Downtown, Gehry Style ~ Los Angeles, California

Architect Frank Gehry is a visionary; his use of lines, curves, and metallic materials in design are emblematic of his harmonious style.  From the impact of the titanium rich Guggenheim Bilbao Spain, to the subtle twist in design of residential skyscraper New York by Gehry at 8 Spruce Street, his designs challenge our perspective on architecture’s relationship to culture, tourism, art, space, and living.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was designed by Gehry.

In 1987, the late Lillian Disney made an initial gift of $50 million to build a world-class performance venue as a gift to the people of Los Angeles and a tribute to Walt Disney’s devotion to the arts. Since then, other gifts and accumulated interest bring the Disney family’s total contribution to over $100 million. (source:

Nudging past better known architects including Gottfried Bohm, James Stirling, and Hans Hollein, Gehry won the competition to design this prestigious building. He presented his design in 1991, construction began in 1999, and the Concert Hall finally opened in 2003. The project had its fair share of challenges; lack of funding, design disagreements, construction delays, and cost overruns pushed back the timeline.

Construction of the concert hall itself stalled from 1994 to 1996 due to lack of fundraising. Additional funds were required since the construction cost of the final project far exceeded the original budget. Plans were revised, and in a cost-saving move the originally designed stone exterior was replaced with a less costly metal skin. Upon completion in 2003, the project cost an estimated $274 million. (source: wikipedia)

Though we’ll never know how the original design would have fared, I am confident in saying that the stainless steel structure of today will stand the test of time. Here’s a tour of the Hall’s exterior. Enjoy!


“‘Wow! Did I do that? Holy shit! Did I do that?’ Sometimes you look at it that way,” Gehry says, taking in the flowing ribbons of steel at street level and then gazing up at the luffing “mainsails” at the center of the building—forms which seem to defy engineering, and which were conceived by Gehry as squiggly lines on a piece of paper …*

Located in LA’s downtown on South Grand Avenue, Walt Disney Concert Hall dominates as the fourth Hall of the Los Angeles Music Centre.

Frank Gehry was born in Toronto, Canada though Los Angeles is the city he has lived and worked in since 1947. The Walt Disney Concert Hall was his first big LA-based commission; when he and his mother relocated to California, they lived two miles from this site.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall was designed before the Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain (1997), but because it opened much later (2003), it was the Basque museum commission that put Gehry on the radar.

Prior to either commission, Gehry had made his name in the 1970’s in Southern California with what he called “cheapskate” architecture; a mixture of high concept with cheap materials–chain link fencing, corrugated metal, pressed plywood–that labeled his work “populist,” which generally means brainy but cheap.**

I recently read that when Gehry presented a then ninety year old Lillian Disney, widow of Walt Disney, with his modern, spiraling designs – which he had developed with the help of software used to design fighter planes – she was left baffled.

To convey what he had in mind, he brought her a white rose floating in a bowl of water, an image that captured both her love of flowers and the sailing ships that are his favorite way of explaining the place he eventually built. The Disney Hall, he says, “is a boat where the wind is behind you.”***

Suffice to say, he gained Lillian Disney’s confidence; unfortunately, she didn’t live to see the beautiful result.

Away from the street, the Blue Ribbon Garden rests behind the Hall. A gift from the individual members of the Blue Ribbon – an organisation of women devoted to the support of the Music Centre and its resident companies – it is juxtaposed against a building that took more than a decade of struggle to build.

Gehry has been quoted as saying:

A lot of gray hairs on this one. Very emotional. Up and down—a lot of funny people involved. You know, it’s hard to imagine, but when it all fell apart, everybody blamed the architect. It was hard. Because it was thought to have been too difficult, too expensive. Well, it was difficult. And we knew how to build it—they didn’t. They are a big, amorphous group of lawyers and money people and architects, construction companies, county officials, city officials.*

Mishandling and misunderstanding of his design by the project team accompanied by massive overrun costs had Gehry threatening to take his name off the building if the Hall wasn’t constructed to meet his specs.

Finally constructed in 2003, Matrix Revolutions held its world premiere in the Hall of that year; it was the first movie premiere ever held there.

