UNIT TRIP: LA LA LAND Review

by Vidhya Pushpanathan, AA 4th Year and Eleanor Dodman, AA 5th Year Diploma Unit 9
09 December 2013 Los Angeles, California   Before you begin to understand the Diploma 9 unit trip, it is important for you to know a few things. Diploma 9 is composed of 2 men and 10 women including our unit master, Natasha Sandmeier. We began our journey by arriving at the airport 2 hours in advance of our flight to have breakfast but still had to run to catch the plane. We arrived at the gate, out of breath and at the point of passing out, only to find that the gate was not closing and there was still a line. So not only had we hurried for no reason, but we were then all sweaty and uncomfortable for our epic 11 hour journey.   This year the unit agenda is the unbuilt so the itinerary on our trip was split between the polar opposites of the unbuilt and the ultra built. Our travels between iconic LA houses and the Salk Institute were interrupted by visits to Fox and Universal Studios.   [caption id="attachment_2518" align="alignnone" width="360"] James Turrell Light Space in The Sheats Goldstein House[/caption] We began our tour by visiting houses, starting with Schindler’s House. It was a great introduction to the iconic homes in LA, as a museum that we could move around at our own pace and actually inhabit the space. Our second stop was the Sheats Goldstein House where the owner often opens up his home for celebrity parties and photo shoots for the likes of Italian Vogue. A highlight was a light space that James Turrell had custom-built for the owner, which we of course took full advantage of for our own personal photo shoot. Finally, our house tour culminated with a visit to the Stahl house where the types of photos we could take of this project were restricted. This led to most of our images mimicking the composition of the iconic images by Julius Shulman that made it a symbol of LA domesticity.   [caption id="attachment_2521" align="alignnone" width="360"] Unit Photo outside the Stahl House (Case Study House #22)[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_2517" align="alignnone" width="360"] The Salk Institute by Louis Kahn[/caption] Our second tour of iconic buildings was a short one. Due to their monumentality, most of them have been so well documented that our experiences of the buildings were more or less what we expected. The one building that stood out was the Salk Institute. This is because we had an exceptional tour guide who had no architectural background but was pulling out more architectural quotes, statements and descriptions than most architects do. She also related the building to us as if Louis Kahn had personally explained to her what he was trying to do. She definitely added another layer of fun to our experience.   [caption id="attachment_2519" align="alignnone" width="270"] House Designed by Frank Gehry, Venice Beach[/caption] The next visit was purely for us to fully engage and experience the culture of LA. We had a tour of Venice by Mark Mack and saw houses designed by Gehry before his Bilbao design phase. We also decided to participate in tourist activities like cycling from Santa Monica beach to Venice Beach.
[caption id="attachment_2520" align="alignnone" width="360"] Cycling past Santa Monica Beach[/caption] Finally, we had a full day at Universal Studios to experience the rides that recreate spaces and perceptions from movies without actually building the entire movie set. We unanimously agreed that our trip to Fox studio’s archive and design department was great for the unit's unbuilt theme. We were shown sets that were partially built, sets that have been used multiple times, and concept drawings. What was interesting was how detailed the construction drawings were and how they had biblical-sized tomes about types of columns, swatches, materials, and so on for each different movie.   All in all LA was everything and more that we were hoping for as we got back onto the plane for our 10 hour return flight to London.   [caption id="attachment_2523" align="alignnone" width="360"] Crystal Cathedral by Philip Johnson[/caption] For more information: Diploma 9 Unit Brief Diploma 9 Extended Brief Diploma 9 Microsite