Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Frederick Fisher and the "L.A. School": The Formative Years and "Frederick Fisher: Thinking by Hand" at the Edward Cella Gallery through May 22

 Photo of Frederick Fisher from L.A. Times link below. Fisher Partners web site http://www.fisherpartners.net/

From Frederick Fisher, Architect, Rizzoli, 1995.

"If Fisher's current work makes him look like a Modernist, he is one, importantly, who came of age after the end of Modernism in the 1960s and lived through and learned from all that followed: the historically minded but sometimes flimsy Postmodern movement, the rough edges and hard attitudes of the L.A. School, the tortured facades of Deconstructivism." Quote from a recent Christopher Hawthorne review of Fisher's Annenberg Community Beach House at Santa Monica State Beach in the October 25, 2009 issue of the L.A. Times and which Hawthorne also deemed one of the Top ten Buildings of 2009 in L.A. 

Fisher's work has rationally evolved and matured since his earliest Venetian avant-garde artist studios and residences of the late 1970s and early 1980's yet I still have a strong fascination for, and attraction to, the raw architecture created from the cauldron of creative energy that was Venice in that period.

British architectural critic and former UCLA professor and SCI-Arc lecturer Charles Jencks categorized the work of the avant-garde group of architects practicing mainly on the west side of L.A. in and around Venice as the "L.A. School" in his 1983 AA Files review "L.A. Style/L.A. School" of the "Los Angeles Now" exhibition in London. (See later in this post). He states in the review that as early as 1981 he and others identified a group of 13 architects exhibiting avant-garde work whom they categorized as the "L.A. School." Various iterations of the architects linked to the "L.A. School" appeared during this period depending upon the critic or exhibition curator as seen in the selected bibliography of publications on their work below.

Later, in his excellent 1993 book "Heteropolis" published by Academy Editions, Jencks writes,
"The L.A. School was, and remains, a group of individualized mavericks, more at home together in an exhibition than in each others homes (see the discussion below on Thom Mayne's SCI-Arc exhibition and lecture series held at his Architecture Gallery). There is also a particular self-image involved with this Non-School which exacerbates the situation. All of its members see themselves as outsiders, on the margins, challenging the establishment with an informal and demanding architecture; one that must be carefully read."
Frederick Fisher was considered by all of the critics and curators of the late 1970s and early 1980s to be part of this new wave "L.A. School" (See selected bibliography below). The following Fisher bio is from http://www.arcspace.com/calif/archi/fisher.html.
"Frederick Fisher was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1949. His mother Carol, taught while taking care of the household and three sons; his father Eugene studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. Eugene worked for several firms in Cleveland, finally as a partner in charge of hospital design at Dalton and Dalton (later Dalton, Dalton, Little, Newport). Frank Lloyd Wright was his model architect, and Wright's books were almost the only architecture texts in the house. 
Throughout high school Frederick Fisher held summer jobs at his uncle's construction company. He studied architecture for two years at Miami University of Ohio and transferred to Oberlin College to study art and art history. Reading Robert Venturi's Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture reopened Fisher's eyes to the potential of architecture and its broad connection to artistic concepts. His own art at the time focused on a kind of surrealist collage. 
While at Oberlin, Fisher helped refurbish a Frank Lloyd Wright house. During an internship in Department of Architecture at the Museum of modern Art, Fisher researched a proposed exhibition on glass architecture. After graduate from Oberlin College in 1971, and while considering the new graduate program at the University of California at Los Angeles, he came across a magazine photo of Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry jumping on a table made of cardboard, and a publication of the Mobile Theater designed by members of the UCLA faculty: Eugene Kupper, Peter de Bretteville, Craig Hodgetts and Robert Mangurian of Studio Works. 
Fisher drove from Cincinnati to Los Angeles in the summer of 1971 and entered the UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Frank Gehry's 1975 lecture at UCLA connected architecture to abstract art for Fisher in a profound and distinct way. Fisher worked in Gehry's office from 1978 through 1980 on such projects as Mid-Atlantic Toyota, the De Menil townhouse, Santa Monica Place, the Cabrillo Marine Museum, and Arts Park (a collaboration between Gehry and Lawrence Halprin). Gehry's Cloverfield office was full of the work of California artists Robert Irwin, Tony Berlant, Laddie Dill, Ed Moses, Billy Al Bengston, Alexis Smith, and others. Gehry brought artists such as Michael Heizer and Elyn Zimmerman into the office for informal talks to the staff and friends. 
Near the end of Fisher's time in Gehry's office, Thane Roberts (see later below), a classmate from UCLA, passed on a residential job; the Caplin House (see below) was Fisher's first solo building. The two later worked together as Fisher/Roberts Company for two years before establishing independent practices.  
In addition to teaching at UCLA, SCI-ARC, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of North Carolina, and Harvard University, Fisher chaired the Environmental Design Department at Otis/Parsons in Los Angeles from 1986 to 1992."