The troubles didn’t end after the construction, however. Due to the highly polished mirror-like panels of the building’s exterior, reflection off of its more concave sections meant neighboring condominiums suffered from excessive heat (and higher air conditioning bills), residents were blinded by the sunlight’s glare, and adjacent sidewalks were singed with hot spots that reached temps of 140 °F (60 °C). In 2005, the ‘guilty’ panels had to be lightly sanded; their matte finish intended to eliminate unwanted glare.

Even before it opened, the Walt Disney Concert Hall was referred to as the iconographic symbol of Los Angeles. As Time magazine described it, the cascading exterior of the building brings to mind Disney’s magic wand sketching silver arcs in the air.

A product of LA’s creative energy, the Walt Disney Concert Hall speaks to the city’s foothold in the entertainment industry. The evidence is in the details; situated across the road from a multilevel parking lot, the building’s location is perhaps symbolic of its contribution to the revival of Los Angeles’ downtown area.

My shining tribute to the Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall.


** and


A Passion for Travel

Recently I was asked to write down why I am interested in travel photography…

Well, I love the way I feel when I travel.

Malibu Pier, CA

I remember wishing to be a travel agent when I grew-up, and I fulfilled that ‘dream’ at STA Travel, only to realise that I’d rather be the one doing the traveling. I got into the media industry to fund my addiction; ultimately, it propelled me to embark on a working stint overseas.

Park Avenue, NY

What interests me most about travel is anthropology; there’s nothing more inspiring than immersing yourself in another culture and being able to “walk in another person’s shoes,” to quote Anthony Bourdain.

Walking towards the Hollywood Sign; downtown LA in the background. As seen from the Hollywood Hills, CA

To me, documenting travel means that writing and photography go hand-in-hand; placing images alongside words better tells the story. I’m interested in showing the reality of a place or space – using words and images to stimulate a response, a feeling. Whether I choose to shoot street photography or architectural compositions, that depends on the nature of the story.

The Binoculars Building, by Frank Gehry - Venice Beach, LA

To know I may have inspired, educated, or motivated someone through moments captured with my words or through my lens makes me happy.

And that was my answer. What would you have said?

Street Art - Silver Lake, LA

A Glimpse: Kaleidoscopic Kalifornia

Looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses…

Well, any pair of sunglasses will do as a sun-drenched Southern California – affectionately referred to as SoCal – naturally dons a pink tinged hue.

Having lived in San Clemente and Los Angeles for two years, it was exhilarating to return to the old stomping grounds after over a year-long absence. Complete immersion meant a daily embrace of the great outdoors; watching the changing colours of an always spectacular sunset; and falling, with ease, into a laid-back lifestyle that included much coffee-and-carb indulgence by day, and pressing of lip-to-champagne flute by night.

Sun-soaking and gastronomy aside (these activities were/are by no means mutually exclusive), admiring SoCal’s vistas was a soul-awakener. Appreciating its wild and urban landscapes through a fresh pair of eyes inevitably brought to mind the cliché: “The grass is always greener…”

What I love about SoCal are those pops of colour that are woven into its fabric, be it natural or with compliments of a street artist. Like a daily vitamin boost, the bright paintbox used to decorate the region provides a natural high; the various shades of bright-against-brighter are a quick fix to lift the spirit, even when rolling out of bed to welcome a fog-induced or overcast day.

All the while, a predominance of pink against green abounds.

During my travels in SoCal, I attempted to throw any, and all, of its stereotypes to the wind. I wanted to appreciate it from a grass-roots level; at the same time, acknowledge those industries – film, architecture, arts – that put its cities on the map.

I achieved that as best I could in a short space of time. The evidence is in the details.

Enjoy the prologue to a series of posts that I’m looking forward to dedicating to SoCal’s natural and urban palette. Starting from the southermost point of the trip, in Carlsbad, and ending in Los Angeles County – to the north, I hope you’ll join me on this trip.

A note of caution: the communities of SoCal are so diverse and spread out, you may feel as if you’re jumping from town, to ‘hood, to hilltop – all in one post. No fear: this is simply an introduction.

I’d be interested in your feedback – opinions, perceptions, and experiences – of Southern California. What you love about it, and what you don’t; what you may associate with it, and what may come as a surprise to you.

“Every time you can walk in another person’s shoes, the world is a slightly better place.” ~Anthony Bourdain

For now, enjoy an introduction to the makeup of SoCal!


A blindingly bright sun, vast spaces, and the smell of a nearby ocean are instant reminders as to why Southern California is one of the best places to live well.


