By David J. Barboza
SurveyLA pulls together historic resources information from many sources before sending teams out to the field. One of the most important of those sources is you (the public), so if you have any historic place suggestions we’d love to hear about them! There are also published works we mine for information, and if any of these can be called the mother lode, it’s probably David Gebhard and Robert Winter’s Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles (the most recent edition of which came out in 2003). To economize on syllables we often just refer to it as “Gebhard and Winter.”
Gebhard and Winter are a great source for a few reasons. Firstly, the broad geographic range of information provided. Unlike SurveyLA, which is only studying the City of Los Angeles, Gebhard and Winter attempt of cover all of Los Angeles County. But happily for us, quite a bit of the book is dedicated to historic resources within neighborhoods across the City of Angels. Secondly, the bulk of the book is laid out in chapters for the various neighborhoods complete with addresses and maps. It seems really basic, but sometimes we don’t have clear location information, and it’s hard to evaluate historic resources if we don’t know where they are. Thirdly, the authors have done quite a bit of background research. Each chapter starts with a quick history of the neighborhood itself, helping place discoveries in context. The building’s architect is often listed as well, which is information one usually has to find on old building permits unless it is a well-known place. Due to time constraints, we can’t do this level of research on every parcel in the City. Finally, Gebhard and Winter are often fun to read because of their snarky commentary, although the book can come off as esoteric because of its heavy reliance on architectural jargon.
Here are a couple of examples of entries from the chapter on Brentwood, one of the Community Plan Areas we’re currently surveying. The entries come in a standardized format:
Building Name (Year Built)
“World Savings Center Building, 1982
Maxwell Starkman and Associates
Northwest Corner of Wilshire and San Vicente Boulevards
A tall, late example of Corporate International Style Modern of no great distinction, but it is so big that you will wonder about it.”
“Lawson/Weston House, 1993
Eric Owen Moss
167 S. Westgate
A real stunner made of concrete, but more Postmodern than Brutalist. A prow juts out into the sea breeze. Very cool!”
A couple of closing points are in order here. While Gebhard and Winter are a great source of information, they certainly didn’t (and probably didn’t intend to) cover everything that might be architecturally significant in Los Angeles. In other words, there’s still more work to be done. Another point is that SurveyLA is concerned with more than just architecture. We’re also trying to get at places that shed light on history more broadly: politics, gender, ethnicity, class, and culture. Some of these places may not even be buildings or landscapes shaped by architecture at all. That’s one reason why we’re so eager to hear your historic place suggestions. To document the places that have shaped the history of Los Angeles, we’re going to need all the input we can get.