Frederick Fisher, Caplin House, 230 E. San Juan Ave., Venice, 1978-9. Photo by John Crosse, 05-01-2010.

Fisher was also in the Gehry office when Frank completed his "Breakthrough" project, i.e., his personal residence in Santa Monica (see below). What a heady time it must have been for this budding creative architect soon to be grouped with the "New Wave" in American architecture.

Gehry House, Santa Monica, 1978. From Wikipedia.

(click on images to enlarge)
 L.A. Times, August 18, 1977 (from Proquest)

209 E. San Juan Ave., Venice. 1979 home of Thom Mayne and his temporary "Architecture Gallery." Photo by John Crosse, 05-01-2010.

In the fall of 1979, Thom Mayne, freshly graduated from Harvard with his Master of Architecture degree and then teaching at SCI-Arc, created the temporary "Architecture Gallery" in his home/studio at 209 E. San Juan Ave. in Venice (see above). In the below article "One-Week Shows by 11 Architects" John Dreyfuss describes the approach to Mayne's abode-gallery, "Behind a messy little stand of trees, a gate concocted of chicken wire and sticks covered with sheets of black plastic, through a red door in a nondescript building with white paint peeling from red bricks - lies a marvelous space."

Thom Mayne and Eugene Kupper at Mayne's Architecture Gallery. L.A. Times, October 11, 1979. Courtesy Eugene Kupper.

Exhibition Series Poster for "Current L.A.: 10 Viewpoints, SCI-Arc Design Forum 79. Designer unknown. Courtesy Eugene Kupper, Architect.

Mayne organized a 10-part weekly series of exhibitions at the above "Architecture Gallery" and lectures at SCI-Arc, then located at 1800 Berkeley St. in Santa Monica to feature the work of 10 architects. Fellow SCI-Arc teacher, Frederick Fisher, himself a recent Frank Gehry employee, was one of the featured speakers along with Frank Gehry, Eugene Kupper (another associate in Gehry's office and teacher of Fisher's at UCLA), Frank Dimster, Roland Coate, Peter de Bretteville, Morphosis (Thom Mayne & Michael Rotondi), Studio Works (Craig Hodgetts and Michael Mangurian), Eric Owen Moss, and Coy Howard (also a teacher of Fisher's at UCLA). (See article below).

Los Angeles Times, Sept. 30, 1979 (from Proquest)

L.A. Times, October 21, 1979. From ProQuest.

Fisher began working on a residence for Loren and Anne-Laure Caplin at 230 E. San Juan Ave. in Venice while still working for Gehry. The Caplins both also worked on "WET" Magazine for Leonard Koren. The house, featured in his exhibition and lecture, happened to be just doors down from Thom Mayne's house and the temporary "Architecture Gallery" where the above-mentioned exhibitions and lecture series were being held. In the John Dreyfuss review of Fisher's exhibition and October 24th lecture below, he states "Frederick Fisher's architecture grows from metaphors. Those metaphors are difficult to discover (in the show), but the discovery is worth the difficulty." Fisher lectures "To me, architecture is a cosmological art that establishes the relationship between man and the rest of nature." (Author's note: Fisher's lecture with introduction by Thom Mayne can be viewed at the SCI-Arc Media Archive).


