Echo Park ~ Los Angeles

Echo Park: You could say it echoes Brooklyn’s Bushwick; it might even be compared to nearby Silver Lake (a less developed version of it , anyway). This neighbourhood, located 10 minutes from downtown LA, has that energetic feel so prominent of communities that attract a newly-moved-in younger demographic of artists, foodies, and entrepreneurs.

Take Brite Spot, for example. I’ll admit to having passed it a few time, only to dismiss it as just another old-school American diner. Hey, it’s painted bright blue, it’s on busy Sunset Boulevard, and claims to be Echo Park’s original diner since 1949. Ever since I tasted “the best margarita” in New York, I have avoided places making grand statements. However, my husband was convinced is was going to be a find based on many favourable Yelp reviews, so with a twist of the arm, my tummy gave in. We hopped in the car on one very warm Sunday in May and drove inland for brunch.

I have to say that when I entered the diner, I was quite taken with its cosy interior. Even more promising was that the place was buzzing with all sorts: yuppies huddled in a booth discussing last night’s drinking antics, grandparents feeding grandkids; a lone brunette in the corner reading the paper and eating eggs over easy. The space looks like a 1970s ski chalet crossed with grandma-chic — bronze vinyl booths and large windows that let in the gorgeous L.A. light line one side; perpendicular to it is a wall of mirrors, interspersed with retro-looking black-and-white light sconces. Wooden swivel pub chairs surround the central coffee bar, mood lit by an overhanging orbital chandelier. On the menu: on-trend items like egg-topped kale salad, vegan Garden Burger, as well as modern twists of the usual diner fare: 2 eggs any style with sausage and bacon (note: substitutes include egg whites, tofu, or veggie bacon). But it’s the dessert display case that was the apple of my husband’s eye — I immediately knew that our meal would end with a piece of the sinful-looking Chocolate Caramel Banana Creme Pie, piled high with lashings of freshly-whipped cream. I have to admit that our meal was good. Really good, and fairly priced.

Served by a tattooed, plaid-shirt-wearing waitress and surrounded by patrons of all ages — yuppies discussing last night’s drinking antics, grandparents feeding grandkids; a bookish young lady reading the paper over eggs in a corner — Brite Spot Diner feels like a microcosm of what’s happening in Echo Park today.

So, what is going on in this ‘hood? Here’s what Eric Brightwell wrote in the Los Angeles Times back in late 2011:

All you hipster-haters need to check yourself. Yes, hipsters are offensive to the eyes, ears and nose and yes, they provoke violent urges in me but remember, the Echo Park you grew up in wasn’t always that way either. Echo Park began as a wealthy, white, Victorian neighborhood. Places change for the better and for the worse. I remember El Prado when it was a dive (I liked it then) and like it as a posh wine bar too (certainly there are more women in there now).

I miss some of the old Echo Park but it’s still got the Film Center, Pizza Buona, Echo Park lake, the Baxter Stairs, the memory of Room 8 the Cat, Jensen’s Rec Center (with its cool sign).

My advice? Ignore the haters, the hipsters and (most importantly) the hype. It’s not the Williamsburg of LA, it’s Echo Park… oh, and lying WEST of the LA River, don’t be an idiot and call it the EASTside.*

Today, the facades that stretch along this part of Sunset Blvd look relatively unchanged; the burrito joints, liquor store, and tobacconist have probably been here since the 1960s. It’s easier to make out progress by the new condo developments that have been fitted in between many Craftsman-style homes, standing since the early 1900s. If you take a drive down the quieter Echo Park Ave, you’ll pass newly sprouted coffee shops selling $5 coffee pour overs to a WiFi-dependent clientele, as well as a yoga studio, a quirky boutique, hair salon, a bodega, and a real estate agent.

Based on some research I had done earlier, we scouted a beautiful home on Valentine Street. Designed by architect Raphael Sorriano and built in 1938, it is a salute to Modernism – sleek , simple, and lots of windows. Because the neighbourhood is so hilly, many homes have great views towards the Hollywood sign, Griffith Observatory, downtown LA, the Valley and the 5 Freeway. Some downhill descents are so steep that with the gradual build up of momentum, and a subsequent “woosh,” you feel like you’re riding a rollercoaster.

Echo Park is certainly an area to watch and has the familiar feeling of a community on the verge… It’ll take some time to get there but I am happy about that as things seem to happen way too fast in this technology driven world.

