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The LAist Interview: John Chase, City of West Hollywood

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Ably processing Los Angeles’s extraordinary built environment requires thinkers who can look it through a dynamic lens that takes into consideration way more than what’s typically thought of as “good” architecture. Understanding LA means peeking into the cracks of the city and embracing what some might dismiss as sheer vulgarity. Moreover, creatively adding to the physical fabric of our city and meeting its needs beyond the strip mall paradigm necessitates a deeply complex appreciation for Los Angeles and its environs, a keen historical perspective, and design know-how.

John Chase has used his amazing skill set -- which combines all of the above and more -- at the City of West Hollywood for many years. (The Target and Gateway project might have looked much worse if John weren’t on the case.) Non-WeHo residents can appreciate his work through his acclaimed books, including Glitter Stucco and Dumpster Diving and Exterior Decoration: Hollywood's Inside-Out Houses. The Regency style's fantastic recent comeback is evidence of how John's research continues to influence contemporary designers. And John knows other cities, too. In collaboration with another accomplished scholar of the myriad physical and intangible elements that make up Los Angeles, Frances Anderton, he published a guide to architecture in Las Vegas.

Age and Occupation:

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51 and climbing, urban designer for City of West Hollywood.

Where are you from? South Pasadena

How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and what neighborhood do you live in?

51 years, South Pasadena, Exposition Park, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Silverlake, Echo Park and Venice.

Your books all examine and celebrate oft-overlooked architectural types and styles. What initially drew you to this aspect of architectural and urban history, and why does it continue to capture your fancy?

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Frank Lloyd Wright is so well covered that there are entire books that are bibliographies for Wright references alone. I wanted the road less traveled, and I wanted to write about universal and everyday experience, rather than the more rarefied moment of high art
architectural culture considered only within an high art climate.

How do you incorporate your knowledge of and respect for the
vernacular landscape into your work as the Urban Designer for the City
of West Hollywood?

By letting a thousand flowers bloom -- trying not to edit for any particular style or approach but looking for strengths and meaningful relationships internal to a particular genre of architecture.