Ed Ruscha’s Aerial Photographs of Van Nuys: 1967


Edward Ruscha [roo-SHAY] (b. 1937) has had a long career in Los Angeles making poetry out of banality. His photographs of Los Angeles apartment buildings, gas stations and other drive-by scenery was ground breaking art in the 1960s.

Twentysix Gasoline Stations ( Source: http://oliverjwood.com. Oliver Wood. License: All Rights Reserved.)

Twentysix Gasoline Stations
Source: http://oliverjwood.com. Oliver Wood. License: All Rights Reserved.)

“26 Gas Stations” (1962) ,with its now widely available Rockwell Standard Font, has been copied so much it has turned Rusha into cliché.


 

I found these fascinating studies of parking lots seen from above that Ruscha made in 1967. They show Van Nuys (and North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks)  paved over and baked in sun.  Patterns of suburban development, diagonal lines and box stores, trailer parks and shopping centers, become cubist abstractions from Ruscha’s bird’s eye view.

These are all in the collections of the UK Tate Gallery. They sell for many thousands of dollars, are collected by wealthy people, and hang on the walls of large homes from East Hampton to Knightsbridge.

When you are sober, remember:  some very important people in the art world consider aerial photographs of Van Nuys’ parking lots as collectible art.

14601 Sherman Way

14601 Sherman Way

7133 Kester

7133 Kester

7101 Sepulveda

7101 Sepulveda: ED RUSCHA Parking Lots #20 (7101 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys), 1967/1999 Gelatin Silver Print image: 15″ x 15″ / paper: 20″ x 16″ Signed and editioned in pencil verso Edition 9/35 $8,500 framed Walker Waugh Director Yancey Richardson 525 West 22nd St. NY, NY 10011 Tel: 646.230.9610 Fax: 646.230.6131

14655 Sherman Way

14655 Sherman Way

14425 Sherman Way

14425 Sherman Way

Fashion Square, Sherman Oaks

Fashion Square, Sherman Oaks

6610 Laurel Canyon

6610 Laurel Canyon

 

 

“Hi, Neighbor” Queen Candidates: May 4, 1951


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Officiating at a beauty contest: actor William Demarest who became “Uncle Charlie” on TV’s My Three Sons (1960-72)

“Hi Neighbor” queen candidates at Valley Municipal Building in Van Nuys, CA, May 4, 1951.

Actor William Demarest, Marlene Morrison, Janet Samprenant, Marine Sergeant Bob Fowler.

(Photo: USC Digital Archives)

Van Nuys: 1926


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At the corner of 15856 Sherman Way , Van Nuys, 1926.

Wagner-Thoreson appears to be a real estate broker and they are offering one property, a 3-bedroom house at $2350 and another sign advertises 7.5% terms with $1,050 down.

This area today is west of the 405, and just east of Van Nuys Airport.

Photo: USC Digital Archives/ Dick Whittington Collection

Beer Bloggers Gather at MacLeod’s.


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Andreas and Andrew.

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Brew Master Andy Black at his work station.

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Linda Whitney: “So many beers, so little time…”

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MacLeod’s held a special event, this past Sunday, for beer bloggers at its new brewery in Van Nuys.

The actual opening is Sunday, June 22 at 14741 Calvert St.

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Co-owner Jennifer Febre Boase.

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Artisanal cheeses, Scottish crackers and biscuits were served alongside pints of The Little Spree (Yorkshire Pale Ale).

The vibe was clean, fresh, friendly and authentic.

There is nothing like it in LA. And it may carve out a new niche of lower alcohol beers brewed authentically British.

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Owner Alastair Boase serves Andreas Samson.

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Hand lettered chalk signs were created by Alastair.

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Jesse Cairnie

Jesse Cairnie

Van Nuys Boulevard, Circa 1940


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From the Department of Water and Power photo archives, comes this photograph of the Norvord Building at  6420 Van Nuys Boulevard, just north of Victory, circa 1940.

Van Nuys Boulevard, before it was widened in 1954, had diagonal parking, as Brand Boulevard in Glendale does today.

In looking at the above photograph, one can see that the 1920s building, had, by 1940, undergone some modernist facade renovations with curved glass at Mode O’Day and streamline signage at Arnold W. Leveen Hardware.  The simple and lovely “Van Nuys Stationary Store” had a discreet sign and an awning to shade the interior from the sun.

Van Nuys Boulevard was a walkable, civilized, clean and prosperous street in the heart of the San Fernando Valley.  Locals shopped here and patronized small businesses who in turn watched over the community.  That was Van Nuys 74 years ago.

And what is it today?

The Day Great Architecture Comes to Van Nuys.


 

Proposed development at 6908 Vesper Avenue goes before the PLUM.

Proposed development at 6908 Vesper Avenue goes before the PLUM.

At last night’s Planning and Land Use Meeting a few developers proposed a few developments for review.

A 49-unit apartment building, three stories tall, was characterized as ruinous to a neighborhood of mostly single family homes.

A 5-story senior apartment complex seemed to pass muster, after its parking and setbacks were revised.


 

In the large land mass that is Van Nuys, there is very little construction.

The downtown is shabby, full of vacancies.  The only new businesses sell pot, massages and bail bonds.

Victory, Vanowen, Oxnard, all compete for the ugliest street awards.


 

I wondered, after leaving the meeting, what might happen if Mayor Eric Garcetti brought architects, developers, community leaders and the citizens of Van Nuys together to create a Van Nuys Experimental Architecture District.

It makes sense. Land is cheaper. There are vacant lots and substandard buildings. Property could be acquired cheaply and the location is great, right in the center of the SFV.

Borrowing photos from the architecture website Dezeen, I came up with some projects that might be built in Van Nuys, and perhaps objections that might be raised.