The Flower Fields are located in the coastal city of Carlsbad – a necessary stop for those who have always dreamt of being engulfed in a mass of blooms, not unlike those of Dutch tulip fields. Here, the slopes of the hills at Carlsbad Ranch are painted in stripes of yellow, white, purple, orange, and red, in a grid-like formation; crops of ranunculus flower for 2 months of the year during the spring. Symbolic of new life – regeneration through replanted bulbs – this sea of blooms set against a backdrop of infinite blue is a dazzling sight.

Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts. ~ Sigmund Freud

I’ve always thought my flowers had souls. ~ Myrtle Reed

A scenic drive, further up the coast…


… along Route 5, a highway edged by palms and decorated with a glistening ground-cover of the flowering evergreen Purple Ice plant; past the military site of Camp Pendleton, after which the road eventually leads into the Nixon-associated town of San Clemente, in Orange County (OC).

The hot pink of Bougainvillea is so prominent; the plant’s foliage and blooms spill over the terraces of Spanish Colonial styled villas and fringe the pathways of San Clemente’s residential streets.

A sparkly ocean mesmerises visitors and residents; its waves seduce surfers. Located close to the equator, the sun always shines brighter in this vacation town.

A little more north…


A leisurely twenty minute ocean-side drive ebbs and flows as the road leads into luxe Laguna Beach. Inspiration for artists since the 1800s, its steep cliffs are testament to the beauty of an unspoiled landscape; their rugged faces filled with homes, as well as an assortment of native shrubbery and flowers, punctuated by statuesque palms along the upper edges.

Laguna: a retreat for writers, Hollywood stars, and artists. Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Rudolph Valentino, John Steinbeck, and Mickey Rooney escaped here. The house below is located in the space where Bette Davis’ former home stood.

The expanse of blue hues viewed from the Rooftop Lounge of the historic La Casa del Camino Hotel call for endless champagne toasts. Twist my arm.

I’ve always found that seafood served near the ocean tastes better. Decadent eel sushi and cold bold sake at Hapi Sushi; the restaurant’s name, perhaps a spin on the oft-felt emotion of travelers and residents who wrap themselves in Laguna’s lush surroundings.


Traveling a couple of hours, away from the OC and into Los Angeles County. The freeway traffic flow is a steady one, for the most part.


In an inland direction: LA’s urban sprawl is made up of a number of vastly different communities. The city boasts an enviable sunset – its brush stroke of pink, yellow, purple and gold along the horizon is best seen from Griffith Observatory, up in the hills near Griffith Park.


Minutes away – say 15 or so, sans traffic – downtown LA bustles. Surprisingly easy to navigate, this part of the county is undergoing a revival. Art galleries, historic architecture, and new dining spots feed off of one another in an area on the up. Downtown living means escapism in the midst of skyscrapers. Perfect example: Figueroa Hotel’s pool terrace is a resting spot for the uninhibited in the midst of surrounding commerce.

Nearby, the fruits borne by a neighbourhood undergoing gentrification: lofts, Porshes, and blushing blooms.

In the midst of it all, a creative community resides; its art colours a still-industrial neighbourhood.

In another part of downtown, more art abounds. Amongst institutions dedicated to contemporary works and music, stands an undulating design by Frank Gehry: the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Reminiscent of SoCal’s natural surroundings, a part of its architecture takes on the look of an unopened tulip; even a rosebud, nipped.

Further afield, close to downtown LA…


Los Angeles County Museum of Art makes for a bold statement through design, colour, and a palm-dominated landscape. Its exterior is as beautiful as its art filled interior.

Better still: the Renzo Piano designed outdoor/indoor dining space – Ray’s and Stark Bar – doesn’t shy away from serving up heady liquid artworks of its own. Tequila, orange, and ice – such are the beverages prepared by innovators manning the liquor cabinet.

Onwards toward creative pastures of a different nature, not too far away…


Overcast skies don’t darken or dampen the ambiance of bohemian Silver Lake; the neighbourhood brims with street art, reflective of a creative community, alongside modern architecture. Case in point: modern architect Robert Neutra’s former office is located here, by Silver Lake Reservoir.

What’s more, the resident trend-setters take their coffee very seriously. Artisans on the rise.


