SOLUTION: Venice Eclectic Book Summary

This tour is presented as part of
Major support for Curating the City:
Modern Architecture in L.A. has been
provided by the Getty Foundation.
This booklet was produced in
conjunction with a tour and panel
discussion held on April 20, 2013.
Tour curated by:
Trudi Sandmeier and LAC staff.
Photography by:
Larry Underhill, unless otherwise
Design by: Future Studio.
Special thanks to Charles Arnoldi,
Lucia Dewey Atwood, Gay Brewer
and Continuum, Juan Bruce and
Epoxy Inc., Edward Cella, City of Los
Angeles Office of Historic Resources/
SurveyLA, John Crosse, Steven
Ehrlich, John Ellis, Frederick Fisher,
Todd Gannon, Jonathan Kaplan,
Carol Lewis, Katherine Metz, Cedd
Moses, Ed Moses, Brian Murphy,
Daniel Paul, Jeffrey Stanton, and
all the Los Angeles Conservancy
volunteers who participated in this
About Curating the City:
Modern Architecture in L.A.
Significant events that helped to shape
the Venice of the 1970s and ‘80s
Curating the City: Modern
Architecture in L.A. treats Greater
Los Angeles as a living museum,
using public programming and an
interactive website to interpret the
story of L.A. modernism in different
ways. Launched originally in 2005
as Curating the City: Wilshire
Boulevard (, this
broad-based educational approach
encourages the ongoing exploration
and appreciation of L.A.’s unique
built environment. Complete details
on all programs can be found at
Curating the City is part of
Pacific Standard Time Presents:
Modern Architecture in L.A. This
collaboration, initiated by the
Getty, brings together seventeen
local cultural institutions from
April through July 2013 for a
wide-ranging look at the postwar
built environment of the city as a
whole, from its famous residential
architecture to its vast freeway
network, revealing the city’s
development and ongoing impact in
new ways.
Use of these school premises has been
granted pursuant to the provisions of
Sections 17400, et seq., of the Education
Code of the State of California to Los
Angeles Conservancy from the Board of
Education of the Los Angeles Unified School
District. The Board of Education does not
sponsor or take responsibility, nor does it
necessarily endorse any of the activities,
statements, or opinions which may be
expressed at this meeting or activity.
1911 Pacific Electric railway takes over
Venice Short Line route
Los Angeles Conservancy
523 West Sixth Street, Suite 826
Los Angeles, CA 90014
© 2013 Los Angeles Conservancy. All rights reserved.
Venice founder Abbot Kinney dies
1925 City of Venice becomes part of the
City of Los Angeles
1929 Venice of America canals filled with
Oil discovered on Venice Peninsula
Great Depression begins
1950 Pacific Electric railway abandons
Venice Short Line route – Trolley Way
becomes Pacific Avenue
Venice begins to be called the “slum
by the sea”
1962- Close to 550 “blighted” buildings
1965 demolished
Marina Del Rey dedicated
Free Venice Beachhead published,
a newspaper dedicated to
reestablishing Venice as an
independent city
The Argonaut begins publishing a
weekly local newspaper for beach
Sylmar earthquake measures 6.6
on the Richter scale – new seismic
regulations implemented
1972 California Coastal Commission
established (jurisdiction extends
inland to Lincoln Boulevard)
Venice portion of bicycle path
Southern California Institute of
Architecture (SCI-Arc) established in
Santa Monica
About the Los Angeles Conservancy
The Los Angeles Conservancy is a membership-based nonprofit organization
that works through advocacy and education to recognize, preserve, and
revitalize the historic architectural and cultural resources of Los Angeles
County. The Conservancy was formed in 1978 as part of the communitybased effort to prevent demolition of the Los Angeles Central Library.
It is now the largest local historic preservation organization in the U.S., with
over 6,000 members and hundreds of volunteers.
