Monday, May 10, 2010

Annenberg Community Beach House at Santa Monica State Beach, Frederick Fisher Partners, 2009

Beth and I were out and about yesterday checking out a couple amazing open houses (a $12 million Ed Niles House on Loma Linda in Beverly Hills and Eric Owen Moss's iconic 708 House in Pacific Palisades) and happened to be driving down PCH past Fred Fisher Partners' Annenberg Community Beach House at Santa Monica State Beach and decided to pop in and take a few photos. The building was reviewed in the October 25, 2009 issue of the L.A. Times by L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne who also deemed  the Beach House as one of the Top ten Buildings of 2009 in L.A. See also my recent post on Fisher's formative years in conjunction with his ongoing exhibition "Frederick Fisher: Thinking by Hand" at the Edward Cella Gallery.

(Click on images to enlarge)
Beth Kudlicki photographing the signage. John Crosse photo.
Aerial photo of the original Marion Davies Estate commissioned by William Randolph Hearst and designed by Julia Morgan in 1929. Photographer unknown.
 Marion Davies guest house designed by Julia Morgan in 1929. John Crosse photo.
Beach House entrance. Photo by John Crosse.

Architect William Krisel's 1973 Ocean Towers condominiums can be seen atop the bluff in the background. Film maker Jake Gorst featured the towers in some fascinating time-lapse footage in the recently released "William Krisel, Architect" documentary.

Above is a historical photo of the Davies beach front pool. Note the columns echoed by Fisher Partners in the new facility below.
Photo by John Crosse, 05-09-2010

Another historical structure can be seen on the bluff top in the top center of the above photo, i.e., A. Quincy Jones's elegant 1963 Shorecliff Tower Apartments (now condominiums) with structural engineering by Richard Bradshaw. Next door to the north of Shorecliff is William Krisel's Park Plaza Condominiums into which his first mentor, Paul Laszlo moved when they were completed in 1975. Directly west of these two high-rises on the beach just south of the Annenberg Community Beach House lies Richard Neutra's 1935 Lewin Beach House with 1998 Steven Ehrlich addition. Also very close by within walking distance are Richard Neutra's Barsha and Sten-Frenke Residences and Steven Ehrlich's 1991 Ehrman-Coombs Residence. So bike or walk down to the beach, bring a picnic, do a walking tour and soak it all in.

North facade. Photo by John Crosse.

View from the second level deck looking through the community meeting room windows. Photo by John Crosse.

Stairway up to the first floor meeting rooms. Photo by John Crosse.

Second floor deck overlooking the pool and ocean. Photo by John Crosse.

The above deck would be a fabulous place to chill out and read a book on a lazy summer afternoon.

Hallway between the main building and the northerly exhibition space and meeting areas. Photo by John Crosse.

The Annenberg Community Beach House project manager for Fisher Partners, John Berley also happens to conduct the "Modern Patrons" series for the Southern California Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians and organized a wonderful event Saturday morning at the Richard and Carol Soucek King Residence in Pasadena designed by Buff & Hensman in 1978. See my related post at the following link. ( He is also involved in the firm's other Annenberg Foundation Trust Projects in Palm Springs, i.e., the restoration of the Annenberg's Sunnylands Estate designed by A. Quincy Jones and the new visitor's center which is rapidly nearing completion.

Relatedly, on Saturday afternoon at his gallery on Wilshire across the street from LACMA, Edward Cella hosted a salon titled "Restore, Refresh, Renew: New Desert Projects" where Janice Lyle, Director of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands ( discussed the Annenberg Estate restoration and new visitor center and how the new 200-acre compound and surrounding grounds are envisioned to be used. Sidney Williams, Curator of Architecture and Design for the Palm Springs Art Museum ( lectured on the legacy of modernism in the greater Palm Springs region and current efforts to preserve, restore, and interpret this legacy within the dynamic community context. She broke the exciting news to the group that plans are under way to acquire E. Stewart Williams's 1960 Santa Fe Federal Savings Building on Palm Canyon Drive for use as exhibition space and storage for their growing architectural archives.

Santa Fe Savings Building, Palm Springs, E. Stewart Williams, 1960. Photo by Julius Shulman, Job No.3466, 12-08-1962.

To learn more about A. Quincy Jones and Sunnylands I recommend picking up a copy of "Sunnylands: Art and Architecture of the Annenberg Estate in Rancho Mirage, California" edited by David G. De Long. (See below). To learn more about the Annenberg Foundation and growing portfolio of cultural centers and activities go to

Image from

The historical connections of Frederick Fisher Partners and A. Quincy Jones now run quite deep. The firm works out of the historic Jones & Emmons office building (see rendering above) at 12348 Santa Monica Blvd. which they sensitively restored to period pristineness. How ironic (and appropriate I might add) that they be the firm to restore the A. Quincy Jones-designed Annenberg Estate's Sunnylands compound and design the new visitor's center. On top of the Community Beach House and Sunnylands projects, Fisher Partners is also restoring A. Quincy Jones's iconic "The Barn" on Pico Blvd. in Century City for the Metabolic Studio, an arts program affiliated with the Annenberg Foundation. See the Sam Lubell article, "Century City Pastoral" in the 03-12-2010 issue of The Architect's Neswpaper at the following link for more details. (The Barn)

The Barn, A. Quincy Jones Residence, Century City, 1966. Los Angeles Times Home Magazine, 05-22-1966. Julius Shulman Job No. 3988, 02-11-1966.
Thus it appears that Fisher's decision to move his firm into the restored Jones & Emmons offices has paid off in a big way with the resultant Annenberg Foundation commissions. It is also quite coincidental indeed that the Annenberg Community Beach House is in such close proximity to Jones & Emmon's Shorecliff Tower Condominiums. 

All this seems to cry out  to me for an exhibition on Jones whose last show was a tribute curated by Esther McCoy at Cal-State Dominguez Hills shortly after his passing in early 1980. (See A. Quincy Jones: A Tribute exhibition catalog, Cal-State Dominguez Hills, 1980 in my Selected Publications of Esther McCoy). What better place for a Jones exhibition than an inaugural show in the soon to be acquired Santa Fe Federal Savings Building in Palm Springs where Jones is revered for his desert work. February, 2012 Modernism Week seems like a great target to shoot for unless other plans are already under way for that date. (For my related post which references A. Quincy Jones's Palm Springs work see