The interior of Brite Spot Diner

The interior of Brite Spot Diner

Stumptown (artisan) coffee

Stumptown (artisan) coffee

A bit retro, a bit old school, a bit ski chalet

A bit retro, a bit old school, a bit ski chalet

Stumptown Americano

Stumptown Americano

Kale Salad: Chopped kale, fried egg, bread crumbs, toasted pine nuts, lemon garlic chili dressing $9.75

Kale Salad: Chopped kale, fried egg, bread crumbs, toasted pine nuts,
lemon garlic chili dressing $9.75

Chocolate Caramel Banana Creme Pie

Chocolate Caramel Banana Creme Pie

The Brite Spot vibe

The Brite Spot vibe

Catering to the DAFT PUNK demographic

Catering to the DAFT PUNK demographic

The view from Fargo Street

The view from Fargo Street – looking toward LA’s downtown


Steep streets with view that look onto the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory (right)

Steep streets with view that look onto the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory (right)

If you like rollercoasters, you'll like driving in Echo Park

If you like rollercoasters, you’ll like driving in Echo Park

A sunlit wrought iron gate

A sunlit wrought iron gate

Looking onto the 5 Freeway - the Los Angeles River is in the background too

That’s my husband looking onto the 5 Freeway – the Los Angeles River is in the background too

Smelling fresh baby peaches

Smelling fresh baby peaches

Modernist architect Raphael Sorriano designed this home, built in 1938

Modernist architect Raphael Sorriano designed this home, built in 1938

Another view of the Raphael Sorriano home

Another view of the Raphael Sorriano home




Lost in LACMA’s Details – Los Angeles, CA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is one of the most visually interesting museums I have visited. I only realize this now, despite having visited once before.

As I photograph its exterior for the nth time, I know that the camera-snapping must stop soon. The sun is starting its descent and Ali has been patiently waiting for what feels like ten minutes. Realistically, it’s probably been closer to an hour.

Ever since Ali gave me a Nikon DSLR as a gift, I have been guilty of tacking extra time on to any of our outings and excursions. Suddenly, every detail seems interesting and worthy of a capture – all angles must be photographed, every landmark requires my attention, I cannot leave any stone unturned. It’s a case of – have camera, will travel. Or, is it the other way around?

I take a few more shots of the museum’s exterior – there seems to be a never ending supply of architecture scapes to document. A pop of red against a stark white exterior, here; a cool industrial detail, over there; immaculate gardens punctuated with tall palms abound.

As is the usual scenario these days, whilst I snap, Ali busies himself elsewhere. This time however, he is sitting in my line of sight, at one of the many steel chairs scattered around Chris Burden’s famed sculpture of 202 restored cat iron antique street lamps named Urban Light, engrossed in what seems to be the museum catalogue. I wonder if he’s really reading something that interesting; I bet he’d rather be doing anything but. This is what marriage is all about, I console myself, I am sure the vows alluded to a dedication in equal parts to one another’s hobbies, til death do us part. Ali and his music, me and my photography.

I remember the last trip we’d made to the museum, around two years ago. Back then, I was likely suffering from tunnel-vision, more distracted with the action of ticking LACMA off of my list of pre-NYC-relocation LA-must-see’s as opposed to taking photographs of it. Prior to our trip back to the East Coast, I didn’t pay nearly as much attention to the details as I do now.

I must have already seen the museum’s 4-year-old Broad Contemporary building, though I can’t really be sure as I am sketchy on the details. Today however, I can’t get enough of it. Its architectural design intrigues me – the red fire escape style staircase that zigzags from top to bottom of one of its sides inspires a series of clicks. The red-on-white is reminiscent of pop-art, and brings to mind Warhol. Incidentally, his 1964 oil painting of the Campbell’s Soup Can on canvas, hangs within.

What I am certain of is that I had not seen the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion on the previous visit. Opened in 2010, this is an open plan museum with rotating exhibits, currently showing an enviably curated California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way. Right now, I cannot keep my camera lens away from the building’s exterior. Luckily, it stands opposite the Broad building, which brings me closer to where Ali – still nose-deep in literature – is sitting.

