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The LAist Interview: Kimberli Meyer, MAK Center for Art and Architecture

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Both despite and because of many intense past, current and future battles to retain it, Angelenos are increasingly aware of our city’s architectural heritage. This category ranges from the missions to faux Norman castles to austere minimalist spaces. We’re presently living a renaissance era for modernism – a critical mass is more than ever enthralled with the work of largely émigré architects for whom Los Angeles was an ideal environment in which to experiment with built forms and new materials, blissfully free of historic precedent.

Perhaps the largest name recognition is held by Rudolph M. Schindler (1887-1953), who came to Los Angeles in 1920 to work with Frank Lloyd Wright on the construction of the Hollyhock House. He stayed for myriad reasons, and his career flourished. And now the MAK Center for Art and Architecture maintains both Schindler’s own home and studio in West Hollywood (built 1921-22) and his legacy. In conjunction with the MAK Museum in Vienna, the Center also sponsors exhibitions and related activities aimed at generating ongoing discussions about the changing realms of art and culture.

You can experience stellar examples of Los Angeles’s modern residential tradition this Sunday, October 2nd when the MAK Architecture Tour showcases significant homes designed by Schindler, John Lautner and Gregory Ain. The self-guided tour features structures that are not otherwise open to the public. (Call 323.651.1500 or email office@makcenter.org for tickets.)

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Age and Occupation:

44, Director of the MAK Center for Art and Architecture Los Angeles at the Schindler House, also artist/architect

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

I've been in greater Los Angeles for 12 years, the city itself for 10. I currently reside in Koreatown.

Where are you from?

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I was born in Manhattan, Kansas and grew up in Madison, Wisconsin.

What are some factors that catalyzed the surge of interest in modern architecture in Los Angeles over the past few years?

There are numerous factors, I won't speak to all of them, but here are some thoughts:

Cities develop their own life cycles, narratives, consciousnesses. Los Angeles is young and just beginning to self-reflect seriously enough to acknowledge its histories. LA is catching on that some pretty interesting architecture and thinking about design occurred here. People are realizing that it's interesting to look at actual specimens, and that many have already been torn down. Preservation activism like the initiatives of the LA Conservancy, have played a significant role in raising awareness.

Internationally, Los Angeles has long been recognized as a well-spring for ambitious innovative design activity. As modernism began to take hold in the 20's, the physical, cultural and intellectual climate of Los Angeles made it an attractive place to live and work. For architects, the physical climate made it possible to experiment in ways not possible in Europe or Chicago.

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Regarding the latest taste for the modernist design aesthetic, maybe it has to do with the fact that (in my unscientific opinion) clean modern lines make people's messy lives look more visually pleasing. Modernist design at its best somehow organizes the clutter, making everyday life look kind of chic in its unkempt state. Dirty dishes in a good-looking stainless steel sink can look glamorous - it's domesticity's version of a 5 o'clock stubble
in fancy clothes.

Photo with artist/filmmaker Isaac Julien.