Tuesday, April 1, 2014

An architectural tour of Hermosa Beach: a journey through space and time

Not only do the Haves and Have Nots live side-by-side here. So do the New England Quakers and the Medieval Spanish and the Balinese. Or so it would seem.

Back in the early 20th century, when Hermosa was developed, there were beach cottages. Then came little white box sugar cube houses and their mid century modern bungalow buddies. Then the 80s happened and the money and taste explosion spewed an unrestrained expression of personal style in the shape of massive houses. There are plenty of shiny, post-modernist monstrosities dotted around Hermosa from that era.

In the 90s, this is what the future looked like
As well as the hangover from the post-modernist era, Spanish style was also pretty big in the 90s. You see some nice examples of houses that look very authentically Californian, with their terracotta roofing and sweet Spanish pottery tiles on the steps.
A pretty contemporary Spanish (right next door to a 70s beach cottage).
You also see a lot of their ugly sisters, or 'the Matador's Miniature Castles', as I call them. The Venetian palaces I see are probably from that time too, a time when people dreamt of a more ornate balustrade, or some swagged curtains around their window, or a portico on their patio.
A slice of Venice. Next to a slice of Cape Cod.
Then came the '00s, and the Craftsman, and the Cape Cod and their shingled, white trimmed brethren. And nowadays if you're building a new house in the South Bay it's all about the Balinese and the Plantation style.

All of which is well and good. Each to their own, and all power to those home owner for building the castle of their dreams. The weird thing is the way they sit side-by-side. It's such a hodgepodge. I'm used to England where for the most part houses look like their neighbours, thanks mainly to the fact that it was all built a long time ago.
Old El Paso

Industrial chic meets beach cottage

Neoclassical meets contemporary

Victorian splendour wedged between a slice of Mexico and some midcentury modern. Wonder which was here first.

I like the freedom here, but with idiosyncracy comes a disorienting sense of misplacement. I mean, this is not Cape Cod. Or El Paso. So why live in a house that was designed for that climate? And it must be odd to gaze out from your Venetian balcony onto a house that looks like a 1960s library: like being in a timewarp. And how irritating to be living your sleek, Balinese, luxury hotel-style dream right next door to some salty old seadog. That's the price of freedom, I guess.

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