It’s a good time to be a classicist in Los Angeles

It’s a good time to be a classicist in Los Angeles. Especially next week.

The Institute of Classical Architecture & Arts So Cal has two great programs in the Los Angeles area next week. On Tuesday evening the studious amongst us will be slicing and dicing the Corinthian Order with instructor, architect and geometrician Dom Forte.

The Beverly Hills Women's Club 80 years ago

The rest of us will be relaxing over dinner in Benedict Canyon Thursday night with architectural expert Edward Bosley. Director of Pasadena’s landmark Gamble House, Mr. Bosley will trace the origins of the Craftsman style, one of Southern California’s most distinctive regional expressions. What’s more, our dinner and talk will be at the Spanish Colonial clubhouse of the Beverly Hills Women’s Club in Benedict Canyon. Built in 1925 by architects Gable and Lyons, the location itself is an architectural treat.

We are excited. We hope you can make it!

See the ICA&A website for information and tickets to Craftsman Architecture: Inspirations and Legacies.

-Valerie Thomas, Remains Lighting Los Angeles

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Alan Wanzenberg at Remains…

Remains’ LA showroom hosted a book signing with Alan Wanzenberg for his: Journey The Life and Times of an American Architect. About 50 people, a bunch of the local design community and some old friends of Alan’s gathered to chat a moment with Alan, hear some stories, and to snack on tasty snacks.

-David Calligeros


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Alan Wanzenberg at LACMA and at Remains Lighting Los Angeles

Alan Wanzenberg came to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) yesterday evening to speak about a few of his projects through the lens of regional responses in materials, furniture and art.  Mr. Wanzenberg, who is an engaging and comfortably erudite speaker illustrated his working process with 3 projects, one on the beach in Florida, one right over the Atlantic in Maine (you wouldn’t call it “on the beach”), and the last was the New York apartment he shared with his late partner, the designer Jed Johnson. In the two houses, the designs develop from a response to the local topography and materials: mossy monoliths and weathered cedar in Maine and worn stone, wrought iron, clay tile, and stucco in Florida. The decorative programs on the interiors grow from the owners’ art collecting and the history of the sites. In the New York apartment, I feel like the kernel is less about site than about the joy of discovery and learning through collecting and arranging; more of an intellectual response to being in a place at a moment in history than a visceral response to rocks, wind and water.
All of those projects and many more are detailed in depth in Wanzenberg’s new book Journey The Life and Times of an American Architect. You can come and meet the author this afternoon at our La Cienega showroom where he will be signing books from 4:30-6:30. Perhaps he will spin a tale or two for you if you ask.

-David Calligeros

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Reception and book signing with architect Alan Wanzenberg at Remains Los Angeles

Remains Lighting Los Angeles will host a book signing and reception on February 11 from 4:30-6:30 pm to celebrate Journey: the Life and Times of an American Architect, the new book by architect Alan Wanzenberg.

Alan Wanzenberg is an internationally recognized architect at the head of a multidisciplinary architectural and interior design firm and he designs a line of fixtures and lamps for Remains. His firm handles a select volume of meticulously detailed and carefully constructed projects for a range of clients including individuals, families, and developers.

The award-winning firm has been recognized nationally for design excellence in The New York Times, in shelter publications that include Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, World of Interiors; and in style publications such as Vogue and Modernism Magazine. Numerous times, Mr. Wanzenberg has been named in the annual Architectural Digest’s Top 100 Designers and Architects.


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The LA Conservancy’s Interactive Historic Places Map

The LA Conservancy does amazing work to preserve the architectural history of this youth-obsessed metropolis. They recently launched a fantastic interactive map on their website that guides the curious to over 500 historically significant buildings in the greater Los Angeles area.

You can search by geographical area or decade, or filter the map by the style of architecture you fancy: Mid Century Modern, Moorish or Mayan Revival to name a few. What a great way to explore history and to refresh your perspective on the city of Angels.

Many of my favorite buildings are Spanish Colonial revival, a classic California vernacular rooted in the state’s missionary past. Built in the early 20th century, these warm red-roofed structures dot the landscape I see daily, their shadowy porches inviting you for a break from the California sun. While a 100 year old building may be laughably junior in another city, LA will never have street cred if we don’t appreciate and preserve what we have that’s unique.

