Monday, December 18, 2006

Ali Baba in L.A.

When you drive down Beverly Hills' leafy side streets, you will inevitably come across "Persian Palaces" -- those oversize mansions that pile up architectural styles with pride, joy, and total disregard for established taste and proportions. Their motto: Less is a bore.

But what do "established", "taste", "style", or "proportions" mean in a city where Tudor rubs shoulders with Schindler, Spanish Colonial with Gehry, Versailles with deluxe logger cabin?

In his essay In Defense of Persian Palaces for last weekend's L.A. Times, Greg Goldin argues that they're simply a continuation of Los Angeles' fakesbord -- and that "paste, not taste, is the issue":
Los Angeles suffers from an authenticity crisis. No one has ever been sure if the city is anything but confection—a lavish film industry set or an ever-expanding sequel to Abbot Kinney's transformation of the Del Rey marshland into Venice. The place is littered with architectural fakes, from Grauman's Chinese to the attic of the Gamble House. The Spanish Colonial Revival who adapted that opulent style for his design of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego. was invented by New York architect Bertram Goodhue.

Los Angeles is a palimpsest—a city that is constantly stuccoing over itself. Such relentless re-imagining is the source of its energy, its inventiveness, its cultural cache. Who can deny that Persian Palaces speak to this aura of never-ending possibility?
The newcomer may be taken aback by L.A.'s cacophony, but one cannot deny the creativity, and fun, of its undecanted, constantly evolving landscape. [related]
illustration Babel Tower/Google Images