The plush and posh Beverly Hills is emblematic of hedonism and history; well tended gardens, magnificent mansions, grand tree lined streets; once home to Marlon Brando, Lucille Ball,and Doris Day, and now home to Bill Cosby, Rod Stewart, and Diane Keaton.

Along its wide streets, playful architecture draws on LA’s cinematic roots….

.. and gives way to classic icons -pretty in pink, the famed Beverly Hills Hotel graces Sunset Boulevard.

Close by…


A place where all the touristic action takes place. Yes, one may immediately think: Walk of Fame, the Wax Museum, and the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, with handprints of celebrities implanted by its entrance. Think this once: see it all, appreciate it for what it’s worth, and move beyond the crowds.

Seek out the Cirque du Soleil, Kodak Theatre, Capitol Records Building, Amoeba Records; perhaps make some time for a glass of bubbly at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Hike even, and be wowed by viewing the Hollywood Reservoir and landmark Hollywood sign, up close.


Spectacular architecture is built into Hollywood’s hilly backdrop; the Hills are alive with modern homes, Mediterranean inspired villas, and imaginative designs of a whole other level – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House made famous by Bladerunner, and John Lautner’s Chemosphere House (below), are a couple of impressive name-droppers.

Meanwhile, modern lines and pink storefronts dominate on nearby Melrose Avenue, in West Hollywood.

Back to the coast…


Dr Feelgood: breathing in the salty air, courtesy of the Pacific, does the soul alot of good.

In this part of LA, multi-million dollar homes line the water’s edge and are set into its steep hills. Malibu Pier offers spectacular 360 degree views – for free.

Malibu – home to alcoves and private beaches, wineries, acclaimed Nobu restaurant, and the delightful Mediterranean-inspired Getty Villa. From this museum, you can view the ocean whilst staying cool in the mountains.

Its gardens are worthy of a visit alone.

Down South from Malibu…


This is the place for beachside city living and a haven for outdoor exercise pursuits – located only a half hour away from the Hollywood Hills. It’s expanse of beach is interrupted by a few volleyball courts, lifeguard huts, and a boardwalk catering to cyclists, dog-walkers, joggers, roller-bladers, and leisurely strollers.

The Santa Monica Pier can be seen from miles away; so much larger upon closer inspection. A few streets back from the beach, the city offers boutique shopping and a location of the ever-popular Urth Caffe – this is an excellent spot for coffee and farm-to-table dining.

Adjoining Santa Monica is the trendier…


Art colours the streets; restaurants are full at noon; galleries, boutiques, and homewares stores are made for window shopping and browsing. Whilst it may be known for the famed boardwalk along its Muscle Beach, a stroll along Venice’s main street, Abbott Kinney, and a meander alongside the town’s canals is a much more pleasurable experience.

In closing…

Southern California, from sunrise (if you’re up) to sunset is a beautiful area of the US. By virtue of geographic location alone, the light that colours the horizon is sublime; its ever changing hues gently unfurl from pink, to purple, to burnt yellow, to gold. Yet it is the added drama of the region’s bold urban and natural landscape that makes the experience all the more unique and memorable.

From one community to the next, colour abounds – in its architecture, natural landscaping, art, people. An entertaining kaleidoscope.

This is a sampler of SoCal; a taste of things to come.

Shulman Inspired, California Desired

I think it’s just a beautiful way of thinking of my dad and Los Angeles as siblings. They really did grow up together. ~ Judy McKee, daughter of Julius Shulman

Shulman’s pictures have this base of romance to them. His work represents a certain ideal that happened years ago. ~ Ed Ruscha, artist

History is strange. Here, it becomes mystical. ~ Julius Shulman on Los Angeles

Singleton House, Los Angeles, 1960 ~ Neutra, Richard Joseph, Architect

Within 24 hours, I have garnered a greater appreciation for Californian architecture than ever before thanks to the works of a leading photographers in the 20th century, the late Julius Schulman (1910-2009).

This happened while watching the 90-minute documentary, Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Schulman, and afterwards, while researching what I had seen. I appreciate that fellow bloggers, All About Travel and The Way I See It recommended I see the film (in response to my Vintage Inspired California post).

