L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

« Previous Post | L.A. at Home Home | Next Post »

Ahmed apartments: Call the style Pyramid Modern

June 29, 2011 |  7:00 am

Curiosity for Rent:  The Ahmed

A pair of Egyptian revivalist apartments rise like book-ended tombs south of Fountain Avenue, one block from the roaring 101 Freeway.  The 1925 Karnak and the 1926 Ahmed were designed by architect J.M. Close, his blueprints inspired by the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922.

An old photo of the Ahmed found on Google shows the current pylon base façade and three-story columns at 5616 Lexington Ave. Yet visible in that photo is an etched leaf design on the flutes that has since been covered. All the ledge detail seen in the old photo has also vanished, along with the name Ahmed that was scored into the entrance. First-floor metal moldings stamped with pharaohs, fans and mummies also have been lost to plaster.

The 2003 update of "An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles" by Robert Winter and David Gebhard lists the Ahmed’s original murals as having been “restored with considerable verve.” But they too are as buried as the pharaoh Akhenaton. 

Ahmed-portraitThe 40-unit building has been essentially entombed in concrete, a generic version of its fanciful former self.  

 “I just always thought it looked nice from the outside,” said Erick Beltran, right, who has lived in a third-floor single for eight months. “I never paid attention to any kind of theme. But I can see downtown from my living room and the Hollywood sign from my hallway.”

Ahmed is a variant spelling for Ahmad, one of Muhammad’s names and one prophesized by Jesus Christ in the Koran. Just inside the Ahmed's lobby, a painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe is tucked inside three chipped Arabic arches. The Virgin presides just above a mail slot and is decorated with Christmas ornaments.

Next week: The Egyptian god of the afterlife lives on South Union Avenue -- in the bowels of the Osiris Apartments.

-- R. Daniel Foster

"Curiosity for Rent," a series on the novel apartment buildings of Southern California, will appear here every Wednesday. You can send nominations to daniel@rdanielfoster.com. For an easy way to follow future installments, join our Facebook page for California home design.

Photos:  R. Daniel Foster