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4.0 out of 5 stars aimed more at architecture buffs, 26 Feb. 2012
tallmanbaby (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Los Angeles Architecture: The Contemporary Condition (Paperback)
Los Angeles is the de facto hub for Western modern architecture. Benefiting from an amazing climate, and lacking boundaries, it seems to be a vast urban sprawl where the rich have been commissioning bespoke houses on the surrounding hills for years. The popular image is of mid century modern architects like Richard Neutra and John Lautner, and the Case Study series of houses with some Frank Gehry at the modern end of things.

Instead this book provides a gallop through the history, starting with Arts and Crafts, managing to get to Frank Gehry half way through the book, leaving plenty of space for genuinely contemporary architects and practices, such as Morphosis, and some speculation on the future of the city. This is a real enthusiast's book, which expects readers to have a good knowledge of the subject, but repays this with an informed, at times witty, commentary on architectural theory and current opinion within Los Angeles.

On the downside the book could date rapidly, as styles change. The images, generally stunning, are not well integrated into the text. For the lay reader the book is heavily over-written at points, I've quoted a particularly impenetrable passage below.

There are plenty of ways to find out more, the musician Moby has just started a blog, the KCRW Design and Architecture podcast by the ubiquitous Frances Anderton, the Planet Architecture iPad apps. There is no single architecture of Los Angeles, and there is no sentiment, buildings that are iconic within modern architecture are routinely demolished for the plots they stand on.

The book has a slip-cover, beneath the cover is plain white. The images are uniformly high quality, the text is clear with an attractive layout. As ever, an attractive product from Phaidon.

Particularly florid sample passage - from page 81

"As cut rate impressions of historical models, buildings such as the Schnabel House are both representational and non objective, in direct contradiction to the avant garde ideal of Appollonian isolation as a posture of self expression which characterised the modernist gestalt. In creating such representative stage sets, Gehry also implies actors in the best Hollyrood tradition, with the architect as the most prominent performer of all. It is no coincidence that Gehry's buildings are a favourite backdrop as movie sets in Los Angeles and, while his paradigm Frank Lloyd Wright, intentionally sought to create a large-than-life persona that was so successfully formulated that he was eventually re-cast as Gary Cooper in "The Fountainhead", Gehry seems to abjure melodramatic theatricality, opting to play the part of architect straight."
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Los Angeles Architecture: The Contemporary Condition
Los Angeles Architecture: The Contemporary Condition by James Steele (Paperback - 19 Jan. 1998)
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