50 grand designs: the griffith park observatory, 50 pictomat essays
August 28, 2010, 10:17 am
Filed under: 50 grand designs, 50 pictomat essays

the griffith park observatory, built 1935. archects: john c. austin and russell w. porter

not a trip is made to this city without a ritualistic and almost sacred walk to the griffith park observatory. it sits majestic, simple and sublime atop the hollywood hills, and keeps a watchful eye over this city of fallen angeles. built in 1935, it is celebrating 75 years of showing the heavens to the stars and lesser mortals. remodeled, but somehow keeping its quaintness behind a facade that is some crazy mixture that a hollywood set director could have created. neoclassic, and deco-moderne, its colorful marble floors and w.p.a. style murals still intact, it remains one of only a few buildings not subject to los angeles' continual reinvention of itself. its alcoves, like alters in a gothic cathedral, are dedicated to the earth's moon, its sun, its elemental building blocks. the same tesla coil machine that thrilled us as a child still emits its lightning bolts of electricity to the steel cage that it is encased.

once, many years ago, we got to push the button to release that clatter of white heat, now it is done on a schedule. tesla is dead, this rare relic, old and prone to shorting out, and the people with the knowledge to keep this chancy machine jolting like something from james whale's classic "the bride of frankenstein" are a rare lot. we feel little tingles of energy on the hairs on ours arms, every time a thunder of lightning is loosed, just as we did 40 years ago. what a blessed relic, this little lighthouse to the heavens. we exit precisely at dusk, where we still hear lucinda williams sing about her "red suns" and watch tonight's red sun sink into the hills above the ocean covered in haze at malibu.

we walk down the mountains, the Hollywood sign above us, the front doors of the observatory behind us, where sal minio was gunned down by the cops while james dean and natalie wood stand helplessly at the end of "rebel without a cause". further down the hill we pass all the elderly california girls, who are hopelessly tan, and sluttishly dressed. they still "just wanna have fun" and are filing into the once famous outdoor venue in griffith park, the greek theater, that now feels more like an indian gambling casino. the distinctive voice of the new yorker, cyndi lauper, though muffled in its little canyon, urges those california girls to do what they have always done, but to "keep having fun" seems redundant. it has been decades since brian wilson and his brothers started writing songs about those girl and their cars. oh, l.a. you city of too tanned bodies and too many cars.

we remembered, as we hopped up the stairs, almost back to our l.a. home, a father talking to his son at a display in the observatory, as the son alternately hit buttons that lit up elements that were present in humans and then stars. "see" his dad said, "you are made up of carbon, just like a star." we finished up the last few steps as joni mitchell filled our head again ... "you are stardust, you are golden, you are million year old carbon, you are caught in the devil's bargain, and you've got to get yourself back to the garden." it seems as if it was some ancient poem now. pop songs are no longer written like prayers today.

[our pictomat font is malfunctioning on non-apple products. excuse our inconsistency.]


50 grand designs: the ennis-brown house
August 28, 2010, 9:23 am
Filed under: 50 grand designs

the ennis-brown house (built 1924), architect: frank lloyd wright. born: richland center, wisconsin (1867 – 1959)

poor, poor frank lloyd wright, particularly when it comes to his houses built in los angeles. he was in l.a. intermittently while overseeing construction of the imperial hotel in tokyo. in l.a. he created a new sort of home built of concrete blocks. the ennis-brown house is probably the most impressive, but also the home in biggest trouble. l.a. has never been a city to consider its past. the future, the next movie, the next deal is what this zippy city is all about.

the ennis-brown house is crumbling. it is not entirely due to wright’s sometimes inventive construction techniques. the house here uses cinder block construction. not a bad idea, but when the blocks age, or are ravaged by earthquakes, they crack, and expose the iron rebar which rusts and … the rest is not a pretty sight and expensive to repair. in usual housing markets and especially in l.a. where people can afford these things, this house had managed to stay intact. that is until now. it was on the block, so to speak, for 15 million, today’s paper reports it’s down to 7, and still no takers.