For more information, visit
Venice of America officially opens
1906 Short Line canals open south of
Venice Boulevard
Venice Town Council formed
1973- OPEC oil embargo and energy crisis
– inflation spikes and slows real
estate market dramatically
1978 Title 24 enacted mandating energy
efficiency in buildings
Venice declared “roller skating capital
of the world”
1979 The pop-up Architecture Gallery
exists for nine weeks
1984 Olympic marathon route includes
Pacific Avenue
Southern Pacific railroad begins to
sell parcels along the Electric Avenue
1989 West Washington Boulevard renamed
Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Venice Eclectic: A Context for Venice
n 1905, Venice of America was born. The brainchild of
entrepreneur Abbot Kinney, the seaside resort modeled
on Venice, Italy was one of Southern California’s earliest
themed environments. A series of canals, a main lagoon, and
an oceanfront pier formed a hub of amusements, including
dance pavilions, roller coasters, bath houses, and eateries. A
second smaller set of canals (known as the Short Line canals)
was built just to the south. Hotels, rental cottages, and tent
cities were built to serve the patrons. The Pacific Electric railway
brought tourists from around the city, and Venice became a
thriving beach resort.
The early heyday of Venice lasted only twenty years. After
Kinney’s death in 1920, the city eventually voted to join the
City of Los Angeles, ceding local control to the burgeoning
metropolis. In 1929, with the rise in automobile traffic, the
original Venice of America canals were filled in to provide
streets and better parking, removing one of the resort’s signature elements. The Depression hit, reducing the amount of
discretionary income Angelenos could spend on amusements.
Oil was discovered in the southern part of Venice, and soon the
area was riddled with oil derricks. By the 1950s, Venice had the
nickname “Slum by the Sea.”
Venice, with its faded glamour and cheap rent, became
home to a creative mixture of beatniks, hippies, and artists of
all types. In 1961, local business and property owners, seeking
to “clean up” the city, formed the Venice Planning Committee.
This group, in a thinly disguised effort to eradicate the “radical
fringe element” from Venice, recommended that the City of Los
Angeles begin a rigorous agenda of building code inspections.
These inspections identified over 1,000 buildings that needed to
be either significantly repaired or demolished altogether. Owners who could not afford to make the changes were unable to
get loans and were forced to demolish their buildings. By 1965,
close to 550 “blighted” buildings had been demolished, including many of the original turn-of-the-century Venice of America
buildings. Empty parcels were scattered throughout Venice.
Venice grew slowly in 1970s – in part due to the economic
challenges of the oil embargo of 1973-74 and its resulting
economic impact, and in part due to community activists who
promoted a slow-growth agenda. In 1972, in neighboring
Santa Monica, the Southern California Institute of Architecture
(SCI-Arc) opened with its mission of “re-imagining the edge—
educating architects to engage, speculate, and innovate.”
Architecture students and faculty, attracted by the inexpensive
housing and the vibrant artistic community, settled in Venice.
William Overend, in his 1976 Los Angeles Times article,
“Behind Scenes at Bohemia-by-the-Beach,” captured the moment:
There’s been talk for years now about all the new
money that’s moving into Venice. Rents have risen faster than the towers in the nearby Marina area, and the
town has begun to take on a more affluent tone. But
part of it still resembles a sort of Bowery-on-the-Beach.
You still run into burned-out street people wandering
around, wondering what happened to the ’60s. And
some of the buildings look like rejects from East Berlin.
The Venice section of the beachside bike path and Ocean
Front Walk helped make the area into a tourism mecca again.
In 1977, local entrepreneur Jeff Rosenberg started a roller
skate rental company called Cheapskates. Soon, people skating in bathing suits were such a common sight that in 1978,
Mayor Bradley declared Venice to be the “roller skating capital
of the world.”
Venice was also attracting the attention of young architects
looking for clients willing to experiment and push the boundaries. For nine weeks in 1979 in an apartment in the heart of
Venice, SCI-Arc faculty member Thom Mayne turned his spare
bedroom into a pop-up art gallery. The Architecture Gallery
was dedicated to the idea that architecture IS art, and it was
the first of its kind in Los Angeles. The work exhibited and
the publicity it generated resonated throughout the city, but
especially in Venice with its supply of vacant lots, inexpensive
land, and creative residents. Architects began to adaptively
reuse existing buildings and design eclectic infill structures and
experimental additions throughout Venice. In the 1980s, as the
economy improved, architects were commissioned to design
buildings that reflected the artistic community, finding creative
ways to push architectural boundaries on the small lots available. Venice is filled with the early work of architects who have
since gone on to design distinguished, award-winning projects
around the world.
This group of avant garde architects has been labeled as
the Santa Monica School or more famously, the L.A. School.
