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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Googie Architecture: Jack Colker's 76 Station, Beverly Hills

On the corner of Santa Monica Blvd & Crescent Drive in Beverly Hills sits "Jack Colker's 76" gas station, one of the best surviving examples of what is known internationally as "Googie" architecture.

According to this wikipedia article, Googie architecture originated here in Los Angeles and was based on the car culture and optimistic Space and Atomic themes of the 1950's and early 1960's. In addition to roofs slooping at an upward angle and large glass windows, buildings featured boomerangs, flying saucers, atoms, starbursts and parabolas in the designs.

photo credit:

The name "Googie" is based on the Googies Coffee Shop located on the corner of Sunset Blvd & Cresent Heights here in Los Angeles. When Yale University Professor Douglas Haskell saw the building on a visit to L.A., he ordered his car stopped and proclaimed, "This is Googie architecture." The name stuck. Unfortunately, the building didn't. Googies Coffee Shop was torn down a few years ago.

The 76 Station in Beverly Hills is one of the best existing examples of Googie architecture here in Los Angeles. It's curved roof was was originally designed in 1965 for LAX by world-renound architect William Pereira. Looks like something out of the old cartoon series "The Jetsons" (remember that show?). 

photo credit:

When Pereira's design wasn't needed at the airport, it ended up as a gas station. LAX's loss becoming Beverly Hill's gain. 

Of course, LAX has the Theme Building, which is argueable the greatest example of Googie architecture in the world. I'll re-post some photos and thoughts on that next week. 

originally published 11/21/2009 
© 2013


Friday, February 22, 2013

Winter in Los Angeles: Downtown Skyline

Love this photo: cold winter rain in the city often means snow in 10,000 foot high San Gabriel Mountains located behind Los Angeles.

This photo is not my own and - based on the skyline - at least five years old. But still, a great photograph.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Experiencing L.A. on Malibu Canyon Road, Malibu

Malibu Canyon Road is a scenic two lane mountainous road connecting the 101 Ventura Frwy to the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. It's a great way to get from Santa Monica and the westside of L.A. to Agoura, Thousand Oaks, and Ventura. 

I was in town last November, heading back up the coast. I've driven through Malibu Canyon many times, but never stopped for photos. 

First stop, just off the Pacific Coast Highway, was Pepperdine University. Pepperdine is "a Christian university committed to the highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values, where students are strengthened for lives of purpose, service, and leadership." Great campus - with some spectacular views of Malibu and the Santa Monica Bay. 

Just a mile up the road - and yet worlds away. Parts of Malibu Canyon look similar to what you'd find in Arizona or Utah.

There are some spectacular rock formations. 

In October 2007, yet another "Malibu fire" roared through this area. The vegetation is making a comeback, especially along the stream bed of the canyon itself. As I've commented before, a fire every ten years is much less dangerous than one every thirty or forty years. Significantly less to burn. 

Unfortunately, the densely populated hillside communities of Pacific Palisades, Brentwood haven't experienced wild fire since 1978. In the case of Bel Air, Beverly Hills, and the Hollywood Hills, since 1961. Without controlled burns, when fire hits these communities - which WILL eventually happen - it's going to be devastating.

If you want to stop and enjoy Malibu Canyon Road, plan on heading north from the PCH. There are several turn outs along the way where it's safe to stop and take photos. 

My car at one of the turnouts. The canyon is amazing, especially when you consider it's just a couple of miles from the ocean - and part of the the second largest metropolitan area in the US. 

It comes as no suprise that ten of thousands of cars use this route every day to commute between the inland valleys and employment centers on the westside. 

While there are curves along the way, if you want some SERIOUS curves, try Topanga Canyon Road - a similar canyon road about six miles to the south.

A final view of the canyon - and the creek below. 

Anyone know if it's possible to hike along the creek? 

Malibu Canyon Road continues another mile past this tunnel, where it becomes Las Virgines Canyon Road. No turn outs or way to safely take photos, so my photo safari had to end here. 

Malibu Creek State Park, which our family visited once, is another couple miles north. 

Continue on, and you'll hit the Ventura Freeway (aka the "Ventura Highway" - for those of you who remember the old song by the '70's band America).

Happy motoring - just keep your eyes on the road, and take advantage of the turnouts.

