Monday, January 15, 2018

Sometimes Old Architectureecture is Best

A recent trip to Los Angeles provided an opportunity to visit some old buildings that few people take the time to see. Here are a some of my favorites.

1. A mid-century modern gem is the Avalon hotel, located a few blocks south of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. I love this place, a boutique hotel that eschews the frenzy and size of better know venues. The Avalon boasts a classic kidney-shaped pool in its courtyard, flanked by a groovy restaurant and balconies overlooking it all. It is an intimate place, convenient to all of the central LA basin. Modern updates respect the original architecture without mothballing it.  Marilyn Monroe reportedly stayed here in the 1950s.
Avalon hotel, Beverly Hills. 
2. Everybody disdains downtown L.A.  I rather like it. It is no longer a forgotten corner of the city that seemed dangerous and shabby.  Okay, it's still a bit shabby and, frankly, boring.  But it's no longer forgotten.  New high-rise apartments flank the edges of downtown and old bank buildings on Spring Street are being converted to stylish lofts. Several subway lines now link downtown with Hollywood, Santa Monica, and other far-flung neighborhoods. Granted, it lacks shopping and restaurant magnets, but the original Grand Central Market still serves downtown as it has since 1917.
Grand Central Market, downtown L.A.
3.. L.A.'s grande dame of hotels, the Biltmore, is one downtown destination that still is worth seeing. It demonstrates the truism "...they just don't build 'em like they used to." It is richly detailed in its very accessible lobbies (yes, there are more than one), grand tavern, meeting rooms, and galleries. It is the kind of place that makes a visitor feel like royalty.
Biltmore lobby. 
Biltmore lobby.
Biltmore ceiling.
Biltmore chandelier. 
Biltmore lobby.
Biltmore lobby bar. 
4. Broadway, in downtown L.A., was once a street of many lavish movie palaces.  The buildings are still there, but, sadly, mostly abandoned. Occasionally they are used (interiors and exteriors) for movie locations.  For the most part they are probably destined for the wrecking ball.  Enjoy them while you still can.  Also on Broadway, and lovingly restored, is the Bradbury building.  Built in 1893, it  is one of the earliest examples of a skylit atrium building with exposed elevator cages. This was created nearly a century before John Portman brought the concept to the Hyatt hotel chain. Architecture students know this building from their history classes. Film buffs should know it from numerous location shots, including the final scenes of Bladerunner.
Theater on Broadway.
Bradbury building.

Bradbury building.
5. Union Station is a Spanish revival building that still has real train service.  Also the nexus for two subway lines, it has gained a renewal of purpose that attracts bustling crowds as it must have during the heyday of travel by train.
Union Station. 
Union Station.
6. Finally, what could sum up Los Angeles better than a classic movie studio. Paramount still has its main gate, featured in numerous film classics including Gloria Swanson's famous scene in Sunset Boulevard. If you take the studio tour you get two cities for the price of one.  "New York City" is recreated as faćade-only buildings in sunny Los Angeles.  (Usually sunny.  It was raining that particular day.)
Paramount studios entrance gate. 
"New York City."
It's only a movie set. 

All photos : MJK with an iPhone 6.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Architecture Mid-Century

The Virginia Village Mid-Century Modern Home Tour took place yesterday in Denver. The featured homes were buiilt as the Krisana Park neighborhood, a small development comprised of 176 hgomes within Virginia Village in Southeast Denver.

The official tour brochure describes the origins of Krisana Park.
In the late 1940s, Brad Wolff and his father, developer H.B. Wolff, acquuired an alfalfa field in southeast Denver. Responding to Denver's post-war housing shortage, they planned the construction of a new subdivision. The design of Krisana Park, however, stood out. Unlike the more common cul-de-sacs of ranch-style houses under development across metro-Denver, the Wolffs were inspired by the modernist designs of California developer Joseph Eichler. They named their development Krisana Park, and began construction on its 176 homes in 1954. Marketing their homes as '3-D Contemporaries,' prices started at $15,950. Financing was offered. With the GI bill, returning soldiers could pay $50 down payment and monthly payments of $104.02. 
The brochure for the tour features architectural inllustrations of each home by Denver artist Chris Musselman. Musselman's work has been previously featured in this blog.  His website is worth a visit at

The homes on the tour have been lovingly restored and, in many cases, augmented in the spirit of the original designs.  The openess and efficiency of the plans explains why mid-centtury modern architecture is enjoying a resurgence in newly constructed projects thoughout the city and, indeed, the entire country.