L.A. Times, Oct. 24, 1979 (from Proquest)

Model and interior drawing of the Caplin House in Venice, 1978 as described in the Dreyfuss exhibition review above. From Frederick Fisher, Architect, Rizzoli, 1995. (see below)

Dreyfuss describes the Caplin House in the two images above as a metaphor for a wave, relating the residence to the ocean that is less than a half a mile away. The pen-and-ink drawing of the rafters in the bottom drawing is reminiscent of the interior of a boat hull. This metaphor brings particular pleasure to owner Anne-Laure Caplin who lived on a boat on the Seine River for 14 years as a youth.

Frederick Fisher, Caplin House, 230 E. San Juan Ave., Venice, 1978-9. Photo by John Crosse, 05-01-2010.

A few months prior to the Mayne-SCI-Arc series of exhibitions, Joseph Giovannini, architectural critic for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner wrote of the Caplin House, "It is always difficult to insert a new building into an old neighborhood, but especially in Venice, where rising land values are now pressuring old residents out of established neighborhoods. A flashy, new architect-designed house on San Juan Street could well have been the cause of considerable local resentment. But [architect Frederick] Fisher sensitively integrates his new house into the old neighborhood by an architectural understatement that is no less interesting for being gentle. His mild-mannered facades are quietly unusual and he has toned the house to the slightly eccentric temper of the rest of the street. There is a quality of grade school freshness and directness about the facades that belies their sophistication; any happy child in his right mind would choose this house as a favorite playhouse." (L.A. Herald-Examiner, July 18, 1979 in "A New Voice From the Fourth Estate", L.A. Architect, September 1979, pp. 1, 5).

 Solar Crematory, 1976, (unbuilt) as described in the Dreyfuss exhibition review above.From Frederick Fisher, Architect, Rizzoli, 1995. (see below) 

Dreyfuss describes the above drawing as the most beautiful in the show and a metaphorical structure that architecturally represents the universe, with a rotunda (the heavens) on a rectilinear building (earth) floored with tiles in wave patterns (water). The graphite and colored-pencil drawing shows the building in a combination of plan, elevation and section beneath a dramatic, ominously black sky.

 Jorgensen House, 1980, described in the Dreyfuss exhibition review above. From Frederick Fisher, Architect, Rizzoli, 1995. (see below)

The pastel drawing of the Jorgensen House in the Hollywood Hills overlooking Sunset Blvd. is described by Fisher "There is a latent image of an architectural ruin. It acknowledges that architecture is very temporal in relation to nature."

 Observatory, 1979, described in the Dreyfuss exhibition review above. From Frederick Fisher, Architect, Rizzoli, 1995. (see below)

The above concept of a subterranean observatory, was drawn for an invitational show Conceptual Ideas for Urban Outdoor Space at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York in 1979. Dreyfuss writes "From Fisher's observatory, one would see only a point in space near the North Star."  "The significance of the observatory is that it is focused on that place in space above the North Pole that never moves in relation to the earth," Fisher said. "The observer would get a view of the absolute, an indication of a perfect phenomenon."

(Author's note: Fisher (see above) introduced Thom Mayne and Michael Rotondi's gallery lecture which can be viewed in a video from the SCI-Arc Media Archive along with all of the other lectures that were part of this seminal series).

The result of the exhibition and lecture series was quite controversial. John Dreyfuss, in his December 12, 1979 Times article below summed up the series stating "It has catalyzed a significant segment of the Los Angeles architectural community, precipitating a steamy brew of respect, anger, pride, jealousy, excitement and interest. The brew seems hot enough to go on steaming for a while." Later in the article he says "What is there for all to see is a smattering of architecture from the drawing boards of Los Angeles men, some of whom will almost surely emerge in the next decade or two as significant, original-thinking designers of the built environment. One of them, Frank Gehry, is already in that exclusive circle." The insightful review should be read in it's entirety. Just click on the article to enlarge.

Coy Howard, who both introduced the series on October 10 and concluded on December 12 stated, "Things don't bloom full-grown. This group is developing. Some will sell out. Some will drop out. And three or four will be significant." Fisher (as did Howard) obviously became one of the latter.

 Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1979 (from Proquest)

The controversy engendered by this series continued the following April at the annual AIA California Council conference at Monterey. Dreyfuss reported in an April 6th L.A. Times review titled "Architects in Funny Shirts Communicate" that "The conference would have been better if more of Southern California's controversial, innovative, artistically oriented architects had shown up. They would have provided welcome counterpoint to the largely establishment oriented nature of participants. 