According to architectural critic and academic Charles Jencks,
”The L.A. School was, and remains, a group of individualized mavericks, more at home together in an exhibition than
in each other’s homes. There is also a particular self-image
involved with this Non-School which exacerbates the situation.
All of its members see themselves as outsiders, on the margins,
challenging the establishment with an informal and demanding architecture; one that must be carefully read.” (Heteropolis,
In her seminal 1961 book The Death and Life of Great
American Cities, Jane Jacobs penned some essential truths
about urban planning. Crucial to the success of any urban
area is diversity—including economic, ethnic, and architectural
diversity: “… city areas with flourishing diversity sprout strange
and unpredictable uses and peculiar scenes. But this is not a
drawback of diversity. This is the point … of it.” Although she
was not writing about Venice, some of her ideas seem tailor
made to describe it.
Venice is again a popular place to live, and land values
have risen dramatically, further threatening the historic resources of the community. In recent years, the Los Angeles Conservancy has been involved in several major advocacy efforts in
Venice, including the fight to save the Lincoln Place garden
apartments (1951) and the 2012 closure of the historic Venice
Post Office (1939). Identifying and protecting the many layers
of Venice’s historic built environment continues to be a challenge and a necessity, no matter the age of the resource.
**Given the constraints of the booklet, the careers and legacy of the artists and architects included is abbreviated, although each of them has been written
about extensively. For more information about the history of Venice, read Venice California: Coney Island of the Pacific by Jeffrey Stanton. For an excellent
architectural inventory of Venice, see Gebhard and Winter’s An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles and the Dogtown Ink online “Venice Architecture Guide”

The Architecture Gallery (1979)
209 San Juan Avenue
Original architect unknown (circa 1914)
Apocryphally once used to store canal boats in the era when
San Juan Avenue was the Venus Canal, this 1914 brick
warehouse building has changed purpose many times over the
years. It was the site of an art gallery that hosted the Eagles’
first public gig in 1972, and for the past twenty-nine years,
it has housed the ceramic artists of Luna Garcia. However,
in 1979, the rear half of the building was the apartment of
architect Thom Mayne (Morphosis), who was then teaching at
the nearby Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCIArc). For nine weeks that year, the 20’x27’ spare bedroom of
Thom Mayne’s apartment became The Architecture Gallery, the
first gallery space in Los Angeles dedicated to architecture. The
purpose of the pop-up gallery was to showcase architecture as
an art form. For one week, an architect would exhibit drawings
and architectural models as art objects. The participants
included practicing architects
Eugene Kupper, Roland Coate
Jr., Frederick Fisher, Frank
Dimster, Frank Gehry, Peter de
Bretteville, Morphosis (Thom
Mayne and Michael Rotondi),
Studio Works (Craig Hodgetts
and Robert Mangurian), and
Eric Owen Moss. The impact
of this ephemeral gallery
continues to be felt throughout
Venice and beyond.

Caplin House (not a docented stop)
229 San Juan Avenue
Frederick Fisher (1979)
This project, located just up San Juan Avenue from
The Architecture Gallery, was Fisher’s first independent
commission. Inspired by the metaphors of a boat and a
wave, the home features a ceiling that resembles the hull
of a boat. When the Caplin House was completed, Joseph
Giovannini, then the architectural critic for the Los Angeles
Herald-Examiner, wrote, “It is always difficult to insert a new
building into an old neighborhood, but especially in Venice,
where rising land values are now pressuring old residents
out of established
neighborhoods. A
flashy, new architectdesigned house
on San Juan Street
[sic] could well have
been the cause of
considerable local
resentment. But
[architect Frederick]
Fisher sensitively
integrates his new
house into the old
neighborhood by
an architectural
understatement that
is no less interesting
About Morphosis
Founded in 1972, Morphosis describes itself as “an
interdisciplinary practice involved in rigorous design and
research that yields innovative, iconic buildings and urban
environments.” The firm’s name, a Greek term meaning “to
form or be in formation,” conveys the firm’s desire to capture
the ever-changing realities of architectural practice and theory.
Morphosis founder Thom Mayne received architecture’s
highest honor, the Pritzker Prize, in 2005. Michael Rotundi,
longtime firm principal (1976-91), established the graduate
architecture program at SCI-Arc and is now the principal at
RoTo Architects. Morphosis produced several notable projects
in Venice, including the Delmer Residence Remodel (1976),
Sedlack Addition (1980), and the 2-4-6-8 House (1981).
