If You Can Picture It: The Getty Center ~ LA, CA

“… the Museum at the Getty Center, opened in 1997, continues to solidify the Getty’s position as one of the nation’s leading art museums, welcoming well over one million visitors each year with a wide range of experiences, from innovative exhibitions to inspiring programs for families and students, as well as brilliantly installed displays of our permanent collection.”

~ Getty  Museum

Up in the Santa Monica Mountains stands the Getty Center — more a beacon of white than an imposing structure. I see it near-daily from the end of our street, and for months it has been beckoning us to visit. Finally we made the time.

The most beautiful thing about this museum is its juxtaposing architectural details — sleek stark-white surfaces soothe even if they’re a little rough around the edges; the design is at once futuristic, modernist, and timeless; the verdant palatial grounds echo Versailles yet fondly embrace California’s wild flora.

Here, the sum is greater than its parts.

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Pinch and a Punch for the First Day of the Month (No Returns) ~ Santa Monica, CA

The first of June fell on a Saturday. The news promised temperatures in the three-digits*; luckily, it turned out to be pleasantly sunny and breezy. The beach beckoned – we responded.

(Again, I only had the phone on me but I aim to photograph with the Nikon… soon! Oh and, *, that’s in Fahrenheit.)

Santa Monica Beach from Ocean Boulevard

Santa Monica Beach from Ocean Avenue

Swaying palms

Swaying palms

Umbrellas and a lifeguard station

Umbrellas and a lifeguard station

The edge of the Pacific Ocean

The edge of the Pacific Ocean

I cannot remember the last time I built a sandcastle... Can you?

I cannot remember the last time I built a sandcastle… Can you?

Santa Monica Pier in the distance

Santa Monica Pier in the distance

"She saw seashells along the seashore..." Not really, but I did see a lot of seaweed.

“She saw seashells along the seashore…” Not really, but I did see a lot of seaweed.

Pay no attention to this sign. The ocean was a bath tub!

Pay no attention to this sign. The ocean was a bath tub!

Asking for a dollar...

Asking for a dollar…

The other side of the beach, looking back at the Pier

The other side of the beach, looking back at the Pier

It's really a tourist hangout here on the weekends..

It’s really a tourist hangout here on the weekends…

A mural underneath the Pier

A mural underneath the Pier

This is Santa Monica waterfront living. The homes back onto the Pacific Coast Highway.

This is Santa Monica beachfront living. The homes back onto the Pacific Coast Highway.

If a 2 br 2 bath apartment on Ocean Blvd costs $5,400 per month in rent, imagine what beachfront living costs...

If a 2 br 2 bath apartment on Ocean Avenue costs $5,400 per month in rent, imagine what beachfront living costs…

A neat little home

A neat beachfront home.

Bike rentals are a regular feature here. The shared pathway can get pretty crazy with people of all ages and abilities riding alongside us pedestrians.

Bike rentals are a regular feature here. The shared pathway can get pretty crazy with people of all ages and abilities riding alongside us pedestrians.

Bike rider in sepia.

Bike rider in sepia.

The overpass that connects the beach to Ocean Blvd.

The overpass that connects the beach to Ocean Ave.

From Ocean Blavd's Oceanfront Walk, you can see the Pacific Coast Highway in the foreground and the beach beyond.

From where I am standing, on Ocean Ave’s Oceanfront Walk, you can see the Pacific Coast Highway in the foreground and the beach beyond.

Away from the beach...

Away from the beach…

Echo Park ~ Los Angeles

Echo Park: You could say it echoes Brooklyn’s Bushwick; it might even be compared to nearby Silver Lake (a less developed version of it , anyway). This neighbourhood, located 10 minutes from downtown LA, has that energetic feel so prominent of communities that attract a newly-moved-in younger demographic of artists, foodies, and entrepreneurs.