Feeling it too soon to be heading inside – the late afternoon light makes everything look so photogenic – I suggest to Ali that we enjoy a drink prior to viewing the art. We have the time; the museum is open late on Fridays. I had noticed the Modernist-inspired Ray’s restaurant and Stark Bar during my rounds of the exterior, newly constructed and recently opened. We sit in its retro-styled outdoor area and order a round of drinks – a glass of red for me, an artisan-prepared cocktail – tequila muddled with fresh orange peel – for Ali.

As so happens with those who are food-obsessed, drinks lead to a light dinner – we order hamachi, sausage pizza, sea bream in broth. Besides, this place is so chic and pleasant; it puts most other art institution eateries to shame. I insist that every dish is photographed – they beg for my camera’s attention.

Looking at the Renzo Piano designed indoor dining space from the corner of my eye, I suddenly recall a photo I’d seen of a similar construction taken by the late Julius Shulman. Inspired, I excuse myself from the table for a moment – it is a model subject, I need to take a photo of its lines while there is still a good natural light.

As I get up, Ali looks at me, mid-bite in his pizza slice, and muffles, “Just please don’t leave me sitting here for too long.” No, of course not.

70 and Sunny at the Lincoln Centre, NY

Lincoln Center is the world’s leading performing arts center, uniting 11 key arts organizations on one campus. After five decades of artistic excellence and service, Lincoln Center began an award-winning major transformation—now nearly complete—to fully modernize its concert halls and public spaces, renew its 16-acre campus, and reinforce its vitality for decades to come. ~

Whilst I’d been basking under SoCal’s rays, it seems the Lincoln Center was undergoing a grand refresh.

The last time my husband and I had visited the ‘old’ Lincoln Center was about five years ago, prior to our West Coast relocation. I’d bought tickets to see the epic, War and Peace; it was a way for me to reconnect and relive my Russian School days of reading the tome in Cyrillic. My husband, for completely different reasons, will never forget the 3-hour operatic experience. Since that time, I have only driven and walked alongside the space, but never really explored its ‘newness’. However, I could see a change.

On a recent 70-and-sunny day in the City (LA was under rain, so…), I spent an hour within the revitalised outdoor complex on the Upper West Side. Lines cut the space; glass filled in the gaps; steel was abundant. I was torn. I liked what I saw yet I couldn’t help but wish for the Center’s past. Despite there being some nostalgia associated with the design of yesteryear, I struggled to recall what it actually looked like. I just knew it was part of the New York that I fell in love with years ago.

What a strong reminder to pay attention to the details. I’ve learned my lesson.

Here I present those new architectural details mixed in with some of the original exteriors. Enjoy.


Entering via Ronald P. Stanton Way.

This is Hearst Plaza, accessed by a set of stairs with a digital display of updated information. To the right,  the new Lincoln Ristorante – designed by Diller Scofifio + Renfro, it’s Italian menu is overseen by Chef Jonathan Benno.

The reflecting pool, home to Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure.

The Lincoln Center Theatre, host to War Horse.

Public Green Spaces. The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Lawn…

…and tree-canopied Barclays Capital Grove.

The Met Opera Shop.

Reflections in The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.


Framed by steel.

The top of The Juilliard School.

Lincoln Center’s Revson Fountain on Josie Robertson Plaza is considered one of the performing arts center’s most recognizable destinations for countless visitors from around the world…

The redesign by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in association with Beyer Blinder Belle and WET Design enhanced the Fountain with new technologies for special-effect water shows and gives this famous attraction the appearance of a floating granite

It’s good to see that some peace in architecture reigns where the Russian opera was seen years ago.

Lights in the David A. Koch Theatre – scene of the Nutcracker at Christmas.

Divided. The Metropolitan Opera House to the left; Avery Fisher Hall – to the right.

The view towards Columbus Avenue.

Avery’s archways.

View from Columbus Ave. To the left – the 2,544-seat David H. Koch Theater reopened after a full renovation of the original 1964 Philip Johnson/John Burgee building. The interior work, by JCJ Architecture, was funded in major part by Mr. Koch and his gift of a cool $100 Million. ~, in 2009

Departing a bit of serenity in the midst of the daily rush.

