government appointees that wanted the money spent to create new art.

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Last-minute effort fails to save Beverly Hills house designed by John Lautner

August 31, 2010 |  6:38 pm


A last-minute effort to save a Beverly Hills house designed by architect John Lautner has failed, paving the way for the owner to raze the structure  to make way for a new house.

Located on Monte Leon Lane just north of Sunset Boulevard, the Shusett House dates from 1951 and is one of Lautner's early commissions. The L.A.-based architect would go on to produce some of the most striking houses in Southern California.

The owner, Enrique Mannheim, said Tuesday that the city of Beverly Hills has approved all of the permits required for the demolition. He said that demolition work has already begun on the house.

Earlier this week, the city of Beverly Hills called a last-minute meeting to discuss the possibility of moving the Shusett House to another site. The meeting was attended by city officials, the owner, members of the Lautner Foundation and others.

At some point after the meeting, Mannheim decided against pursuing the option of moving Shusett House and to proceed with demolition. Reached Tuesday, Mannheim declined to comment on what happened at the meeting. His lawyer also declined to comment about the house.

Frank Escher, an L.A. architect who attended the meeting, said Mannheim sent an e-mail to city officials stating that there was no agreement to move the house and that he was moving ahead with plans for demolition.

The city of Beverly Hills lacks the power to halt the demolition of historic structures like Shusett House, said Linda Dishman, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy. 

She said the city has no discretionary review on such matters, which would have triggered an environmental review. Such a review would have given officials more time to explore alternatives to demolition.

"We hope that this is a wake-up call, that there are significant architectural resources here that are worth preserving," Dishman said.

-- David Ng

Photo: a view of Shusett House, designed by John Lautner, in Beverly Hills. Credit: Tycho Saariste


John Lautner's Shusett House close to demolition despite preservationists' efforts





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