I was ordained to become a photographer, I was destined... ~ Julius Shulman

Miller House, Palm Springs, 1937-41 ~ Neutra, Richard Joseph , Architect

Director and producer Eric Bricker does an excellent job of giving us a glimpse into Mr. Shulman’s life. Filmed in his mid nineties, Shulman comes across as a man of quick wit, a man who loves  life and Los Angeles, a man who was passionate about his craft.

Life is good. Life can be beautiful. What more can I ask? ~ Schulman said after receiving his Honorary degree from Westbury University, CA, at 90-something years of age.

University of California, Irvine, 1968 ~ William L. Pereira Associates , Architect

The film introduces us to Shulman in his home, located high in the Hollywood Hills. We hear Shulman’s personal recollections, witness his handover of assets to the Getty Center,  see him honoured with a Doctorate of Architecture. As I watched the film, I wondered why I hadn’t researched his work earlier. I wish I had met him.

The whole story of my life will now be transposed to Mr. Getty’s Hall ~ Julius Shulman

Shulman House, Los Angeles, 1951 ~ Soriano, Raphael, Architect

Shulman House – another perspective

Julius Shulman’s Home designed by Raphael Soriano, 1951. (© J. Paul Getty Trust, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis by Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods, Rizzoli New York, 2011.)

Having lived in Southern California for a couple of years, I was drawn to Los Angeles’ modernist architecture, which Shulman so beautifully photographed — photographs that made him the  “most important architectural photographer in history,” gallery owner Craig Krull has said.

Craig Krull once exhibited Shulman’s photographs in an art show – he believed Shulman elevated commercial architectural photography to fine art – and was instrumental in selecting The Getty Research Institute as the archive for Shulman’s works.

Hensman House, Los Angeles, 1976

AISI "Style in Steel Home", Buena Park, 1967 ~ Wexler, Donald, Architect

AISI “Style in Steel Home”, Buena Park, 1967 ~ Wexler, Donald, Architect

Franks House, Los Angeles, 1968 ~ Farber, Rick, Architect

Beverly Hills Hotel, Addition, Beverly Hills, 1950 ~ Williams, Paul R., and Grey. Elmer, Architects

Beverly Hills Hotel, Addition, Beverly Hills, 1950 ~ Williams, Paul R., and Grey. Elmer, Architects

In 1936, returning to L.A. after a dismal seven-year stint at the University of California, Berkeley, Shulman accompanied a draftsman to the Kun Residence of modernist architect Richard Neutra. Shulman took six photographs of the under-construction home with a Kodak Vest Pocket 127-format camera. Neutra liked the photos so much that he asked Shulman to photograph more of his houses.

“March 5, 1936 — I remember the day — we shook hands for the first time,” Shulman said in an LA Times interview. “I met Richard Neutra, and that was the day I became a photographer.”*

Dropping out of UC Berkeley had set him on a new path.

Julius Shulman and architect Richard Neutra at the Tremaine House, Los Angeles, 1947

The modernist designs of legendary Frank Lloyd Wright, visionary John Lautner, and Neutra, provided Shulman with photogenic subjects.

His work will survive me.  Film is stronger and good glossy prints are easier to ship than brute concrete, stainless steel, or even ideas ~ Richard Neutra

LIFE and Arts and Architecture magazines used Schulman’s photographs to elevate LA’s status as a progressive city.

Shulman became an invaluable contributor to the burgeoning architectural movement, not only as a correspondent, but as talent scout and respected tastemaker as well ~ Dustin Hoffman narrated in Visual Acoustics.

Academy Theatre, Inglewood, 1940 ~ Lee, S. Charles, Architect

Academy Theatre, Inglewood, 1940 ~ Lee, S. Charles, Architect

Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, 1956 ~ Welton Becket and Associates, Architect

Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, 1956 ~ Welton Becket and Associates, Architect

Shrine Civic Auditorium (Los Angeles, 1975 ~ Adelman, Abraham A. , Lansburgh, G. Albert, Austin, John C. W. – Architects

Arts and Architecture Magazine ran an unprecedented experiment called the The Case Study House Program, an initiative spearheading the design of efficient homes for the typical Post WWII family. (That is, function vs. form). Shulman’s photograph of Pierre Koenig’s Case Study 22, below, was described as one of the ‘most evocative images of 20th Century architecture’. See my Vintage Inspired California post for more examples from this program.

Case Study 22 ~ Koenig, Pierre, Architect

“Your pictures are incredible for an amateur and better than most professionals,” Frank LLoyd Wright wrote in a note to Shulman after he’d photographed one of his designs.

