Thursday, March 6, 2008

Concrete Ideas

Hi all! Welcome to my blog, Modern Wonder. What's it all about? Well, I'm an interior designer and a mid-century modern fanatic. Post-war architecture, furniture and decorative arts will be frequent topics in hope that the remarkable past of Los Angeles and beyond will not only be appreciated, but also spark new design ideas.

The logo for my blog is inspired by the decorative concrete sunscreens that were used in many mid-century buildings are still very much a part of our urban landscape. Above is a vintage photo of the LAX theme building and check out this photo of the Parker Palm Springs.

These are just a couple of examples, both of which were intended to be decorative, although the screens do shade buildings from the sun and can act as a sound barrier. There's no busier place than LAX, but if you've ever been in the courtyard of the theme building you barely notice the cars, buses, and airplanes whizzing by!

For structural examples of concrete block, look no further than Frank Lloyd Wright's textile block homes. The Freeman, Storer, Millard, and Ennis houses (1923-24) were some of the earliest examples of concrete in residential applications and the first to use it structurally. Wright challenged himself to take a common material which was widely regarded as ugly, and transformed it into these amazing homes that still stand in Los Angeles today.

His experimentation with concrete can also be seen in the Hollyhock house from 1921, perched on a hill high above Hollywood. Check out just one of the many concrete details in this photo:

After being closed for several years for rehab, the Hollyhock house is open for tours now, Wednesday through Sunday. It's an amazing example of Wright's work and I encourage you to see it in person. The Ennis house will hopefully be open to the public again soon, but the other three textile block homes are privately owned. No such luck on visiting those, but make an effort to check out the LAX theme building and the luxe Parker Palm Springs. The view from the dining room at Encounter is one in a million and I doubt much convincing is needed to visit the Jonathan Adler designed Parker. Just remember, as you pull up to the valet, take a moment to appreciate the concrete screen that defines the hotel's entrance. Who knew concrete could be so glam!

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