Sunday, September 11, 2022

Hot off the press: Common Ground

Common Ground: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles

Think of "home" in Los Angeles and what comes to mind? Very likely the single family home in a large yard. But that is not the full picture. The region has also been a laboratory for marvelous experiments in multifamily living and over the past year I've been working on a book about some of them. 

Now Common Ground: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles is done and will be published October 11 by Angel City Press. We will have a book party at Helms Bakery District on Saturday, October 1, at 2pm.

Common Ground is my valentine to an under-appreciated type of housing in Los Angeles: connected, mostly rental, centered on shared open space. In sum, a way of living that is a variant on the exalted SoCal single family home, and that can be lovely when stable, equitable and well-designed. It has been modeled in some marvelous complexes past and present -- from the bungalow courts and luxe apartment-hotels of the 1910s; through period-revival and modernist courtyard complexes, New Deal-era garden apartments; to contemporary, "affordable" and market rate housing complexes; and on to co-living and the return to low-rise backyard complexes.

Common Ground features buildings by the Heineman brothers, the Zwebells, R.M. Schindler, Richard Neutra, John Lautner, Ralph Vaughn, Paul Williams, Koning Eizenberg, Brooks + Scarpa, Michael Maltzan, Michael Folonis, Ma Yansong, Lorcan O’Herlihy, Shin Shin, Elizabeth Timme, Design, Bitches, and many more. It also shines a light on creative complexes like St. Elmo Village and L.A. Eco-Village, created by visionary individuals.

As stated by Frank Gehry, architect of the apartment building I have lived in for many years that got me thinking about the design, history and politics of multifamily housing in LA, the book is "part architectural memoir, part call to arms," that "will get people looking at and thinking about multi-family architecture in a new way." Russell Brown, founder of FORT: LA, calls it "an engrossing urban journey peppered with fascinating human stories that presents a vision of Los Angeles that is unexpected and revelatory." It is full of fabulous photographs of great buildings and the people that live in them, laid out gracefully by J. Eric Lynxwiler and the team at Angel City Press.

Featured photographers include Leonard Nadel, Julius Shulman, Art Gray, Tim Street-Porter, Benny Chan, Paul Vu, Eric Staudenmaier, Jceal Parker, Cynthia Alexandra and Caitlin Atkinson.

The book contains surprises (like an unbuilt apartment tower by John Lautner and a brutalist high-rise in Westwood Village by Victor Gruen). It considers how thoughtful designers get rid of the double-loaded corridor and introduce light from multiple aspects in apartment buildings. It reflects on the "court system," and why it has been so enduring in the Southland; and it reveals that the best multifamily buildings in Los Angeles are invariably secret "worlds within worlds."

Pre-order a copy here, and please join me on Saturday, October 1, at the book party. Click here to register. Watch this space for book events coming up -- at Santa Monica Museum, Pasadena Heritage, Monterey Design Conference, Modernism Week, the Glass House, and more.


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