View Malibu Canyon Road, Malibu in a larger map

© 2013


Saturday, February 9, 2013

California Plaza & Los Angeles Central Library: Downtown with Kids (Part II)

In April 2009 I took my sister and her son, along with my wife and kids, on a little walking tour of downtown Los Angeles. Here's a link to Part I from last week as we explored the lobby and amazing elevators at the Bonaventure Hotel (what my nephew called the "bomb adventure"). 

Continuing on towards the California Plaza, we passed the downtown YMCA (above). I liked the sculpture and flowers. The two story YMCA and surrounding plaza was built on top of a parking garage. Nice use of space. 

The Wells Fargo Tower (one of two office buildings at the Wells Fargo Center) is located on Grand Ave. in between 3rd and 4th Streets. The Wells Fargo Tower always makes for a fun picture from this angle. The building is four sided, but the southern-most corner is very sharp, making this 54 story building appear like a flat, almost 2 dimensional, object.

As we crossed Grand Avenue towards the California Plaza and Water Court, the Walt Disney Concert Hall (more on this in a future post) was visible a block to the north. The tall office towers of Bunker Hill drop off quikly around the Concert Hall.

Looking west toward the 73 story US Bank Tower, another Los Angeles landmark that's been in multiple movies and TV shows (including the films "Independence Day" and "Hancock"). I never understood why the tallest building west of the Mississippi doesn't have any sort of observation deck on the top floor.

Despite being surrounded my office towers - and a block from L.A.'s tallest building - I'm always amazed how empty this part of downtown Los Angeles feels. 

You'll see more people out and about around lunchtime, but during the middle of the day, it's really lacking pedestrian traffic. 

The California Plaza, located across the street from the Wells Fargo Center. The California Plaza consists of two large office towers, MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) and a 1.5 acre water court. Part of the outdoor courtyard - including the upper half of this huge fountains - actually cantilevers over Olive Street. How cool is that? The California Plaza also connects Bunker Hill to the historic Grand Central Market via the Angels Flight funicular - which, unfortunately,  wasn't operating at the time due to an accident that occured in May 2004. Since then, it's back on line.

There's a series of outdoor steps along the western side of the US Bank Tower. Of course, my kids opted for the outdoor escalator.

Our two hour tour of downtown Los Angeles ended where we first started (and parked), at the Los Angeles Central Library. 

As I shared last week, if you have a Los Angeles Public Library card, the 524 South Flower Street Garage is available at just $1 for the first hour, and then only $4 for each additonal two hours. Here's a
 link to more info.

If you've never seen it, the Los Angeles Central Library is a historic treasure and definitely worth a visit. The library originally opened in 1926, and in 1986 was saved by the heroic efforts of the Los Angeles Fire Deparement from an arsonist's fire. The city rallied around not just to to save and rebuilt, but to renovate and restore the building. It was reopened in 1993. Today it's a state of the art building that maintains it's historic roots.

Here's the children's section. There are some beautiful artwork focusing on varoius scenes from California history along the walls - and a huge selection of children's literature.

My kids along with my sister and her little three year old in the rotunda located on the 2nd floor. Each of the four walls contains more artwork - this time murals - depicting California history.

Below on the first floor. The ceiling artwork is by artist Renee Petropoulos. Here's a link describing other architectural highpoints found througout the library.

My favorite part of the library is actually the beautiful public park on the west end of the library. At one time this was a parking lot - making this garden a huge improvement! There are some beautiful fountains, large mature trees, and an outdoor cafe. It makes for a wonderful "welcome mat" to the four million people who live in the city of Los Angeles.

One of the fountains contains this quote from nineteenth century abolintionist Frederick Douglass:

"Power never concedes nothing without a demand. It never has. It never will."

The design of this foundtain reminds me of the passage found in Amos:
 וְיִגַּ֥ל כַּמַּ֖יִם מִשְׁפָּ֑ט וּצְדָקָ֖ה כְּנַ֥חַל אֵיתָֽן׃
"Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream." (5:24).

If you're unfamilar with Downtown Los Angeles, this is an easy way to get your feet wet, as it were. Chinatown, Philippe'sOlvera Street, Union Station, the Bradbury Building, the Grand Central Market: there's a ton of others things to see and do with kids in Downtown Los Angeles. 

I'd love to come back to this spot and have lunch in Cafe Pinot, the adjacent outdoor cafe (where apparently kids under 12 eat free? really? wow!)  but that have to wait for another day. The kids all voted for the "Panda Express" just inside the library. At least we were able to enjoy our lunch with this impressive view of the cafe and the Bonaventure.