Take Brite Spot, for example. I’ll admit to having passed it a few time, only to dismiss it as just another old-school American diner. Hey, it’s painted bright blue, it’s on busy Sunset Boulevard, and claims to be Echo Park’s original diner since 1949. Ever since I tasted “the best margarita” in New York, I have avoided places making grand statements. However, my husband was convinced is was going to be a find based on many favourable Yelp reviews, so with a twist of the arm, my tummy gave in. We hopped in the car on one very warm Sunday in May and drove inland for brunch.

I have to say that when I entered the diner, I was quite taken with its cosy interior. Even more promising was that the place was buzzing with all sorts: yuppies huddled in a booth discussing last night’s drinking antics, grandparents feeding grandkids; a lone brunette in the corner reading the paper and eating eggs over easy. The space looks like a 1970s ski chalet crossed with grandma-chic — bronze vinyl booths and large windows that let in the gorgeous L.A. light line one side; perpendicular to it is a wall of mirrors, interspersed with retro-looking black-and-white light sconces. Wooden swivel pub chairs surround the central coffee bar, mood lit by an overhanging orbital chandelier. On the menu: on-trend items like egg-topped kale salad, vegan Garden Burger, as well as modern twists of the usual diner fare: 2 eggs any style with sausage and bacon (note: substitutes include egg whites, tofu, or veggie bacon). But it’s the dessert display case that was the apple of my husband’s eye — I immediately knew that our meal would end with a piece of the sinful-looking Chocolate Caramel Banana Creme Pie, piled high with lashings of freshly-whipped cream. I have to admit that our meal was good. Really good, and fairly priced.

Served by a tattooed, plaid-shirt-wearing waitress and surrounded by patrons of all ages — yuppies discussing last night’s drinking antics, grandparents feeding grandkids; a bookish young lady reading the paper over eggs in a corner — Brite Spot Diner feels like a microcosm of what’s happening in Echo Park today.

So, what is going on in this ‘hood? Here’s what Eric Brightwell wrote in the Los Angeles Times back in late 2011:

All you hipster-haters need to check yourself. Yes, hipsters are offensive to the eyes, ears and nose and yes, they provoke violent urges in me but remember, the Echo Park you grew up in wasn’t always that way either. Echo Park began as a wealthy, white, Victorian neighborhood. Places change for the better and for the worse. I remember El Prado when it was a dive (I liked it then) and like it as a posh wine bar too (certainly there are more women in there now).

I miss some of the old Echo Park but it’s still got the Film Center, Pizza Buona, Echo Park lake, the Baxter Stairs, the memory of Room 8 the Cat, Jensen’s Rec Center (with its cool sign).

My advice? Ignore the haters, the hipsters and (most importantly) the hype. It’s not the Williamsburg of LA, it’s Echo Park… oh, and lying WEST of the LA River, don’t be an idiot and call it the EASTside.*

Today, the facades that stretch along this part of Sunset Blvd look relatively unchanged; the burrito joints, liquor store, and tobacconist have probably been here since the 1960s. It’s easier to make out progress by the new condo developments that have been fitted in between many Craftsman-style homes, standing since the early 1900s. If you take a drive down the quieter Echo Park Ave, you’ll pass newly sprouted coffee shops selling $5 coffee pour overs to a WiFi-dependent clientele, as well as a yoga studio, a quirky boutique, hair salon, a bodega, and a real estate agent.

Based on some research I had done earlier, we scouted a beautiful home on Valentine Street. Designed by architect Raphael Sorriano and built in 1938, it is a salute to Modernism – sleek , simple, and lots of windows. Because the neighbourhood is so hilly, many homes have great views towards the Hollywood sign, Griffith Observatory, downtown LA, the Valley and the 5 Freeway. Some downhill descents are so steep that with the gradual build up of momentum, and a subsequent “woosh,” you feel like you’re riding a rollercoaster.

Echo Park is certainly an area to watch and has the familiar feeling of a community on the verge… It’ll take some time to get there but I am happy about that as things seem to happen way too fast in this technology driven world.