Hodgetts was there and stayed the whole time. Thom Mayne appeared, gave his two seven minute talks and vanished. Frank Gehry and Coy Howard were on the program but not at the conference. They said they had only made tentative agreements to attend. Eric Owen Moss and Michael Rotondi simply failed to honor their commitments to be in Monterey. In an interview after the conference Howard said he felt exploited by the group and asked, "Why should I fly up to Monterey to entertain a bunch of people who see us as clowns, basically." Rotondi said he was busy and he questioned whether the audience would have been inclined "or even capable of understanding what we do."

Thane Roberts submerged. Bardach, Ann, "WET glug! glug!," WET, November/December, 1981, p. 27. Photo by Guy Webster. 

Surrounding the time of this "Current L.A.: 10 Viewpoints" series of exhibitions at Thom Mayne's Architecture Gallery, Leonard Koren's innovative WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing was featuring the avant-garde work of many of the same architects in it's innovative pages including Fred Fisher, Thom Mayne, Craig Hodgetts and their colleagues Frank Gehry, Mark Mack and Thane Roberts (see above). WET's history was recently chronicled in Leonard Koren's The Making WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing, Imperfect Publishing, 2012. 

Wet, No. 1, May-June, 1976. Includes "Nights of the Bath" by Frederick Fisher. From http://www.wunderland.com/WTS/Rash/misc/wet/wet1.htm

Fisher's early collaboration with fellow UCLA architecture grad student Koren on the avant-garde publication WET and employment with Frank Gehry likely facilitated the seminal cross-pollinization that was occurring between this radical group of new wave west-side architects. Fisher contributed the article "Nights of the Bath" to the inaugural issue (see above). The magazine was published in Venice and Santa Monica between 1976 and 1981 when it's illustrious run of 34 now highly collected issues ended.  Recurring WET features included innovative bathing practices, art, architecture, New Wave and punk music, the birth of postmodern fashion, surfing and skateboarding. Frequent contributors to the magazine, among many others, were Matt GroeningKristine McKenna (interviews), Philip Garner (drawings of implausible inventions) and Bob & Bob.

The magazine's importance to the resurgence of the avant-garde "little magazine" movement was recognized with its inclusion in Clip/Stamp/Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines, 196X to 197X  edited by Beatriz Colomina and Craig Buckley, Actar, 2010. 
"...WET's anti-design agenda reflected Koren's opinion that architects' vicarious activities impose egotistical, technophilic and rationalizing environments that over-code bodily activities. Though Koren published designers-including Charles Moore, Mark Mack, Craig Hodgetts, Thorn Mayne, and Frank Gehry -who overturned domestic conventions, renounced high-culture trends, and embodied the motto "Cheap is good," he preferred reader submitted images of user-designed baths." (Clip Stamp Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines, 196X to 197X, edited by Beatriz Colomina and Craig Buckley, Actar, 2010, p. 150).
Priscilla Presley on the cover of the last issue of WET, November/December 1981. (From my collection).

Architectural patron, art collector, venture capitalist, philanthropist, and computer technology pioneer, and former chairman of the board of Rolling Stone magazine, Max Palevsky was listed under the masthead titles of "Blood & Guts" and "Devil's Advocate-in-Chief" in the magazine's latter years. As he rescued Rolling Stone with a financial infusion, Palevsky similarly helped to keep WET "afloat." As it was in the pages of Rolling Stone, the pool at Palevsky's Craig Ellwood-designed home in Palm Springs (see below) was featured in the magazine's last issue (see above). Palevsky also commissioned one of the "SCI-Arc 10," Coy Howard, to extensively remodel his George Washington Smith house located in Beverly Hills.

 Pool at Max Palevsky's Craig Ellwood-designed home in Palm Springs. From "Wetplaces," WET, November/December 1981, p. 47.

The issue below also contained a feature on Fisher and his work.

