One highlight of my recent visit to Los Angeles was a whirlwind tour of Silver Lake with the great architect Barbara Bestor, who has lived there since 1988. She drove me around, pointing out architectural (and culinary) highlights, and offering insight into the neighborhood's unique creative culture (she should know—she wrote a book about the place a few years ago, called Bohemian Modern: Living in Silver Lake). Here's the scoop.
I met Bestor on a Friday morning in her architecture office, a cool triangular space on Fountain Avenue in Silver Lake.
Here's Bestor, ready to gather up some blueprints and chart out our driving tour.
We started at Sunset Junction, one of the neighborhood's key intersections, where Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica cross. In the immediate vicinity are a handful of cool shops, cafes, and storefronts—several of them designed by Bestor herself (including the cool Dangerbird Records).
Also at that intersection is the Silver Lake branch of Intelligentsia Coffee, LA's leading cult coffee brand. Bestor's firm designed this space as well.
Says Bestor: "It's my favorite local project as so many people use it regularly!" Here's a view of the tiled outdoor patio.
The wood-and-tile interior was "inspired by the tile environments of Istanbul, mashed up with minimalist plywood wood boxes," says Bestor. The coffee is very, very good.
We continued up the hill to Bestor's latest project: a house for her and her two daughters. Here's a view on the way—to me, this view just screams LA.
Bestor was eager to show me her house—a massive renovation project, still in the early demolition phase. She bought the house in part for its heart-shaped swimming pool, a quadrant of which is pictured here.
Next up: a cruise down Silverlake Boulevard, where Bestor pointed out, behind a screen of trees, a pair of houses Richard Neutra developed speculatively in the early 1960s.
Neutra Place is a dead-end street that's home to a slew of Neutra-designed houses—as well as a few by his son Dion Neutra, who actually lives on the street.
Here's the Neutra VDL house, a great experimental house that's available for public viewing. For tours, see here.
Bestor also pointed out the Rudolf Schindler-designed Bubeshko Apartments on Griffith Park Boulevard, which were recently renovated by the local DSH Architects.
Unfortunately Speranza restaurant was closed when we drove by, but I stole a shot through the fence. The place is owned and run by Jens Hommert, an Austrian architect formerly with Rem Koohass/OMA, and his wife/partner Hu. Bestor says it's a major hangout for local architects and artists. It also has a pavilion done by the artist Jorge Pardo and modern furniture from the local shop Amsterdam Modern.
I especially loved this classic art deco structure on Hyperion Avenue, known as "the Boat." It's owned and used as a recording studio by the Dust Brothers.
Further down the road is this creative fence in front of Oyler Wu Collective’s home office.
Bestor was especially excited to show off the Avenel Apartments on Avenel Street, a so-called "socialist housing project" by Gregory Ain.
The front gate was closed but we entered anyway. Bestor is a big fan of the plant wall along the main walkway, which ties the various front entrances together and lends some visual detail to an otherwise simple form.
We ended our tour with lunch at Forage, a lovely cafe with super-local food, sourced from backyards and local producers. Delish! Thanks for the tour, Barbara!