Saturday, February 4, 2017

Mission Valley Macy's: What's Left of San Diego's Modernist Mecca

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The former restaurant of what was once May Co. department store at Mission Valley Center. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Anyone who's ever spent any time in San Diego will probably recognize this place. It's hard to miss. This Macy's department store at Mission Valley Center is strikingly clad entirely in formed concrete hexagons around its entire exterior. Even cooler, there's a cantilevered glass box attached to the south side, closest to the freeway, with a great bi-fold roof. The building has anchored Mission Valley Center since 1961, and it's become a landmark in the city. But with Macy's closing, its days may now be numbered... 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Funny Thing Happened on The Way To The Forum...

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LA Forum by Charles Luckman (1967)... See what I did there with the title of the blog? I know... I crack myself up. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Mention the work of Edward Durell Stone or other New Formalist architects to a die-hard Modernist and you will likely get a lot of eye-rolling or outright scoffing. They would claim - with some reason, to be honest - that New Formalism is the polar opposite of the functionalist ethos that International Modernist architecture espoused. Its classical colonnades and marble arcades were enough to send someone like Le Corbusier into gallic fits (although he was no stranger to ornamentation later in his career...). I pretty much felt that way once, myself. But I have to say, the older I get, the more the lines have blurred for me. I now believe these two schools of design have more in common than differences. In fact, I firmly believe that New Formalism belongs in the Modernist pantheon. Plus, I'm finally ready to admit I kinda love it. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Double Diamond: My Summer Adventure in the Hamptons

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The Pearlroth House (aka "Double Diamond") on Westhampton Beach, NY. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Welcome to the Pearlroth House, otherwise known as the Double Diamond. Like many of the homes designed by architect Andrew Geller, this one seems to defy gravity. It's completely over-designed and over-engineered for a modest little 600 square foot beach house, and that's exactly what I love about it. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Visit to the Seidler Offices & Penthouse


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Seidler Penthouse by Penelope & Harry Seidler (1988), including artwork L-R by Frank Stella ("Midnight Aloft", 1988), tall Aboriginal poles from Tiwi Islands (c. 1960s), Hilarie Mias ("Gaea", 1988), and Rover Thomas (1990).
Photo ©Darren Bradley

Just prior to my most recent trip back to Australia, I was contacted by Polly Seidler, daughter of architects Penelope and Harry Seidler, and invited to stop by the Seidler offices for a chat. As a long-time admirer of the Seidlers' work, it was quite an honor for me, and a real treat. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The House that Jack Built

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Inside the entry foyer of the Jack House, looking out to the front courtyard, and beyond into the kitchen window. Note that the house actually straddles a small stream, which passes underneath the house and into the garden in the back, down the steep slope. Photo ©Darren Bradley

OK, OK, I know. That title is a bit too obvious, considering the name of the architect who designed and built this house is Russell Jack. But I couldn't help myself; I couldn't think of anything else. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Neutra's Brutalist Library

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Huntington Beach Main Library by Richard & Dion Neutra (1972). Photo ©Darren Bradley
The name Richard Neutra conjures up a lot of images... spider leg posts and beams, ribbon windows, silver paint... But chances are, brutalism isn't really one of them. So it's not really surprising that many people are completely unaware that Richard Neutra designed this brutalist building in Huntington Beach (along with his son, Dion, who completed the design and saw it through construction, after his father passed away before it was done). 

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Visit to Gattaca

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Suspended garden terrace off cafeteria. Photo ©Darren Bradley


When driving north over the Golden Gate Bridge, leaving San Francisco, one is quickly greeted with the charming seaside town of Sausalito, the dramatic scenery of Muir Woods, and quaint little towns like Mill Valley and Fairfax. So arriving at the small city of San Rafael, it may seem a bit incongruous to find the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation (from the film "Gattaca") perched on the hillside. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

When Beer and Architecture [Almost] Come Together

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Photo ©Darren Bradley

While driving through the small city of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County's vaunted wine country recently, I decided that the only logical thing to do was to stop for a beer. As is often the case with these things, this little impromptu stop led to an amazing architectural discovery - the Sonoma County Public Library and the legacy of architect Francis Joseph McCarthy. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Sea Ranch Paradox, or How One of my Least Favorite Architects Designed One of my Most Favorite Places

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Sea Ranch Condominium 1 by MLTW (1966). Photo ©Darren Bradley

The Sea Ranch is an architectural masterpiece. Mention that you are visiting this mythical place to just about any architect or designer, and you are almost certain to get a look of wistful longing in return - tinged perhaps with a bit of jealousy. And what's not to love? It's really a masterful blending of architecture and nature in a stunningly beautiful environment. Even people who claim not to like modernist architecture are taken in by its beauty. And yet, one of its principal creators, Charles Moore, was an architect who later became a champion of the Post-Modern Movement, embracing kitschy and almost cartoonish themes in his work. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Discovering Modernism in the Jewel of the Inland Empire

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The Gillespie Residence by Clare Henry Day (1954) in Redlands, CA. Photo ©Darren Bradley
Redlands. Despite being known at the "Jewel of the Inland Empire", it's a city that is largely overlooked. Most people - if they've been there at all - know it mostly as a few freeway exits on the I-10, roughly half way between Los Angeles and Palm Springs. But Redlands' nickname is well deserved, and should receive far more credit than it gets as a destination in its own right... including for some wonderful examples of modernist architecture... and for the work of one brilliant architect, in particular.