You may recognise some of the interiors, below, from the movie, Bladerunner.

Bradbury Building, Los Angeles, 1970 ~ Wyman, George, Architect

Bradbury Building, Los Angeles, 1970 ~ Wyman, George, Architect

Charles Ennis

Ennis House, Los Angeles, 1953-68 ~ Wright, Frank Lloyd, Architect

Ennis Interior

Ennis House, Interior ~ Wright, Frank Lloyd, Architect

Storer House, Los Angeles, 1985 ~ Wright, Frank Lloyd, Architect

The essence of a Julius Shulman photograph comes from his artful composition of interiors from a one-point perspective, so that “the modern (would) unfold in a beautiful way.”

Somehow he’s able to put so much of himself into the vantage point that you feel his presence in the room even if he’s not in the frame ~ Tom Ford, designer

Malin House “Chemosphere”, Los Angeles, 1961 ~ Lautner, John, Architect

Burgess House, PalmSprings, 1984 ~ Frey, Albert , Architect

Burgess House, Palm Springs, 1984 ~ Frey, Albert , Architect

Silvertop, Los Angeles, 1980 ~ Lautner, John, Architect

Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles, 1966 ~ Yamasaki, Minoru, Architect

Ultimately though, it was Shulman’s spirit, attitude, and sense of humour that made him a success. In response to a question about the enjoyment and passion he exhibited for his photographic work, he replied, “Yes (I enjoy my work) – what else is there?”

I have this vision of him wandering around, whether it’s in the hills or in the town, seeking the world through his camera ~ Judy McKee describing Shulman’s jaunts around Los Angeles

Mobil Gas Station, Smith and Williams, Anaheim, 1956. (© J. Paul Getty Trust, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis by Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods, Rizzoli New York, 2011.)

Johnny’s, Los Angeles, 1956

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1965 ~ William L. Pereira and Associates, Architect

Town & Country Restaurant, Palm Springs, 1949 ~ Jones, A. Quincy, Williams, Paul R., Architect

Shulman was always in command of his 70-year career.

“I control what I call, the visual acoustics,” he said after a slight disagreement with his photographer associate, Juergen Nogai, while photographing Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles. NB: Schulman helped Gehry land his first client.

Together, Nogai and Shulman photographed close to 200 houses.

Blue Jay House, Los Angeles • Zoltan Pali, Architect. © Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai

Disney Hall, Los Angeles, Frank Gehry, Architect. Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai

Shulman’s spirit lives on at Getty Center, whose archive includes 260,000 of the phootgrapher’s negatives, transparencies and prints; through book publishers such as TASCHEN; and at Westbury University in Burbank’s Julius Shulman Institute, which promotes the built environment through photography.**

Shulman remained a faithful steward to the modernist ideal. Ultimately, his vast photographic archives would become an indispensable resource as public taste later turned enthusiastically back to modernism.~ Visual Acoustics

Shulman’s archives serve as a long-lasting, tangible reminder of the 20th-Century modernist movement and LA’s development as a city.

Robert L. Frost Memorial Auditorium, Culver City, 1963

San Diego Stadium, 1967 ~ Frank L. Hope & Associates, Architect

Stuart Pharmaceuticals, Pasadena, 1958 ~ Stone, Edward Durell, Architect

Looking Over Griffith Observatory and Los Angeles From Mount Hollywood, 1936. (© Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis by Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods, Rizzoli New York, 2011.)

* **

West Side Frolics, in NYC

Well, I was hardly frolicking, though the warmer temperatures today had me reaching for my lighter trench as I headed outside, into the very welcome sunshine. Whilst it was still layer-worthy weather, I was glad to stuff my gloves into my coat pockets and wander about; taking photos comfortably – my fingers devoid of any painful numbing sensations so persistent in the cooler temps.

If you like architecture and are drawn to that well-worn, distressed look reminiscent of an industrial mid-19th Century Manhattan, then one of the best strolls to take is along the West Side of downtown NYC: starting at the Meatpacking District, and making your way through a residential West Village, along the outskirts of SoHo, and into the narrow streets of lovely Tribeca.

