Los Angeles Architecture, 1940–1990
Throughout the 20th century, the city of Los Angeles has provided a setting for the production of high-quality architecture by designers who are now counted amongst the great innovators of their time. In the years following World War II, Los Angeles's architectural production expanded dramatically, and the city became one of the leading architectural centers in the country.
Exhibitions focusing on Los Angeles architecture have tended to be monographic. Key figures such as Rudolph Schindler, Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames, Greene & Greene, John Lautner, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Frank Gehry have been the subjects of individual exhibitions in Los Angeles and other parts of the United States. However, to find an example of an exhibition that brings the work of these renowned figures into dialogue with one another, and with the work of lesser known Southern California architects, one must look back more than 40 years to when David Gebhard organized Architecture in California, 1868–1968 at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Los Angeles Architecture, 1940–1990 is a unique research project that explores the history of Los Angeles's architectural and urban development in all its aspects, including the city's mass-suburbanization and resulting sprawl; its competing efforts to create urban centers; the construction of the freeway system; architects' experiments with new building materials, construction techniques, and building types (especially in relation to the car culture of the period); and the creation of destination architecture through, among other things, tourist attractions, restaurants, and shopping malls. This broader approach to Los Angeles architecture will enable scholars to gain a better understanding of a city that has been both maligned and admired, a city that some scholars have called the first postmodern city, and others the city of the future.
The Getty Research Institute's rich collections on postwar architecture in Southern California include the archives of prominent architects such as Ray Kappe, founder of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc); Pierre Koenig, the architect of such iconic houses as Case Study House 21 and Case Study House 22; and John Lautner, who designed innovative residences such as the Chemosphere, Silvertop, and the Elrod House. The Research Institute also holds the archive of the famous Los Angeles architectural photographer Julius Shulman as well as the Union Station Collection, which features impressive architectural drawings of Union Station in Los Angeles, considered the last of the great railway stations.
The Los Angeles Architecture, 1940–1990 research team will organize a major symposium, an exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum in spring 2013, and a book-length publication.