How can a building be like a mixed tape?
In the age of hip hop, we think nothing of mashing together bits and pieces of different tracks to come up with something both new and familiar at the same time.
Lift a beat here, add a bass line from over there and throw in a vocal track from that other place and you’ve got a brand new joint… that somehow sounds like the old joint, too.
Nothing new about musical mashups and remixing.
But what if you applied that idea to architecture?
“I couldn’t get those kind of details with my cheesy clients. They didn’t have any money.” – Frank Gehry
The young guns of LA architecture came of age during the artistic explosion of the 1960s and 1970s. Surrounded by ground-breaking artists creating a whole new way of thinking about sculpture, performance and images, these architects were anxious to apply the new ideas to their own work.
The architectural style which became known as postmodernism was as much about a lack of money as it was about artistic vision.
No budgets and few resources meant that architects like Frank Gehry couldn’t achieve the Viennese perfection of his predecessors. Instead, he chose to use unorthodox materials such as corrugated aluminum, chain link fencing and raw plywood to create his designs. These building materials were easy to find, cheap to buy and made a wry comment on the industrial sprawl which weaves throughout Los Angeles.
One of Gehry’s first experiments was his own house in Santa Monica.
Frank Gehry: Architectural DJ
Beginning as a modest pink bungalow on a street stuffed with other modest pink bungalows, Gehry completely transformed his home. He literally wrapped the building in metal sheets and fencing. Cutaways revealing the original structure slashed across the facade. It became a house within a house. Gehry credits Rauschenberg’s combines as inspiration for his own architectural collage and with giving him permission to not only think outside the box, but to break the box entirely.
Later, his uncompromisingly brash designs such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; the Chiat/ Day Building in Santa Monica and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles made him one of the most famous architects of our time. His work also earned him as many critics as fans.
On his way to achieving architectural stardom, Gehry accepted smaller commissions as well.
One of those assignments included remodeling a stoic Cape Cod on Woodrow Wilson Drive.
From the outside, the 1940 wood-clapped home looks as if it just snatched from Connecticut suburb and dropped on the top of Laurel Canyon. The Kellerman-Krane Residence, named for its former owners, actress Sally Kellerman and director Jonathan Krane, was reimagined by a relatively unknown Frank Gehry in 1983.
Compared to his other works, this commission is quite restrained and even genteel.
What is surprising is how well it works.
Whereas many east coast homes exude a cozy, protective feel much like a favorite old sweater, Gehry’s rugged redesign creates space and light without losing the warmth. His remodel reflects the sunshine and open horizons that define the Southern Californian lifestyle.
One of the remarkable trademarks of a Frank Gehry is the sense of movement and dynamism in his creations.
Gehry still makes use of metal siding and the like, but in a way which blends subtly with the existing home. And his generous use of wood helps to retain the original spirit of the Cape Cod style.
Check out the clever use of a clerestory window that brings light into the room without drawing attention to itself.
Over the years, the home fell into disrepair. The current owners rescued the property a little over a year ago and gave the place a bright new facelift. Wisely, they refrained from disturbing Gehry’s intent which shines through in its current incarnation.
With five bedrooms, six bathrooms and a roomy, updated kitchen, the home should appeal to the needs of many modern homeowners.
The Kellerman-Krane Residence is currently offered for sale at $4,995,000.
Listing and photos courtesy of Rodeo Realty, John Galich and Daniel Schott.