The interior of Brite Spot Diner

The interior of Brite Spot Diner

Stumptown (artisan) coffee

Stumptown (artisan) coffee

A bit retro, a bit old school, a bit ski chalet

A bit retro, a bit old school, a bit ski chalet

Stumptown Americano

Stumptown Americano

Kale Salad: Chopped kale, fried egg, bread crumbs, toasted pine nuts, lemon garlic chili dressing $9.75

Kale Salad: Chopped kale, fried egg, bread crumbs, toasted pine nuts,
lemon garlic chili dressing $9.75

Chocolate Caramel Banana Creme Pie

Chocolate Caramel Banana Creme Pie

The Brite Spot vibe

The Brite Spot vibe

Catering to the DAFT PUNK demographic

Catering to the DAFT PUNK demographic

The view from Fargo Street

The view from Fargo Street – looking toward LA’s downtown

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Steep streets with view that look onto the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory (right)

Steep streets with view that look onto the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory (right)

If you like rollercoasters, you'll like driving in Echo Park

If you like rollercoasters, you’ll like driving in Echo Park

A sunlit wrought iron gate

A sunlit wrought iron gate

Looking onto the 5 Freeway - the Los Angeles River is in the background too

That’s my husband looking onto the 5 Freeway – the Los Angeles River is in the background too

Smelling fresh baby peaches

Smelling fresh baby peaches

Modernist architect Raphael Sorriano designed this home, built in 1938

Modernist architect Raphael Sorriano designed this home, built in 1938

Another view of the Raphael Sorriano home

Another view of the Raphael Sorriano home

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*http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/neighborhoods/neighborhood/echo-park/comments/

A Mark Made – New Orleans, Louisiana

First impressions have left their mark as we travel across the US on a short trip. As much as I try to avoid it, I do make comparisons when I visit a new city based on other places I have seen and experienced.

I liked New Orleans as soon as I saw it. From a distance, its skyline is defined but doesn’t impose. Being introduced via the Garden District, my eyes and mind  immediately became preoccupied. Lush green ferns cascade over lacy wrought iron balconies; Creole, Caribbean, and Colonial architecture decorate the streets, block after block; the opulent interiors of the neighbourhood’s stately homes stand on display, well lit by their high ceilinged grand chandeliers.

On a general scale, I initially likened New Orleans to some of my favourite places. I compared its palm fringed, neon lit Canal St with LA’s Hollywood Boulevard; the milliner, boutiques, and cafes of Magazine St with the main shopping arteries of Brooklyn’s Park Slope and Williamsburg; the Spanish and French Colonial styles of its French Quarter with the Gothic one in Barcelona; the oranges, pinks, and blues of its residences and storefronts with the colours of Havana, Cuba.

All these observations combined highlighted the well liked and familiar, but I gleaned a greater appreciation for the city by characteristics I found unique to it:

Receiving a warm welcome upon arrival at Terrell House B&B, housed in an immaculately maintained 3 story Italianate mansion; tasting my first spoonful of spicy gumbo, my first bite of tender alligator sausage, my first forkful of blue cheese topped fried oysters at the Red Fish Grill on Bourbon St; people watching and sipping on a chicory coffee in lively Jackson Square while listening to a saxophonist play the tune of Amazing Grace.

Seeing, feeling, and tasting so much in a short span of time, and being hungry for more, is testament enough that first impressions do count for alot.

Ironwork details of Terrell House, Magazine Street

Alligator Sausage and Seafood Gumbo at Red Fish Grill on Bourbon Street

Canal Street, New Orleans

Magazine District, near the Garden District

Colours in the French Quarter

In Jackson Square

The Bradbury Building, inspired by Blade Runner ~ Los Angeles, CA

In downtown LA, not far from its Arts District, stands the landmark Bradbury Building. Made all the more famous by the future noir classic, Blade Runner, it’s a must see for movie fans as well as lovers of architectural design.

So reads the text that greets you upon entry into the building, below… Enjoy!

“Built in 1893, the Bradbury Building is a local historic landmark whose architectural purity had been threatened by a sense of safety code modifications at the time of the Blade Runner shoot; in fact, the structure had fallen into a serious state of disrepair (however it was completely renovated in the early 1990s).

