A Guide to Architecture in Los Angeles & Southern California
Gebhard, David, and Winter, Robert
Santa Barbara: Peregrine-Smith, 1977, pap. $11.95
Pildas, Ave. Art Deco Los Angeles
Text by Liza Williams
New York: Harper and Row, 1977, pap. $4.95
The commercial architecture of Los Angeles has long been renowned for its imagination and creative spirit. Two recent books prove the reality of the image. David Gebhard and Robert Winter, established experts in the area, have produced an impressive guide to Los Angeles architecture. Within electric blue covers is a valuable survey of the notable roadside restaurants from the 1920s and 1930s – what the authors call “Programatic” architecture for want of a better term. Here are the famous Brown Derby, the Hoot Owl Cafe, and the Tail-O-Pup, plus descriptions of several surviving highway strips in southern California – all precisely located and approximately dated. Yet, unfortunately there is never a mention of the freeway landscapes or the drive-ins of the recent past.
A similar eye for commercial architecture of the inter-war period is shown by Ave Pildas with respect to Los Angeles Art Deco. A short text by Liza Williams sets the context for the colorful gems of Wilshire Boulevard and its environs. Some remarkable discoveries are presented including several movie ticket booths of great character and the magical neon of the Rose Bowl and the Belmont Theater, the latter obviously mis dated by a good thirty years judging from the flamboyant, baroque design. Both volumes are modestly priced with photographs suffering accordingly, but are worthy additions to understanding the development of commercial architecture in Los Angeles between the wars.
Arthur Krim, Clark University.
This book review originally appeared in the SCA Journal, September 1978, Vol. 1, No. 1. The SCA Journal is a semi-annual publication and a member benefit of the Society for Commercial Archeology.
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