To be honest, at the halfway point of the walk (the SoHo outskirts) you will enter into a considerably commercial area. You’ll pass by tall storage warehouses that cast shadows below; the glassy rectangular prism of a building that is Trump Soho; large car lots, so full that their parked cars overflow onto the adjoining pavement; a few huge advertising agencies (Saatchi); and, enough Equinox gyms that could seemingly maintain the fitness levels of Manhattan’s Lower Half.

That said, this juncture is an opportune time to pop into D’Agostino supermarket or a deli to grab a beverage and a pack of trail mix ~ for ongoing sustenance.

Below is a glimpse of today; the last day of January. I hope this walk may inspire you to discover and/or re-discover Manhattan’s downtown; its formerly industrial ‘hoods.

As an aside, I want to thank robertoalborghetti and barbaraelka, and Photobella’s Project 365, who have nominated me for the Sunshine and Versatile Blogger Awards respectively. I appreciate it very much and as a follower of each of your blogs, I look forward to reading your posts. I hope to share the sunshine and passion for New York through this tour.


START: Meatpacking District

Head to 14th Street and Ninth Avenue. The meatpacking district covers about 20 square blocks, and is also bounded by the High Line and Horatio Street.

Cobblestones on Gansevoort St

The Gansevoort Hotel, to the left, Sephora - in front

Still a cool and trendy place to go during the week (preferably), the neighbourhood has retained its character from decades past. In the 1840’s it served as a market district: initially for produce, and later – for meat. Its cobblestoned streets, original store signage, and glimpses of the 1930’s elevated railroad – now the High Line park – are all reminiscent of the industrial era.

Cobblestones and Patios. Then, this area was known as Gansevoort Market. In 1884, New York named two acres of land after General Peter Gansevoort, a Revolutionary War hero.

West 13th Street's warehouses

Fact: In 1900, 250 slaughterhouses and packing plants filled the district; by the 1930s, those houses produced the nation’s third-largest volume of dressed meats. The city, eager to retain the immediate supply of fresh meat and jobs, subsidized the industry throughout the early 20th century. *

Head in the sand...

TO DO: Visit the High Line; go boutique shopping; have a coffee and pastry at french-inspired bistro Pastis; admire the intermittent street art. The Whitney Museum is slated to open here in 2015.

TO EAT: Have a cocktail and stay for dinner at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s, Spice Market – inspired by the street food the chef enjoyed while traveling in Southeast Asia.

TO STAY: The Gansevoort Hotel, for its rooftop pool and bar (in the heart of the meatpacking district on 9th Avenue), or The Standard on the High Line, for its Hudson River views. The new Dream Downtown is scheduled to open on 16th Street and 9th Avenue, in Spring.

Window Shopping

Spice Market, with The Standard Hotel in the background

INTERMISSION: West Village and SoHo’s Outskirts

Free Press

Somewhere in the West Village

On the corner of Charles and Greenwich Streets

Trump Soho

Bordering Canal Street

Subways, fire stations and Tribeca


TRiangle BElow CAnal Street is what Tribeca stands for. Bounded on the north by Canal Street, south by Vesey Street, east by Broadway and west by the Hudson River, it hardly forms a triangle – more so, a trapezium.

Here’s the story: in the 1970’s, a tiny triangular area bounded by Canal, Lispenard and Church Streets was zoned to allow for live/work status; this movement was initiated by its activist artist residents, who called themselves the Tribeca Block Association.

A reporter covering the zoning story for the New York Times came across the block association’s submission to City Planning, and mistakenly assumed that the name Tribeca referred to the entire neighborhood, not just one block.**

Thus, Tribeca as a ‘hood was born.

Tribeca streetscapes

Water towers and cobblestones - looking towards Varick Street

Tribeca was one of the city’s first residential neighborhoods, settled during the late 18th Century. By the mid 19th Century, the area was transformed into a commercial center – mainly for textile production – and it was then that a large numbers of store and loft buildings were constructed along Broadway.

A textile past: "Look for The Clothespin Tack"

The area along the Hudson River became a bustling produce, dairy and meat market known as Washington Market. Industry declined in the 1960’s and so in the 70’s, artists converged on the area. From the 1980’s until today, large scale conversion has transformed this cute neighbourhood into what is one of the priciest in Manhattan (based on median closing price)***.