A few of my favorites are below. With so many buildings on the map, why not choose your own adventure?

Plummer Park

Plummer Park in West Hollywood was home to the 1874 ranch of Colonel Eugenio Plummer, whose home was situated on 160 acres of open land. West Hollywood recently decided this would make a good spot for a parking structure. Dios mio!

Beverly Hills Civic Center

A few months ago I attended a meeting of the Institute of Classical Architecture at the Beverly Hills Civic Center. It was my first time inside William Gage’s 1930s buildings: the dark wood ceiling’s original painted decoration is stunning and the lofty proportions of the room like a breath of fresh air.

Beverly Hills Waterworks

I drive by the Beverly Hills Waterworks / Center for Motion Picture Study on La Cienega at least once a week. The lighting design picks out the details of the grand façade beautifully on an evening. As it happens, the Moorish styled bell tower actually housed part of the water purification system. What a great example of function and purpose in harmony.

Astrophysics Lab at Caltech

Reading over the Conservancy map I was reminded of the 1932 Astrophysics Lab at Caltech in Pasadena. It’s been recommended to me by a number of friends not only as a fantastic example of Spanish revival, but because the star themed lighting fixtures originally designed for the lab are still there. A visit to the lab is on the top of my list. Consider it a new year’s resolution.

-Valerie Thomas, Remains Lighting Los Angeles

PS – the oldest buildings on the map are from the 1840s, when California was still Mexican ranch land.



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Hiking by Design at Echo Mountain

It was a clear, warm day in Los Angeles, as usual. Our group met at the foot of the trail in Altadena, in front of the 1918 Cobb Estate.

For its third installation, Hiking by Design trekked to the remnants of Echo Mountain in the hills just north of Pasadena. One of Southern California’s original resort destinations, the White City was built in 1893 by Thaddeus Lowe (namesake of Mt Lowe, also a popular hiking destination). Holiday makers were lured by the dry, temperate climate of Los Angeles, purported to cure everything from tuberculosis to existential ennui. Perhaps LA’s current reputation for top-notch plastic surgeons is a continuation of the med-spa legacy started over 100 years ago.

At its peak – or should I say heyday? – the resort consisted of four hotels, tennis courts, an observatory, a dance hall and its own water and power. Echo Mountain was reached by a scenic incline railway, similar to the Angel’s Flight funicular in Downtown LA, from the basin 1,800 feet below. Another stretch of mountain railway careened around the cliffs and delivered guests to the Alpine Tavern another 3-1/2 miles back into the canyon.

Echo Mountain House, Courtesy LA Public Library

After a steady hour and a half hike our design-inclined group arrived at the terminus of the old incline railway. The funicular journey took about 30 minutes, but we think we had the more enjoyable journey. Bits of disused track line the trail, and the remnants of massive old gears and wheels we saw must have rusted slowly in the dry temperate climate. One of our Hiking by Design regulars pored over the plans of the original power plant that perched on the hill. The plant that lit the resort was also the cause of its early demise just a few decades later: power lines caught in wind ignited a fire that razed the White City.

A few meters further on you pass the site of old tennis courts and picnic area. The courts are gone, but the picnicking continues with tables installed by the state park. The foundations of the hotel have a prime spot on the southeast verge of the cliff and overlook the entire Los Angeles basin. Characteristically hazy the day we visited, after a rain the views are stunning: the skyline of Downtown Los Angeles, Griffith Observatory, and the Pacific Ocean glittering beyond.

We were fortunate to have building expert and excellent hiker Ron Ortiz from I. Grace along to help us decode the ruins. He explained that the gaps in the foundation were for crawl space, affording access for services as well as facilitating natural ventilation. Bearing in mind that we had temperatures in the mid 70s on an early January day, that ventilation would be a boon in the summer months.

No visit to Echo Mountain would be complete without a trip back behind the property where the Echo Phone aims your voice across the next ravine and bounces the sound back to you. We tried to get a four-legged hiker to try it, but couldn’t coax his muzzle to just the right spot.