Wet, No. 21, Nov-Dec, 1979. Includes an article on Fisher. http://www.wunderland.com/WTS/Rash/misc/wet/wet2.htm

Selected bibliography of publications featuring the work of the "L.A. School" architects:

Following are a few publications from the late 1970s and early 1980s in which the prophetic winnowing out process discussed earlier by John Dreyfuss and Coy Howard begins to take place.

 A.D. Profiles 6, America Now: Drawing Towards a More Modern Architecture, edited by Robert A. M. Stern, London, June, 1977. (From my collection)

The above special edition of A.D., guest edited by Robert Stern, formed the catalogue to two exhibitions of contemporary American architectural drawings held in New York at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum and at The Drawing Center from Sept. 20 through Nov. 6, 1977. The catalogue includes work by later-to-be-recognized-as "L.A. School" members Coy Howard and Frank Israel and other notable architects known for esoteric discourse such as Charles Moore, Peter Eisenman, Jorge Silvetti, Stanley Tigerman, Michael Graves, John Hejduk and Venturi & Rauch.

Archetype, Autumn 1979, front cover. (From my collection).

Besides the tongue-in-cheek WET, the somewhat more serious and esoteric Archetype, whose founding editors included Andrew Batey, Mark MackKurt ForsterHenry Bowles, and Diane Ghirardo began a nine issue run in the spring of 1979. A Viennese immigrant like Schindler and Neutra, Mack and his 1978-84 architectural firm partner Batey and their now quite collectible Bay-area magazine were part of Northern California's equivalent of the L.A. School and cross-pollinated their SoCal brethren's work frequently among the pages of their very well-designed quarterly review (see above for example).

 Domus No. 604, March, 1980. (From my collection)

The "Quick-Silvers", Donatella Brun photo from the above article.

The above issue of Domus includes an article "Ten California Architects" by Olivier Boissiere who states in the article, "The young architects introduced here, Frank Gehry, Fred Fisher/Thane Roberts, Craig Hodgetts/Robert Mangurian, Thom Mayne/Michael Rotondi, Eris Owen Moss/James Stafford, and Coy Howard are in their early thirties. They already have significant works to their credit; they are brilliant, often sparkling, and versatile. If one had to stick a label on them (which they would of course loathe), I would propose this: the quick-silvers."

Seven of the architects who participated in The Architecture Gallery, from left to right: Frederick Fisher, Robert Mangurian, Eric Owen Moss, Coy Howard, Craig Hodgetts, Thom Mayne, Frank Gehry.From "California Design: New West Side Story" by Joseph Giovannini, Interiors, December, 1980, p. 50-51, 80, 82. Ave Pildas photo. (From my collection).

Same group as in previous photo but not published in the article. Ave Pildas photo.

The architectural talent gathered above on Venice Beach this blustery fall day in 1980 foretells the highly influential body of work of two Pritzker Prize winners and their significant pals and the dawning of a new movement in architecture having arguably a greater impact on the world architectural scene than L.A.'s early modernists, R. M. Schindler and Richard Neutra and their progeny in the 1920s and 30s. In his very prescient article, "New West Side Story" in the December 1980 issue of Interiors, Joseph Giovannini characterizes the avant-garde work of Frank Gehry, Morphosis (Thom Mayne and Michael Rotondi), Studio Works (Robert Mangurian and Craig Hodgetts), Frederick Fisher, and Coy Howard as being informed with reference to the other arts. He writes,
"In Los Angeles, a number of architects are evolving a recognizably individual idiom. Some practice their profession as artists - not that they are bohemian, impractical, unprofessional or uninterested in business. They have simply brought their particular aesthetic to a high degree of resolution, and are assertive in implementing it, even in budget - or code - constraining circumstances. Many of the clients are artists themselves...But on the West Side, particularly in Venice, where there is a tradition of artist studios, architects share in a very general community of thought and attitude...While there is a certain cross-pollination between offices...the principals exercise a strong, individuating leadership. The work then is not the same, but is not altogether different."