Of the three places we visited, the Bonaventure, the office towers on Bunker Hill, and the Central Library - I found the Central Library the most enjoyable. 

Why? Not sure. Maybe it's because of the three, it's the most public - and most welcoming - of spaces. 

Maybe because it's a reminder of both heroic efforts of the Los Angeles Fire Deparment in 1986 - and the thousands of men and women that rallied around it to rebuild it. 

But most of it, I think it's because of the chance to connect with Los Angeles' history. To walk through a building that has served generations of Angelenos. And, God willing, will serve generations to come.

View Downtown Los Angeles with Kids in a larger map

originally published 6/20/2009 
© 2013


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Bonaventure Hotel: Downtown Los Angeles with Kids (Part I)

May 2009 my sister was in town with her son (at the time, age 3). He really loves elevators - so I figured we'd take them for a quick tour of the Westin Bonaventure in downtown Los Angeles.

The Bonaventure opened in 1976 and - being in Los Angeles - has been featured in numerous films, TV shows and commercials. It consists of four 32 story round towers surrounding a slightly larger 35 story central tower. The top two stories consists of a restaurant and a lounge.

Parking in downtown Los Angeles can be, well, pricey. Two hours parking at the Bonaventure would run $30. Yikes! If you live in L.A. and have a Los Angeles Public library card, you can get validated library parking across the street in the underground garage for only $1 for the first hour, and then $4 for each additional two hours (up to 3 hours total - after that, the rates go up significantly). Here's a link with more info. Don't forget to read the fine print!

If you have any other tips on parking, esp if you're not from L.A. (and can't take advantage of parking at the Central Library across the street) let me know - I'll add them to this blog entry.

I took a number of photographs inside the large open 7 story lobby - until I was approached by hotel security who asked me to delete the pictures and to refrain from taking any more. He was friendly, but firm. The building is one of the more recognizable buildings in L.A., so I guess the hotel is being extra cautious.

Fortunately, there's the web - a good friend of this blog. Here's a photograph I pulled from google 
that gives a good idea what the interior lobby looks like:

photo credit: Payton Chung. 

Once inside, the seven story lobby puts the "maze" back in "amazing". I've been there at least 20 times, and I find myself still getting disorientated. Here's another lobby pic from the web: 

photo credit:

I like - but don't love - the Bonaventure. To be sure, from a distance, the five cylindrical towers are impressive: 
photo credit:

But down at the street level, the building feels like a fortress. The two entrances are purposely hard to find, and there is little to nothing to see at street street level except a seventy foot high cement wall. 

It can be tricky finding things: the front desk, the pool, and the "sky bridges" that lead out from the second and six (or is it seventh?) floors to adjacent buildings. Above is the view from the sky bridge (going across Flower Street) to Bunker Hill.

Still, the Bonaventure is an amazing hotel, and a great place to explore. If you stick to just walking around the lobby and asking any of the staff for help (including "what floor am I on?") you're fine.

It's also a great place to stay. We had family members from out-of-town who (thanks to Priceline) stayed at the Bonaventure while here on vacation here - and loved it.

And the elevators. Can't forget those. That was the whole reason for our visit. Definitely an "E" ticket (in terms of elevators) and worth the ride. As you can see, they've got floor to ceiling glass. We figured going up and down once was probably OK. 

Here's my kids enjoying not only a view, but hopefully a vision, for the city God had called us to for five years. I'm reminded of the words of Jeremiah:
 וְדִרְשׁוּ אֶת-שְׁלוֹם הָעִיר, אֲשֶׁר הִגְלֵיתִי אֶתְכֶם שָׁמָּה, וְהִתְפַּלְלוּ בַעֲדָהּ, אֶל-יְהוָה:  כִּי בִשְׁלוֹמָהּ, יִהְיֶה לָכֶם שָׁלוֹם.
"Seek the peace and prosperity of the city .. pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." 29:7

Our little downtown excursion continued with a stroll across the Flower Street skybridge toward the Wells Fargo Center on Bunker Hill. 

Turning around and looking southwest for a final look at the Bonaventure.

We walked around downtown a bit, and ending up at the Los Angeles Central Library. It was very do able, even with three small kids (ages 3, 7, 9) in tow. 

Here's a link to Part II - this second half - of our little downtown excursion next week. 

View Bonaventure Hotel, Los Angeles in a larger map

originally published 6/6/2009 
© 2013