Commissioned by millionaire Lewis Bradbury, it was designed by George Wyman (who had been inspired by Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, an early utopia novel set in the year 2000 and featuring descriptions of numerous futuristic commercial buildings.) Editor’s note: Take a look at Julius Shulman’s black and white photograph of the Bradbury Building from its upper levels. Unfortunately, the general public isn’t allowed up there. It is 3/4 way down this post: Shulman Inspired, California Desired

Inside the building, the Blade Runner crew chose to stage scenes featuring the buildings’ geometrically patterned stairways, wrought-iron railings and open-cage elevators (still functioning today) by filming on the interior ground floor, top floor, central court, lobby, elevators and stairways.

Additionally Ridley Scott paid particular attention during interior filming to the centre court’s glass-block roof, known to some on the crew as “Sebastian’s atrium.”

The interior of the Bradbury Building was then “dirtied down” by adding various amounts of trash, smoke, revolving xenon spotlights, dripping water, and mannequins. A false wall and door were also erected before one of Bradbury’s offices to stand in for the entrance to Sebastian’s apartment.”*

(As reads the sign in the Bradbury Building. The text is excerpted from Future Noir, The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon).

Lost in LACMA’s Details – Los Angeles, CA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is one of the most visually interesting museums I have visited. I only realize this now, despite having visited once before.

As I photograph its exterior for the nth time, I know that the camera-snapping must stop soon. The sun is starting its descent and Ali has been patiently waiting for what feels like ten minutes. Realistically, it’s probably been closer to an hour.

Ever since Ali gave me a Nikon DSLR as a gift, I have been guilty of tacking extra time on to any of our outings and excursions. Suddenly, every detail seems interesting and worthy of a capture – all angles must be photographed, every landmark requires my attention, I cannot leave any stone unturned. It’s a case of – have camera, will travel. Or, is it the other way around?

I take a few more shots of the museum’s exterior – there seems to be a never ending supply of architecture scapes to document. A pop of red against a stark white exterior, here; a cool industrial detail, over there; immaculate gardens punctuated with tall palms abound.

As is the usual scenario these days, whilst I snap, Ali busies himself elsewhere. This time however, he is sitting in my line of sight, at one of the many steel chairs scattered around Chris Burden’s famed sculpture of 202 restored cat iron antique street lamps named Urban Light, engrossed in what seems to be the museum catalogue. I wonder if he’s really reading something that interesting; I bet he’d rather be doing anything but. This is what marriage is all about, I console myself, I am sure the vows alluded to a dedication in equal parts to one another’s hobbies, til death do us part. Ali and his music, me and my photography.

I remember the last trip we’d made to the museum, around two years ago. Back then, I was likely suffering from tunnel-vision, more distracted with the action of ticking LACMA off of my list of pre-NYC-relocation LA-must-see’s as opposed to taking photographs of it. Prior to our trip back to the East Coast, I didn’t pay nearly as much attention to the details as I do now.

I must have already seen the museum’s 4-year-old Broad Contemporary building, though I can’t really be sure as I am sketchy on the details. Today however, I can’t get enough of it. Its architectural design intrigues me – the red fire escape style staircase that zigzags from top to bottom of one of its sides inspires a series of clicks. The red-on-white is reminiscent of pop-art, and brings to mind Warhol. Incidentally, his 1964 oil painting of the Campbell’s Soup Can on canvas, hangs within.

What I am certain of is that I had not seen the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion on the previous visit. Opened in 2010, this is an open plan museum with rotating exhibits, currently showing an enviably curated California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way. Right now, I cannot keep my camera lens away from the building’s exterior. Luckily, it stands opposite the Broad building, which brings me closer to where Ali – still nose-deep in literature – is sitting.

Feeling it too soon to be heading inside – the late afternoon light makes everything look so photogenic – I suggest to Ali that we enjoy a drink prior to viewing the art. We have the time; the museum is open late on Fridays. I had noticed the Modernist-inspired Ray’s restaurant and Stark Bar during my rounds of the exterior, newly constructed and recently opened. We sit in its retro-styled outdoor area and order a round of drinks – a glass of red for me, an artisan-prepared cocktail – tequila muddled with fresh orange peel – for Ali.