 GA Houses 9, New Waves in American Architecture, by Yukio Futagawa,, A.D.A. Edita, Tokyo, Japan, 1981, Cover: Fun House, Eric Owen Moss. Photo by Yukio Futagawa. (From my collection)

The above publication includes work by "L.A. School" architects Frederick Fisher (Caplin, Horn and Jorgensen Residences), Eugene Kupper (Nillson House and Wall House), Eric Owen Moss (Fun House (see cover above), 708 House, Easter Island Condominiums, Pin Ball House and Adams House), Morphosis (2-4-6-8 House, Sedlak Addition, Mexico II House, Cohen Residence, and Lawrence Residence), Studio Works (Craig Hodgetts and Robert Mangurian) (Gagosian Gallery), and Peter de Bretteville (Villa Cambiamento, Padiglione di Riposa, Willow Glen Houses, and Sunset House).

 California Counterpoint: New West Coast Architecture 1982 edited by Kenneth Frampton and Silvia Kolbowski. Book and cover designed by Massimo Vignelli, Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies. (From my collection)

The above catalog for a 1982 California Counterpoint: New West Coast Architecture exhibition at the San Franciscio Art Institute is the best publication to date of the early work of the "L.A. School." It includes Fisher's Solar Crematory, Nuart Theater Facade, Caplin Residence in Venice, Jorgensen Residence in Hollywood, Rady Studio in Venice, Horn Residence in Bel Air, Venice Studio, and Hollywood Beach Residence in Oxnard.

Critic Nory Miller in the introductory essay California Architects states "Fisher can crank out excess or with equal ease exercise restraint. He jokes about it himself, labeling his own stage of development as "early transitional." The difficult question for the critic is to gauge where this apparent transition is leading. While Fisher has already demonstrated a deftness in dealing with certain passages, whether it will be strong enough to overcome his tendency to a form of excitable gawkishness remains to be seen." I think it can safely be said that Fisher's body of work since this catalog was published answers that question in spades.

Other architects from the 10-part SCI-Arc exhibition and lecture series above include Frank Gehry, Morphosis, Coy Howard, and Studio Works (Hodgetts & Mangurian). They were joined by Batey & Mack and Stanley Saitowitz for this exhibition.

 The California Condition: A Pregnant Architecture, La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, 1982. (From my collection)

The above exhibition catalog for the November 13, 1982 - January 2, 1983 exhibition at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art includes work by "L.A. School" leader Frank Gehry and members Eric Owen Moss, Thom Mayne and Michael Rotondi. The exhibit had a statewide scope thus Fisher was omitted due to space constraints although he was mentioned prominently in Stanley Tigerman's excellent introductory essay The California Condition. Tigerman categorized the exhibition into four groups and included Fisher and other "L.A. Schoolers" in the "Dematerialized (Disappearing?) Cutting Edge" category. He states "The major architectural father figure here is, of course, Frank Gehry (whom he later in the essay labels a brilliant "California schizophrenic"), with Hodgetts/Mangurian, Coy Howard, Fred Fisher, Frank Israel, and Roland Coate as disciples and/or descendants."

The "L.A. School" captured the fancy of the British architectural avant-garde and critics in the 1980s through the efforts of Reyner Banham, Archigram co-founder Peter Cook, Charles Jencks, Kenneth Frampton and others and were anthologized repeatedly in publications and exhibitions such as "Los Angeles Now" curated by Cook and Barbara Goldstein. This exhibition was on display in 1983 at London's equivalent to SCI-Arc, the Architectural Association School of Architecture where Goldstein once taught. Out of her office in the Schindler House on Kings Road, Goldstein was simultaneously in the midst of a valiant attempt to resuscitate Arts + Architecture in the early 1980s and with Esther McCoy compiling the 1982 release "Guide to U.S. Architecture: 1940-1980." (See the guide at the following link). http://socalarchhistory.blogspot.com/2010/02/publications-of-esther-mccoy-patron.html

Los Angeles Now by Barbara Goldstein and Peter Cook, Architectural Association in London, 1983. Eric Owen Moss's Fun House on the covers. (From my collection)

"Los Angeles Now" featured work by Frederick Fisher, Morphosis, Peter de Bretteville (with fellow USC professor Stefanos Polyzoides), Coy Howard, Eugene Kupper, Roland Coate, and Eric Owen Moss from Mayne's SCI-Arc series. Also included were Diane Caughey, Card/Killefer Corp., Chris Dawson, Design Group (Michael Folonis, et al), Harriet Hatch, Frank Israel, SCI-Arc founder Ray Kappe, Moore/Ruble, Yudell, Brian Murphy, Glen Small, Projects (Moss proteges George Elian and David Van Hoy) and Stafford/Binder (James & Rikki). This extremely scarce catalog includes introductory essays City of Dreams by now "Sir" Peter Cook  and Los Angeles in Context by Barbara Goldstein who is also now well-known for her Arts & Architecture: The Entenza Years.