Thom Mayne and Eugene Kupper at the Architecture Gallery.
Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, Department of Special Collections,
Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA
for being gentle. His mild-mannered facades are quietly
unusual and he has toned the house to the slightly eccentric
temper of the rest of the street. There is a quality of grade
school freshness and directness about the facades that belies
their sophistication; any happy child in his right mind would
choose this house as a favorite playhouse.” (Giovannini, Los
Angeles Herald-Examiner, July 18, 1979)
About Frederick Fisher
Born in 1949 in Cleveland, Ohio, Frederick Fisher is the son
of an architect. He spent summers working in construction
for his uncle and eventually studied architecture for two years
before transferring to Oberlin College to earn his bachelor’s
degree in art and
art history. He came
to Los Angeles in
1971 to enroll in
the UCLA graduate
program. From
1978-1980, he
worked for Frank
Gehry, after which
he began his own
practice. His offices
are located in the
former offices of
architect A. Quincy

Indiana Avenue Houses/ARNOLDI TRIPLEX
326 Indiana Avenue
Frank O. Gehry and Associates (1981)
Artists Laddie Dill and Chuck Arnoldi partnered with Gehry
to develop these three studios on a vacant lot they purchased
for $15,000. Intended as the first of a series of studio spaces
built for local artists, each studio was designed by Gehry
around a different oversized abstract sculptural element – a
stair, a fireplace, and a bay window. Each 1,500-squarefoot volume is clad with a different material – green asphalt
shingles, unstained plywood, and sky blue stucco, respectively
– materials commonly found on the buildings in the
neighborhood. On the interior, structural elements were left
exposed, a testimony to Gehry’s belief that many buildings look
their most interesting before they are finished. The interiors
were left partially unfinished to allow the artists to personalize
the space and to collaborate in the creation process.
Interestingly, due to a mix-up with the surveyor, the
buildings were actually designed for a lot across the street.
As a result, the interiors were not ideal for an art studio. New
windows had to be cut to adjust the day-lighting, and crucial
wall display space was lost. The studios eventually sold, but
the venture was not a financial success for the partners and
the business model was shelved. However, the studios continue
to attract creative tenants and inspire creative neighbors,
including Brian Murphy’s Hopper House to the south and
Frederick Fisher’s Hampton Court to the north.
About Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry was born Frank Goldberg in Toronto, Canada
in 1929. From the age of ten to seventeen, he worked in his
grandparents’ hardware store, surrounded by the materials
of the building trades such as roofing, fencing, and paint. In
1947, his family moved to Los Angeles, where Gehry got a
job as a truck driver delivering and installing breakfast nooks.
He began to take college classes and eventually enrolled as
an undergraduate at the University of Southern California
School of Architecture. After graduation, he changed his name
to Gehry, worked for Victor Gruen, was drafted into the army,
and spent some time at Harvard, before ending up back in
Los Angeles where he launched his own practice in 1962. He
moved in creative circles, cultivating friendships with Ferus
Gallery artists including Billy Al Bengston, Ed Ruscha, and
Ed Moses. When asked about what he learned from these
artists, he said, “… the craft and the art were one. It wasn’t
two separate acts, and that intrigued me. I was hoping an
architect could do that.” (Conversations with Frank Gehry,
2009) In the 1970s, he shared studio space with Chuck Arnoldi
near the beach in Venice. Gehry has been awarded countless
accolades for his work, including the Pritzker Prize in 1989,
an international prize awarded annually to a living architect
for significant achievement, often referred to as “architecture’s
Nobel” and “the profession’s highest honor.”
“My approach to architecture is different. I search out the
work of artists, and use art as a means of inspiration. I try to
rid myself and the other members of the firm, of the burden
of culture and look for new ways to approach the work. I want
to be open-ended.
There are no rules,
no right or wrong. I’m
confused as to what’s
ugly and what’s pretty.”
(Architectural Record,
June 1976)
Side view of the Indiana
Avenue Houses, 1981.
Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Public
Library Photo Collection

Windward Circle Trio
Steven Ehrlich (1986-1989)
Windward Circle was the location of the lagoon for Abbot
Kinney’s original Venice of America development. Windward
Avenue extended from the lagoon to the beach and served as
the main town square for the development. Although none of
the original buildings …
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