the new ruling class wants open designs, loft like spaces, not the low cozy, embellished work of the once maestro of american architecture. who knows what will happen?

the last time we lazied by the place that looms over the city in the hollywood hills above vermont boulevard it was in sorry shape. another of his l.a. cinder block houses in somewhat better shape has interested buyers. they are japanese, and if they buy, they might cart it back block by friggin’ block to tokyo. by the way, wright’s imperial hotel in tokyo, survived a devastating earthquake there, only to be torn down later.

you can see the ennis-brown house in various movies, most notably “blade runner”. its interiors are used as harrison ford’s apartment.

50 exceptional film posters: vertigo, 50 grand designs
August 14, 2010, 12:39 am
Filed under: 50 exceptional movie posters, 50 grand designs

“vertigo” directed by alfred hitchcock (1958). poster, title sequence, and story boards: saul bass, graphic artist. born: new york city (1920 – 1996)

saul bass is probably best known for his inventive title sequences. most movie titles prior to 1950 were simply a frame with the name of the movie. saul bass made his sequences dance around to jazzy scores in inventive and colorful ways. many may not realize that title sequences are not directed by the movie’s director. saul bass’s work in the 950’s and 1960’s are some of the best.

he played off his title sequence for alfred hitchcocks “vertigo” by keeping the op-art concentric circles and having jimmy stewart and kim novak’s stylized figures falling into an endless vortex. this poster goes for around 3 grand today!

50 grand designs
July 12, 2010, 5:13 pm
Filed under: 50 grand designs

zubizuri footbridge, bilbao, spain (1997). designer: santiago calatrava, born velencia, spain (1951)

as stated in previous posts, pictomat knows nothing about sports. however this modest site is trying its damnedest to remain current, so pictomat celebrates spain’s victory in the world cup yesterday with a winning design in spanish basque country (which, sorry, does not really consider itself part of spain, but perhaps does today!)

pictomat has tramped across this lovely structure. it is so curvaceously, and seductively beautiful that one would hope there is still time for the portland city council to ask santiago calatrava to redesign the sorry multi-use bridge planned to cross the willamette near omsi for the max, bike and pedestrian crowd.

50 grand designs
July 11, 2010, 11:35 am
Filed under: 50 grand designs

ciudad de las artes y las ciencias, or city of arts and sciences, velencia spain, (1996). designer: santiago calatrava, born velencia, spain (1951)

the entry of the world cup finalist county’s outstanding design (see dutch entry, from post dated 2010/07/11).unfortunately, pictomat has never been to valencia and pictomat’s general policy  is to not show anything that this site is not intimately connected to. however, sanitago calatrava, is not a name unknown to this site, and pictomat has visited a bridge (he is noted for designing many bridges) in bilbao, spain and a wonderful just completed office building in nyc. should spain win you may just see another of his wild structures. a bridge perhaps. good luck to both teams in the world cup finals.

50 grand designs, 50 banknote beauts
July 11, 2010, 11:18 am
Filed under: 50 banknote beauts, 50 grand designs

50 guilder banknote, the netherlands (1982). designers: r.d.e. oxenaar and j.j. kruit, (birthplace and dates unknown)

in honor of the world cup finals today, and the fact that pictomat has no interest in sports, but is interested in design and both beautiful nations – the netherlands and spain. pictomat does however, have a favorite in the big game today based on the design sense of that country. it would be unkind, at this site, to name that favorite and so you will never know. however, check back after the world cup is over for a second wonderful design from the country that wins the game that 90% of the world will be watching.

50 amazing faces, 50 grand designs, 50 fashion mavens
July 11, 2010, 1:37 am
Filed under: 50 amazing faces, 50 fashion mavens, 50 grand designs

grace jones, singer, born spanish town, jamica, (1948), photo-montage. designer: jean-paul goude, born saint-mandé, france, (1940)