Shulman Inspired, California Desired

I think it’s just a beautiful way of thinking of my dad and Los Angeles as siblings. They really did grow up together. ~ Judy McKee, daughter of Julius Shulman

Shulman’s pictures have this base of romance to them. His work represents a certain ideal that happened years ago. ~ Ed Ruscha, artist

History is strange. Here, it becomes mystical. ~ Julius Shulman on Los Angeles

Singleton House, Los Angeles, 1960 ~ Neutra, Richard Joseph, Architect

Within 24 hours I garnered a greater appreciation for Californian architecture than ever before thanks to the works of a leading 20th century photographer, the late Julius Schulman (1910-2009).

This happened while watching the 90-minute documentary, Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Schulman, and afterwards, researching what I had seen. I appreciate that fellow bloggers, All About Travel and The Way I See It recommended I see the film (in response to my Vintage Inspired California post).

I was ordained to become a photographer, I was destined... ~ Julius Shulman

Miller House, Palm Springs, 1937-41 ~ Neutra, Richard Joseph , Architect

Director and producer Eric Bricker does an excellent job of giving us a glimpse into Mr. Shulman’s life. Filmed in his mid nineties, Shulman comes across as a man of quick wit, a man who loves life and Los Angeles, a man who was passionate about his craft.

Life is good. Life can be beautiful. What more can I ask? ~ Schulman said after receiving his Honorary degree from Westbury University, CA, at 90-something years of age.

University of California, Irvine, 1968 ~ William L. Pereira Associates , Architect

The film introduces us to Shulman in his home, located high in the Hollywood Hills. We hear Shulman’s personal recollections, witness his handover of assets to the Getty Center,  see him honoured with a Doctorate of Architecture. As I watched the film, I wondered why I hadn’t researched his work earlier. I wish I had met him.

The whole story of my life will now be transposed to Mr. Getty’s Hall ~ Julius Shulman

Shulman House, Los Angeles, 1951 ~ Soriano, Raphael, Architect

Shulman House – another perspective

Julius Shulman’s Home designed by Raphael Soriano, 1951. (© J. Paul Getty Trust, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis by Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods, Rizzoli New York, 2011.)

Having lived in Southern California for a couple of years, I was drawn to Los Angeles’ modernist architecture, which Shulman so beautifully photographed — photographs that made him the  “most important architectural photographer in history,” gallery owner Craig Krull has said.

Craig Krull once exhibited Shulman’s photographs in an art show – he believed Shulman elevated commercial architectural photography to fine art – and was instrumental in selecting The Getty Research Institute as the archive for Shulman’s works.

Hensman House, Los Angeles, 1976

AISI "Style in Steel Home", Buena Park, 1967 ~ Wexler, Donald, Architect

AISI “Style in Steel Home”, Buena Park, 1967 ~ Wexler, Donald, Architect

Franks House, Los Angeles, 1968 ~ Farber, Rick, Architect

Beverly Hills Hotel, Addition, Beverly Hills, 1950 ~ Williams, Paul R., and Grey. Elmer, Architects

Beverly Hills Hotel, Addition, Beverly Hills, 1950 ~ Williams, Paul R., and Grey. Elmer, Architects

In 1936, returning to L.A. after a dismal seven-year stint at the University of California, Berkeley, Shulman accompanied a draftsman to the Kun Residence of modernist architect Richard Neutra. Shulman took six photographs of the under-construction home with a Kodak Vest Pocket 127-format camera. Neutra liked the photos so much that he asked Shulman to photograph more of his houses.

“March 5, 1936 — I remember the day — we shook hands for the first time,” Shulman said in an LA Times interview. “I met Richard Neutra, and that was the day I became a photographer.”*

Dropping out of UC Berkeley had set him on a new path.

Julius Shulman and architect Richard Neutra at the Tremaine House, Los Angeles, 1947

The modernist designs of legendary Frank Lloyd Wright, visionary John Lautner, and Neutra, provided Shulman with photogenic subjects.

His work will survive me.  Film is stronger and good glossy prints are easier to ship than brute concrete, stainless steel, or even ideas ~ Richard Neutra

LIFE and Arts and Architecture magazines used Schulman’s photographs to elevate LA’s status as a progressive city.

Shulman became an invaluable contributor to the burgeoning architectural movement, not only as a correspondent, but as talent scout and respected tastemaker as well ~ Dustin Hoffman narrated in Visual Acoustics.

