A Santa Monica Hotel And How LA Handles (Or Doesn’t Handle) Change

museum-of-historyAn article in the NY Times about the vociferous opposition to Disney’s rejiggering of a theme park ride got me thinking about mental health — mainly, my own.

Los Angeles is a town of contradictions: The same people who insist on eating only natural organic foods also happily inject non-organic silicone into their laughs lines (to the point that they look quite unnatural). This behavior largely goes without comment, which is really not surprising when you consider that as “the city of dreams,” people come to LA to become someone else: Cary Grant arrived in town as Archibald Leach; Michale Caine was Maurice Micklewhite; and Angelyne was… Well, let’s just move on.

The one constant thing in Los Angeles is change and the KOR Group is one example of a company that understand how to effect it correctly. The Eastern Columbia Building and the Broadway Hollywood were two buildings in which the exteriors were architectural gems, but the interiors were obsolete. Removing the baby before tossing the bathwater, the interiors were “blown out” to create beautiful artists lofts and live/work spaces, while the exteriors were preserved. The end result was the artful adaptive reuse of two historic buildings.

The KOR Group is at it again with the repurposing of the Santa Monica Professional Building (a 1920’s Spanish Colonial Revival) into a hotel. These are all buildings which I believe have some architectural if not historical significance. And maybe it’s purely a function of my sense of aesthetic, but I don’t feel the same way about the Tower Records building. Where to draw the line?

LA is a city of constant evolution: People change their names, your favorite radio station changes its format to Spanish cowboy music, and Spanish bungalows changed into square homes with columns (kind of how I imagine a Best Buy in Abu Dhabi). So it’s no wonder in a town built on flux (where even the ground doesn’t sit still) there would be pushback when an emotional touchstone is threatened. And I have no problem with that, but I do question the threshold of what some consider to be untouchable.

The Disney example above is a case in point: Where were the people now decrying the re-purposing of The Twilight Zone ride when Disney got rid of Mission to Mars, The GE Carousel of Progress or the Hall of Presidents? I’ll tell you, nowhere. Truthfully, I don’t care a lick about the current Disney scuffle, but I think I’d start a riot if the Country Bear Jamboree started playing dubstep. Sometimes it’s just better when something goes away.

As in life, LA replaces the old with the new. This doesn’t mean that everything old should be replaced, but it also doesn’t mean that just because something is old it shouldn’t be touched. We all have our personal touchstones of comfort and familiarity: for some it’s a Disney ride, for others its an art deco building. As for me, I know some Googie architecture is still standing, but there are nights I’d trade my soul to toast my own toast at the Ships on La Cienega and Olympic…. Perhaps Angelyne could meet me there.

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