I found Cook's witty description of what was happening at SCI-Arc during this period thankfully not unlike what is occurring today. "Unlike London, this same aesthete (earlier referring to Mayne as a Harvard-taught aesthete turned carpenter) will be bringing on other young architects in a tacky factory shed that on paper reads "Southern California Institute of Architecture", and he will be indulging in that game of cajoling, criticism and throwaway dismissal that is the inheritance from the Ecole des Beaux Arts - despite physical appearances. In the extreme nonchalance of the atmosphere you will have to listen hard to tell which is Master or Pupil. They do exist in the exhibition, but it is all happening so fast and so interchangeably that, if we wish, we can ride upon the breathlessness of it as well."

Cook, a frequent guest lecturer at SCI-Arc, recently curated the "London Eight" exhibition http://www.sciarc.edu/images/pdf/Flaunt.pdf currently on view at the SCI-Arc Library until May 16th. Go to the following link to learn more about this very interesting exhibit and view the 75 minute conversation between Cook and "L.A. School" member  and SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss on March 19th in the Keck Lecture Hall. http://sciarc.edu/exhibition.php?id=1633. It is uncanny how similar the esoteric nature of the work on display and in the exhibition catalog and poster is to the early drawings and designs Fisher and the "L.A. Schoolers" exhibited at Thom Mayne's house over 30 years ago. This show is also a must see!

Below is the aforementioned Charles Jencks review of the above exhibition which explains in detail the origins of the term "L.A. School." Jencks singles out the work of Gehry, Moss and Kupper as being the most noteworthy in this exhibition. Jencks' closing advice to the "L.A. School" is "organize, polemicize, reach the mass culture through its many means, or become resigned to a marginal existence."

Charles Jencks review of "Los Angeles Now", AA Files, 1983 (from the Eugene Kupper archive)

The following gem of a book is one of my favorites of this period.

Real Estate as Arts: New Architecture in Venice California by Joseph Giovannini, The Sewell Archives, 1984. 2-4-6-8 House by Morphosis on the cover. (From my collection)

Joseph Giovannini states in his text "Venice has long had artists who need studios, and an artistic climate that encourages experiment. The result is real estate as architecture as an art form." Fisher's "Big Pink" aka the Caplin House in Venice is featured in the above compendium which also includes work by other "L.A. School" members Frank Gehry, Morphosis (Mayne & Rotondi), Studio Works (Hodgetts & Mangurian), as well as David Ming-Li Lowe, Milica Dedijer, Guy Dill, Robert Graham, Carl Day and Michael Lipson. The book is a great snapshot of what was happening in Venice in the early 1980s in terms of artist's studios and avant-garde architecture. This book is also now extremely hard to find.

Fred Fisher circa 1984 from the above book. Photo by Daniel Martinez.


Emerging Voices: A New Generation of Architects in America, 1982-1986, Architectural League of New York, Princeton Architectural Press, 1986. (From my collection)

The above exhibition catalog is a compilation which attempted to do on a national basis what Mayne's 10 architect series tried to do on the L.A. local scene, i.e., make a stab at predicting which emerging talent would go on to make a name for themselves. Looking back 25 years after the fact, it is interesting to see which of the above are now household names. Fisher makes the grade in 1984 with Eric Owen Moss and Stanley Saitowitz, a year after Morphosis, and two years after Stephen Holl, Frank Israel and Tod Williams. de Bretteville and Polyzoides from the original 10 named above and Bart Prince were chosen for 1986. Fisher's Jorgensen House in Hollywood, Caplin House in Venice, and Vena Mondt Loft in Los Angeles are featured.