  • Illustrations from the tour brochure by Chris Musselman. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Grand Opening: Venue 221

This week saw the official grand opening for Venue 221 in Denver's Cherry Creek North district.

My office worked for three years with the owner/developer Cindy Wynne to create a luxury multi-use venue. The design is influenced by mid-century-modern architecture with 21st century amenities: folding doors open to a sidewalk patio, a white onyx bar with LED illumination, linear fireplace, caterer's kitchen and state-of-the art A/V system. The interior design consultant was Studio 10 of Denver. The general contractor was Coe Construction of Fort Collins, Colorado.

From their website:

Venue 221 is intended for all types of corporate, non-profit, social and community events such as: Sales Meetings, Conferences, Training Events, Executive Retreats, Employee Recognitions, Product Launches, Media Releases, Holiday Parties, Employee Picnics/Receptions, Volunteer Appreciations, Galas, Fundraisers, Award Dinners, Board Meetings, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Anniversary Parties, Birthday Celebrations, Weddings, Graduations, Reunions, Proms, School Fundraisers, Academic Competitions, & Shows, Religious Gatherings, Club Meets, HOA Meetings & Presentations and Political Meetings or Receptions.

They have also added pop-up retail events to their offerings. Detailed information is available here: Venue 221.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Credit to Architectural Artists

Some time back I blogged about Bruce Goff's Crystal Chapel project and included a stunning image of the proposed building. I neglected to give credit to the very capable illustrators;  "Perfect Prisms: Crystal Chapel" was created in 2009 by Ellen Sandor, Chris Kemp, Chris Day, Ben Carney, and Miguel Delgado of (art)n. Click on their link to see additional architectural images. The artists have also produced very creative architectural art as GIFs. Here are a few examples of their GIFs to pique your interest:
Mies-en-scene: The Farnsworth House by (art)n
Second Illusion About Antonio G. in New York by (art)n.
Reconstructing the Wright Space by (art)n.
Punta Pacific: A Deconstructed Vision by (art)n.
The above images remind me of some Salvador Dali paintings. He often extracted abstract structures from literal images. As an example, consider Galatea of the Spheres:
Galatea of the Spheres by Salvador Dali, 1952.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Capturing Architecture in Art

Every once in a while someone comes along with a fresh, invigorating approach to art and architecture. Chris Musselman is carving out an artistic niche with a unique rendering style that will be of interest to architects, builders, and marketing professionals.

I became aware of Chris through a series of renderings published in Modern in Denver magazine. His illustrations focused on the Denver neighborhood of Arapahoe Acres. This 1950s-era community is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a beautiful example of mid-century modern architecture. I decided to track Chris down to commission a rendering of my own home. His phone contact  contained an out-of-state area code and his tracks ran through Chicago and Santa Fe.  But it turns out he now lives and works in my town, Denver, Colorado.

Chris applies a spare graphic approach to architectural renderings, with lots of atmospherics and a lively sense of color. His technique is highly stylized but approachable. Here is a link to his website: And here is the rendering he produced for my house.

Architectural rendering by Chris Mussellman. 
Thanks, Chris!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Architecture Podcast

Our friends at Mountain View Windows and Doors run a regularly schedule podcast about architecture, design, building, and business. The Art of Construction podcast continues to grow and develop and has become the #1 podcast on iTunes for contractors and architects.  With their increased success they have decided to give it is own home/website: the art of

With this is mind, the link to their interview with Michael Knorr has also changed:

Podcast hosts Kevin Keefe and Devon Tilly.