7 Preserved Modern Architecture Icons in Los Angeles

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By Brandi Andres / Published by Dwell
The Los Angeles Conservancy announced the recipients of its 34th Annual Preservation Awards, and has honored architect and Googie preservationist, Alan Hess, with this year’s President’s Award. Here's a peek at this year's winners.

Of all the deserving submissions for the 34th Annual Los Angeles Conservancy Preservation Awards, seven L.A. County projects were awarded the decorated honor: two Richard Neutra designs (Hafley House in Long Beach and Kun House in Hollywood), Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, the Pacific Electric Railway in Torrance, Downtown L.A.’s Rosslyn Hotel Apartments, the Lincoln Place Apartment Homes in Venice, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, and the LAUSD earned recognition for its Historic Context Statement.

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Built in 1953 by Richard Neutra in the city of Long Beach, Hafley House remained the family home of Olan Hafley, a General Motors executive, and his wife Aida, until her death in 2010. The property's new owners painstakingly restored the home to its midcentury modern splendor.

Architect, historian, educator, and Dwell on Design speaker Alan Hess received the highest honor for his continued dedication to the preservation of midcentury buildings throughout Los Angeles County, and stretching beyond to Palm Springs and Las Vegas. Hess has consistently defended architecture’s underdogs, such as the coffee shops, ranch houses, and suburbs of postwar living, arguing they are a part of American culture.

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The second Neutra home to receive preservation honors this year is Kun House, a Hollywood Hills home originally built in the mid-1930s for Joseph Kun, a publisher of the Los Angeles Examiner.

A leader of midcentury modern preservation, Hess published his first book, Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture, in 1985. Hess has since become the "preeminent authority on Modern architecture and urbanism in the mid-twentieth century," according to the Conservancy, and was one of the first to write about John Lautner, William Pereira, and Oscar Niemeyer.

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Frank Lloyd Wright's first Los Angeles project, Hollyhock House, received a meticulous repair and $4.3 million restoration, reflecting a major achievement for the City of Los Angeles and strong civic stewardship.

This year, Hess has actively fought for the preservation of Norms La Cienega, a Googie-style coffee shop that recently earned a unanimous vote by the Cultural Heritage Commission to designate it a Historic-Cultural Monument. A long process is still ahead for the building, but recently more have spoke out in support of the cause, such as Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, who publicly stated, "I made Mad Men with one agenda early on: Stop tearing stuff down. You’re gonna miss it."

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This garden apartment community of Lincoln Place survived a preservation battle spanning more than a decade; it thrives once again with a mix of historic buildings and sensitive new construction.

The L.A. Conservancy will host its awards luncheon on Thursday, May 7, at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

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The 1913 Pacific Electric Railway, El Prado Bridge, is a Torrance, California icon and a signature design of architect Irving Gill. The bridge’s repair and stabilization project arrived just in time for its 100th birthday.

On Sunday, May 31, Hess will join the Conservancy’s Director of Advocacy, Adrian Scott Fine, to discuss Googie architecture and the battle over Norms La Cienega, at Dwell on Design. 

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The former luxury hotel, Rosslyn Hotel Apartments, opened its doors on Fifth and Main in Downtown L.A. in 1923, and was once one of the largest luxury hotels on the West Coast. The Beaux Arts building now provides homes and services for people in need, using preservation as a tool to integrate affordable housing into market-rate neighborhoods.

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The former post office in Beverly Hills gained new life as the centerpiece of a performing arts complex, the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.