-Valerie Thomas

For more about Mount Lowe:

Amazing footage of the railway in action:

More about Hiking by Design:
Hiking by Design is a regular series of hikes to sites of architectural significance. Led by Valerie Thomas and sponsored by Remains Los Angeles our hikes cover varied terrain and are a great way to exercise a penchant for nature and the built environment. If you have suggestions of hike locations or questions about our events, please contact Valerie at We invite you to join our next outing for the design-inclined. We promise it will be fun.

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Bulb Phase-out (EISA Act of 2007)

We have been paying close attention to the 2nd phase of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which comes in effect this January 1, 2014.

The first phase of the act brought the demise of the standard 100w incandescent lamp (“bulbs” for those of you clinging to the 19th Century’s terms) in 2012. This is why you have been trouble finding them in your local hardware store. “What?!?! No more 100 watt bulbs?” you say… well maybe you’d better take a seat, preferably a soft one… come January 1, 2014, both the 60 watt and 40 watt regular old incandescent lamps that you know and love, will be phased out of production. They will be illegal to produce or import into the USA.

While I think this is somewhat of a misguided law, fear not, there are plenty of lamps on the market from which to choose that do as good, if not better of a job, creating light as those old lamps.

Before I start enumerating the potential replacements to the incandescent 40 & 60 W lamps, please take a deep breath and let me tell you that there are a TON of lamps that are exempt from this legislation. To begin with, all candelabra lamps are not affected. Additionally, tubular lamps are not affected. Reflector lamps (silver-tip) are not affected. Three-way lamps are not affected, as are marine lamps, vibration resistant lamps, rough service lamps… whew!

For all instances where you can’t use a candelabra lamp, a tubular lamp, or a silver tip lamp and you must use an incandescent lamp, there are great halogen incandescent lamps that look as well as the old lamps and are more efficient in energy use per lumen than the old standard incandescent lamps.

I can think of only a small handful of instances where I would be really disappointed if I couldn’t find an incandescent medium-base lamp. You could skirt the issue by using an old 25 W lamp or you could use one of the many more efficient halogen lamps that look and feel like the old incandescent lamps. The halogen lamps are incandescent lamps, by the way, they just perform with greater efficiency as a result of the halogen gas in the lamp enclosure. Halogen lamps have the same full range dimming characteristics as do old incandescent lamps. Halogen lamps are nearly as simple a piece of technology as are plain old incandescent lamps (a significant environmental advantage when you start looking into the manufacturing burden side of the sustainability equation, by the by). Halogen lamps have fabulous color rendition (full 100 CRI, same as the old incandescent lamps).

If you are still unsatisfied with existing regular incandescent and new halogen options, you could use one of the many, many compact fluorescent lamps on the market or any of the many emerging LED lamps as well.

I intentionally skirted a big discussion of the environmental merits of these various lighting technologies. That’s a story for another day.

-David Calligeros

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Leonard Da Vinci drawings at the Morgan Library

New York’s Morgan Library has a show of Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings and a full notebook on view until February 2 2014. I was there for a tour of the museum buildings given by the architect Peter Pennoyer and lingered after to walk through a Charles Dickens exhibit and then on to the Leonardo room upstairs. The show has several outstanding portraits, rippling anatomical sketches of horses and, delightfully, one of insects. There’s an amazing original notebook of Leonardo’s as well. Unfortunately, even for someone with as delicate fingers as I have, they would not remove it from its glass case and let me leaf through the pages… the contents of which are made available only on a large touch screen.

The breadth of Leonardo’s interest and his understanding truly knock you out of your shoes. OK, I admit I can’t read his upside down and right to left Latin but I saw drawings of dams, power transfer, lever and weights, aeronautics and the flight of birds, architectural compositions, gearing diagrams, elaborate linkages with counterweights, some looking like pure mechanics, the next showing themselves to be investigations of bird wings, and in the middle of one page: a sweet as pie sketch of a leaf in red chalk. All of this stuff, even his unique handwriting was crisp and delightful, whether describing a bird whooshing and whirling through a breeze or the action of a weight held at different positions on an inclined plane.

Lastly, I share with you this leaf of a slightly different profile. The oak leaf of the Morgan family, on one of the lanterns in the back stair, recalling their motto: “from a little acorn, a mighty oak grows.”

-David Calligeros

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