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A Los Angeles Primer: Los Feliz

The homes of Hancock Park, while nostalgic, didn’t set off Los Angeles’ interest in architectural revival. Some builders looked backward here even as others looked most enthusiastically forward, and their collective effect on the environment remains in the hills of Los Feliz, five miles to the northeast. There you find examples of Beaux-Arts, Art Deco, Spanish, Mediterranean, Moderne, Mayanesque, Tudor, Italian Renaissance, Doric, Ionic, International, an odd kind of alpine Mitteleuropa, and much else besides, the most notable of which went up in the twenties, thirties, and forties. Where the higher elevations of Silver Lake provides the low-profile Los Angeles residential architecture tour, those of Los Feliz provide the high-profile one. The prepared architectural tourist will turn up ready to seek out such well-known residences, often photographed and sometimes used in movies, as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House, Gregory Ain’s Ernest and Edwards Houses, and Richard Neutra’s Lovell Health House. They will, most likely, do it with a copy of David Gebhard and Robert Winter’s “An Architectural Guide to Los Angeles” in hand.

Gebhard and Winter diligently map out Los Feliz’s numerous homes of aesthetic interest in Los Feliz, then dismiss much of the neighborhood — namely the commercial and medical developments centered around Vermont Avenue and Sunset Boulevard — with the unusual term “skulchpile.” You’ll find no more peaceful vantage point from which to view this skulchpile than Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolph Schindler’s Barnsdall House, also known as the Hollyhock House, now known as the main set of structures in what has become Barnsdall Park, or Barnsdall Art Park, or Barnsdall Arts Park, depending on which sign you read. Despite those, and despite how unignorably the bold angularity of the house itself looms over Vermont, Barnsdall Park remains one of the strangely little-known assets of Los Feliz — indeed, of all Los Angeles. The first time someone told me to meet them there, I had to look the place up; now most friends, even those who’ve logged many more years in the city than I have, look surprised then I take them up there. Perhaps those who lift their gazes from the streets of Los Feliz get distracted by other sights: the Hollywood sign, for instance, or the Griffith Observatory, whose vast eponymous park people do tend to know something about.

Read the whole thing at KCET Departures.

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