The "L.A. School" in various groupings (including Fisher) were also featured in: Progressive Architecture, Jan. 1977 Awards Issue, (Frederick Fisher (for his unbuilt Solar Crematorium), Coy Howard, Morphosis, and Roland Coate); Interiors, Dec. 1980, West Side Story by Joseph Giovannini (Frank Gehry, Morphosis (Thom Mayne and Michael Rotondi), Frederick Fisher, Studio Works (Craig Hodgetts and Robert Mangurian) and Coy Howard and includes a photo of the group on Venice Beach); and Space Design No. 215, California Architects (Eric Owen Moss, Morphosis, Coy Howard, Thane Roberts, Frederick Fisher, Ronald Filson, Studio Works, Barton Phelps, Thomas Gordon Smith, Batey and Mack, Ace Architects, Peter de Bretteville, and Franklin David Israel).

The above selected bibliography  for the "L.A. School" indicates the rather high rate of success for that initial special group of 10 young architects that so fortunately participated in the 1979 Exhibition series in Thom Mayne's spare bedroom. The half a dozen or so more mentioned in the other publications above were also generally considered part of the group. We've come a long way with Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne winning Pritzker Prizes, Eric Owen Moss creating an amazing body of work and still directing SCI-Arc where Coy Howard is still a highly regarded teacher, Roland Coate being named as one of the L.A. 12 along with Gehry (see my March 26th post "The L.A. Twelve": A Snapshot of Los Angeles Architecture in 1976), Robert Mangurian carrying on the Studio Works banner with Mary-Ann Ray, Craig Hodgetts now in partnership with HsinMing Fung, Peter de Bretteville still practicing suceesfully on the east coast after restoring the Schindler House in 1988 with erstwhile partner Stefanos Polyzoides, Frank Dimster going on to be a Principal at William L. Pereira & Associates and is now Professor Emeritus of Architecture at USC, and Eugene Kupper becoming Professor Emeritus of Architecture at UCLA and still actively painting and and exhibiting his work in Scottsdale, AZ.

It's high time for someone to organize an "L.A. School" retrospective and recreate the evolution from their humble beginnings the cumulative, award-winning, courageous body of work the group has produced. Instead of Thom Mayne's spare bedroom or garage the organizers will need to use both halls of the Convention Center to house the exhibition to do it justice.
(Author's note: Since this article was originally published in April 2010, SCI-Arc has taken my above recommendation to heart and has applied for and received a Getty grant under the auspices of Pacific Standard Time to create a retrospective of the original 1979 exhibitions in Thom Mayne's Architecture Gallery. For more information on this exciting news see Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A.: A Confederacy of Heretics: The Architecture Gallery, Venice, 1979.)

Frederick Fisher, Architect, essay by Marie-Claude Beaud, Rizzoli, 1995. (From my collection)

Lastly for this blog post, the above 1995 Rizzoli monograph Frederick Fisher, Architect is a must for all fans of L.A. Modern architecture. It includes all of the drawings included in this post for the 1979 Fisher exhibition in Venice and much, much more. Fisher's architectural drawings and furniture designs have been featured in numerous exhibitions focusing on architectural art and are listed in the back matter of the book which also includes an introduction by Joseph Giovannini and essay by Marie-Claude Beaud. Based on Fisher's successful award-winning projects completed since 1995 a new compilation is definitely in order.

Here's looking forward to Frances Anderton (see below) exploring those formative years and more in her May 1st "Conversation" with Fisher from 1 to 3 p.m. It will be interesting to listen to the discourse of how Gehry might have influenced Fisher (and the rest of the "L.A. School"), his own creative process and how he uses his drawings to evolve a final set of plans. Visit the Cella Gallery web site to get a sneak preview of 107 drawings now on view and mark your calendars for the opening of Frederick Fisher: Thinking by Hand this coming Saturday, April 24th from 6 to 8 pm.

Frances Anderton interviewing Frederick Fisher at the Edward Cella Gallery, Wilshire Blvd., May 1, 2010.  Photo by John Crosse.

Wim de Wit shaking hands with Frederick Fisher at the Edward Cella Gallery, May 1, 2010. Eugene Kupper, one of the original "SCI-Arc 10" along with Fisher, on the right. Photo by John Crosse.