Academy Theatre, Inglewood, 1940 ~ Lee, S. Charles, Architect

Academy Theatre, Inglewood, 1940 ~ Lee, S. Charles, Architect

Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, 1956 ~ Welton Becket and Associates, Architect

Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, 1956 ~ Welton Becket and Associates, Architect

Shrine Civic Auditorium (Los Angeles, 1975 ~ Adelman, Abraham A. , Lansburgh, G. Albert, Austin, John C. W. – Architects

Arts and Architecture Magazine ran an unprecedented experiment called the The Case Study House Program, an initiative spearheading the design of efficient homes for the typical Post WWII family. (That is, function vs. form). Shulman’s photograph of Pierre Koenig’s Case Study 22, below, was described as one of the ‘most evocative images of 20th Century architecture’. See my Vintage Inspired California post for more examples from this program.

Case Study 22 ~ Koenig, Pierre, Architect

“Your pictures are incredible for an amateur and better than most professionals,” Frank LLoyd Wright wrote in a note to Shulman after he’d photographed one of his designs.

You may recognise some of the interiors, below, from the movie, Bladerunner.

Bradbury Building, Los Angeles, 1970 ~ Wyman, George, Architect

Bradbury Building, Los Angeles, 1970 ~ Wyman, George, Architect

Charles Ennis

Ennis House, Los Angeles, 1953-68 ~ Wright, Frank Lloyd, Architect

Ennis Interior

Ennis House, Interior ~ Wright, Frank Lloyd, Architect

Storer House, Los Angeles, 1985 ~ Wright, Frank Lloyd, Architect

The essence of a Julius Shulman photograph comes from his artful composition of interiors from a one-point perspective, so that “the modern (would) unfold in a beautiful way.”

Somehow he’s able to put so much of himself into the vantage point that you feel his presence in the room even if he’s not in the frame ~ Tom Ford, designer

Malin House “Chemosphere”, Los Angeles, 1961 ~ Lautner, John, Architect

Burgess House, PalmSprings, 1984 ~ Frey, Albert , Architect

Burgess House, Palm Springs, 1984 ~ Frey, Albert , Architect

Silvertop, Los Angeles, 1980 ~ Lautner, John, Architect

Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles, 1966 ~ Yamasaki, Minoru, Architect

Ultimately though, it was Shulman’s spirit, attitude, and sense of humour that made him a success. In response to a question about the enjoyment and passion he exhibited for his photographic work, he replied, “Yes (I enjoy my work) – what else is there?”

I have this vision of him wandering around, whether it’s in the hills or in the town, seeking the world through his camera ~ Judy McKee describing Shulman’s jaunts around Los Angeles

Mobil Gas Station, Smith and Williams, Anaheim, 1956. (© J. Paul Getty Trust, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis by Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods, Rizzoli New York, 2011.)

Johnny’s, Los Angeles, 1956

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1965 ~ William L. Pereira and Associates, Architect

Town & Country Restaurant, Palm Springs, 1949 ~ Jones, A. Quincy, Williams, Paul R., Architect

Shulman was always in command of his 70-year career.

“I control what I call, the visual acoustics,” he said after a slight disagreement with his photographer associate, Juergen Nogai, while photographing Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles. NB: Schulman helped Gehry land his first client.

Together, Nogai and Shulman photographed close to 200 houses.

Blue Jay House, Los Angeles • Zoltan Pali, Architect. © Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai

Disney Hall, Los Angeles, Frank Gehry, Architect. Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai

Shulman’s spirit lives on at Getty Center, whose archive includes 260,000 of the phootgrapher’s negatives, transparencies and prints; through book publishers such as TASCHEN; and at Westbury University in Burbank’s Julius Shulman Institute, which promotes the built environment through photography.**

Shulman remained a faithful steward to the modernist ideal. Ultimately, his vast photographic archives would become an indispensable resource as public taste later turned enthusiastically back to modernism.~ Visual Acoustics

Shulman’s archives serve as a long-lasting, tangible reminder of the 20th-Century modernist movement and LA’s development as a city.

Robert L. Frost Memorial Auditorium, Culver City, 1963

San Diego Stadium, 1967 ~ Frank L. Hope & Associates, Architect

Stuart Pharmaceuticals, Pasadena, 1958 ~ Stone, Edward Durell, Architect

Looking Over Griffith Observatory and Los Angeles From Mount Hollywood, 1936. (© Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis by Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods, Rizzoli New York, 2011.)

* **