As so happens with those who are food-obsessed, drinks lead to a light dinner – we order hamachi, sausage pizza, sea bream in broth. Besides, this place is so chic and pleasant; it puts most other art institution eateries to shame. I insist that every dish is photographed – they beg for my camera’s attention.

Looking at the Renzo Piano designed indoor dining space from the corner of my eye, I suddenly recall a photo I’d seen of a similar construction taken by the late Julius Shulman. Inspired, I excuse myself from the table for a moment – it is a model subject, I need to take a photo of its lines while there is still a good natural light.

As I get up, Ali looks at me, mid-bite in his pizza slice, and muffles, “Just please don’t leave me sitting here for too long.” No, of course not.

70 and Sunny at the Lincoln Centre, NY

Lincoln Center is the world’s leading performing arts center, uniting 11 key arts organizations on one campus. After five decades of artistic excellence and service, Lincoln Center began an award-winning major transformation—now nearly complete—to fully modernize its concert halls and public spaces, renew its 16-acre campus, and reinforce its vitality for decades to come. ~ http://lc.lincolncenter.org

Whilst I’d been basking under SoCal’s rays, it seems the Lincoln Center was undergoing a grand refresh.

The last time my husband and I had visited the ‘old’ Lincoln Center was about five years ago, prior to our West Coast relocation. I’d bought tickets to see the epic, War and Peace; it was a way for me to reconnect and relive my Russian School days of reading the tome in Cyrillic. My husband, for completely different reasons, will never forget the 3-hour operatic experience. Since that time, I have only driven and walked alongside the space, but never really explored its ‘newness’. However, I could see a change.

On a recent 70-and-sunny day in the City (LA was under rain, so…), I spent an hour within the revitalised outdoor complex on the Upper West Side. Lines cut the space; glass filled in the gaps; steel was abundant. I was torn. I liked what I saw yet I couldn’t help but wish for the Center’s past. Despite there being some nostalgia associated with the design of yesteryear, I struggled to recall what it actually looked like. I just knew it was part of the New York that I fell in love with years ago.

What a strong reminder to pay attention to the details. I’ve learned my lesson.

Here I present those new architectural details mixed in with some of the original exteriors. Enjoy.

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Entering via Ronald P. Stanton Way.

This is Hearst Plaza, accessed by a set of stairs with a digital display of updated information. To the right,  the new Lincoln Ristorante – designed by Diller Scofifio + Renfro, it’s Italian menu is overseen by Chef Jonathan Benno.

The reflecting pool, home to Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure.

The Lincoln Center Theatre, host to War Horse.

Public Green Spaces. The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Lawn…

…and tree-canopied Barclays Capital Grove.

The Met Opera Shop.

Reflections in The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Sculpted.

Framed by steel.

The top of The Juilliard School.

Lincoln Center’s Revson Fountain on Josie Robertson Plaza is considered one of the performing arts center’s most recognizable destinations for countless visitors from around the world…

The redesign by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in association with Beyer Blinder Belle and WET Design enhanced the Fountain with new technologies for special-effect water shows and gives this famous attraction the appearance of a floating granite ring.~lc.lincolncenter.org

It’s good to see that some peace in architecture reigns where the Russian opera was seen years ago.

Lights in the David A. Koch Theatre – scene of the Nutcracker at Christmas.

Divided. The Metropolitan Opera House to the left; Avery Fisher Hall – to the right.

The view towards Columbus Avenue.

Avery’s archways.

View from Columbus Ave. To the left – the 2,544-seat David H. Koch Theater reopened after a full renovation of the original 1964 Philip Johnson/John Burgee building. The interior work, by JCJ Architecture, was funded in major part by Mr. Koch and his gift of a cool $100 Million. ~ nycurbed.com, in 2009

Departing a bit of serenity in the midst of the daily rush.