The-Centro-de-Artes-Nadir-Afonso-by-Louise-Braverman_dezeen_1sq

“Where’s the parking?”

XAN-House-by-MAPA

XAN-House-by-MAPA

“You’ll have a bunch of derelicts hanging out. And that wall is going to be tagged.”

New-North-Zealand-Hospital-by-Herzog-and-de-Meuron

New-North-Zealand-Hospital-by-Herzog-and-de-Meuron

“This is crazy. It’s way too big. And I don’t want my neighbors looking down at my wife when she’s showering.”

Paris-Housing-by-Vous-Etes-Ici

Paris-Housing-by-Vous-Etes-Ici

“I mean this is just silly. You have crazy colored windows all over the building. And the angles make me dizzy. What about something more Mission Style?”

Strasbourg-School-of-Architecture

Strasbourg-School-of-Architecture

“I agree we need some new buildings on Van Nuys Boulevard. But these should have at least 1,200 parking spaces for cars along the street. That’s how you make a development!”

Switch-restaurant-and-residence-by-Apollo-Architects

Switch-restaurant-and-residence-by-Apollo-Architects

“It looks like a toaster to me. And the neighborhood is all 1950s ranch houses. The circle looks like a target and that makes we worried.”

Coop-Himmelblaus-House-of-Music-invites-orchestras-to-Aalborg

Coop-Himmelblaus-House-of-Music-invites-orchestras-to-Aalborg

“Just because Eli Broad donates $100 million for a Van Nuys Arts Center doesn’t mean he can ram this down our throats.  I object because where are the front porches?”

Jaurès-primary-school-by-Yoonseux_

Jaurès-primary-school-by-Yoonseux_

“Why is one column diagonal and the other vertical? To me it seems crazy. And underneath this you’ll have homeless, skateboarders and maybe teenagers making out and doing other things they shouldn’t!”

Siegerland-Motorway-Church

Siegerland-Motorway-Church

“Ok, it’s a church. I get it. But where is the one steeple? It’s nothing like what you see in Vermont and that’s what I think Van Nuys should look like.”

Rain in Van Nuys: November 14, 1952



From the USC Digital Archives come these photographs of flooding in Van Nuys at Tyrone and Sylvan Streets (a block east of the Valley Municipal Building) after heavy rains.

Caption reads: “Mrs. Agnes Snyder removes debris from car on flooded street. Wayne WIlson (bare foot) crosses St. Overall views of flooded Tyrone Ave. — cars submerged. Kids in stalled car.”

There are smiles on the faces of people, a lack of jadedness, that seems characteristic of that era. The hardship is harmless, nobody is getting hurt, the flooding is inconvenient and messy, but they are making the best of it.

Imagine the same situation in today’s Van Nuys.

A herd of fatties stuck inside their SUV, DVD player and boom boxes blaring, everyone on their mobile phones, three enormous women with tattoos, dressed in black leggings, broadcasting their “movie” on their smartphones with scowling and angry faces, never knowing how to live in the moment.

The Best Thing to Happen in Van Nuys in 50 Years…..(is a month away)


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The best thing to happen in Van Nuys (in the past half century) is about a month away from opening.

MacLeod Ale Brewing Company must already exist because they have a Facebook page. But further proof is evident at 14741 Calvert St. (east of Kester, three blocks north of Oxnard) where workers installed tanks and sinks, concrete counters and concrete floors, and a large cold storage room.

MacLeod will brew and serve fresh British style ales. Married owners Jennifer and Alastair Boase are carving out a civilized niche of craft brewing in the industrial heartland of old Van Nuys. Joining them is Head Brewer Andy Black who left Rhode Island, studied his passion in the UK, and came out to California.

Like Eagle Rock Brewery, also housed in a concrete industrial building, MacLeod will have a cinderblock facade. Nothing will really show the passerby that something great is happening inside.

But just wait until May…..

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Striped Buildings.


A developer presented a plan for senior housing, on a site at Vose and Van Nuys Boulevard, at last night’s Van Nuys Planning and Land Use (PLUM) meeting.

This is along that very wide part of Van Nuys Boulevard where the blight of downtown Van Nuys gives way to an airy nothingness of expanse into the Valley moonscape. Eight lanes of roadway go north and go south, past McDonalds, Aamco Transmissions and Earl Scheib’s Paint and Body.

The proposed four-story complex is on land now occupied by Baires Auto Market. Baires is housed in what looks like an old pancake house, white framed and peaked roof, in a mid-century Protestant style, where blueberries and syrup were poured after Sunday services.

Renderings of the new four-story age and memory challenged facility show broken blocks of verticality, indented and tinted, dressed up with trees and vines.

An architect and a corporate spokeswoman described the frailty of the intended residents, ideally desiccated and disabled, unable to drive, and therefore not capable of making more traffic. Kitchenless units will be occupied by dwellers who will dine in communal dining rooms, monitored and managed by round-the-clock workers, arriving in shifts, parking in one of 61 underground spaces.

Over 80, weak, needing assistance, losing their memory, infirm; the suffering of age was advertised as an attribute. For here would come those who would not need schooling or parking spaces, but just a temporary place to live before death.

And there was the illustration of the new building, broken up in colors and pieces, a collection of cliches, impossibly inoffensive.

All over Los Angeles, along the new condos on LaBrea in West Hollywood, over in Santa Monica, and here in Van Nuys, we live in-between newly erected stripes and corrugated boxes.

The new buildings have mass. But it is presented not in grandeur, but shame; fractured, divided, sliced, multi-tinted. It is a style meant to soothe communities, and to disguise big projects by making them seem small and insignificant.

It almost makes one long for the arrogance of brutalism.

The new architecture is poll-tested and market-driven, without balls or bravado.