Don’t be intimidated by its expensive price tags: this is one of the loveliest neighbourhoods to stroll. Its cobblestone streets and converted warehouses are restored and well maintained, and the neighbourhood is a stone’s throw away from the River Promenade. Trailing the Hudson River from Battery Park and past Chelsea Piers, it makes New Jersey look really good.

TO DO: Tribeca Film Festival – co-founded by Robert DeNiro in 2002 to help assist in Lower Manhattan’s recovery after 9/11. DeNiro has been instrumental in building up Tribeca since then.

TO EAT: Bubby’s for brunch; Nobu for dinner (co-owned by Robert DeNiro). For thrills: Tribeca Grill – also co-owned by Robert DeNiro, it counts Bill Murray, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Sean Penn, Ed Harris, Lou Diamond Philips, Russell Simmons, Christopher Walken and Harvey & Bob Weinstein of the Weinstein Company amongst its investors.

TO STAY: Tribeca Grand Hotel – which actually stands on a triangular block – has a cool lobby bar for pre-dinner drinks. The James Hotel, located just above Canal Street, is on the cusp of Soho and Tribeca.

Tribeca Grand Hotel's clock

The James Hotel

OPTION: Outskirts of Chinatown/City Hall/enroute to Brooklyn Bridge

Heading home to Brooklyn, my subway stop is by City Hall. You may also choose to continue on this way from Tribeca, as the route leads to the Brooklyn Bridge. Here, you’ll also be able to take in some vistas of a courted Manhattan, on its East side.

US Courthouse, to the left; City Hall - ahead

U.S Court House

Flanked - New York by Frank Gehry: at 870 feet tall, it is the tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere

New York by Genhry - the Brooklyn Bridge is to the left

Chambers Street Subway

*   **Wikipedia


Above it all: Manhattan’s High Line

Manhattan works 24/7, without a break. It’s where things happen; it’s the world’s muse. Its avenues are well-trodden, meaning the roads are in continual need of repair. It is where the hot dog and pretzel stands are as ubiquitous as the yellow cabs. But, sometimes all of this hubbub gets too much to deal, and that’s when I head to Manhattan’s High Line.

The High Line

The Standard Hotel

Elevated city view

I first read about the High Line in a travel magazine a few years ago and remember thinking how great it was make something new from something old. Here, 30-foot high abandoned railway tracks have been converted into usable public green space, which is named the High Line. The railway tracks faced demolition in 1999, and this gave rise to a community group  – Friends of the High Line – who came to the rescue with the High Line proposition. The project was approved by the City of New York.

The Standard Hotel

Autumnal colours against the Hudson

Birch trees and grass

The park opened in two phases. The first phase (2009) spanned the area between the Meatpacking District, by Gansevoort Street, and up to 20th Street. Phase two opened this year, in 2011, and extends the walkway to 30th Street. The final phase, between 30th and 34th streets, called High Line at the West Side Rail Yards, is being construction.

Iin October 2011, the Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation, founded by the fashion designer, Diane von Furstenberg, and her husband, Barry Diller, made a $20 million commitment to the High Line. This is the largest single private contribution to a public park in New York City’s history and will be put towards this final stretch of the project.

Factories and warehouses hug the High Line

Undercover windows

Fragments of the past

Just when you thought New York was packed to the rafters, up goes the Standard Hotel and a new few condominiums by the High Line. With Hudson River views to one side, and city views from elsewhere, it’s a great spot to buy some real estate, which also comes with a 1.45-mile garden.

Frank Gehry’s IAC building (left); condos (right)


… and more condos.

In addition to making the walk from uptown to downtown more pleasurable, the High Line hosts interactive public art installations, performances, open air film screenings and exhibits.


The success of the High Line has been two-fold: it has not only drawn two million visitors annually, but it has also inspired another green space project dubbed the “Low Line.” The Low Line hopes to restore a former trolley terminal under Delancey Street (Lower East Side), into an underground park. Read more here:

The High Line has rehabilitated and preserved an essential part of New York’s history. Influenced by its Parisian predecessor, the Promenade Plantée – an elevated park built around a similar rail viaduct and inaugurated in 1993 – Manhattan’s High Line has furthered interest for industrial restoration closer to home. Similar projects are in early stages in St. Louis, Philadelphia, Jersey City, and Chicago.

A linear view

Hudson River views

A great blog about Promenade Plantée can be found here:

Paris’ Promenade Plantée: The original High Line park | On the Luce.