Location: Los Angeles, CA
Team: Jimenez Lai, May Wong, Roojiar Sadeghilalabadi, Eric Hsu, Pauline Chen, Heidi Alexander, Steve Martinez, Brian Daugherty
To an unsuspecting architecture enthusiast, the Dingbat typology of Los Angeles marks striking similarities with the Le Corbusier masterpiece Villa Savoye (1931). There are several triggers: both domestic architectures, both with floating masses detached from the ground to anticipate the stowing away of cars, both supported by a series of slender columns - there are immediately comparable qualities that begs the question: Is Villa Savoye a Dingbat? In most of the Dingbats we encountered, we are often able to identify two, if not three out of five points in the Five Points of Architecture postulated by Le Corbusier. This discovery compelled us to look further into this parallel. While it is not difficult to find an abundance of pilotis, what we found to be perhaps more stimulating is using the Dingbat towards a misread of status of the Free Facade, Roof Garden and the Ribbon Window.
First, we find a lot of instances where the Dingbats become floating stucco boxes that could be seen as participants of the Venturi/Scott-Brown Decorated Sheds. Often plastered with an overall graphic treatment to produce a suspended monolithic reading, this quality could allow us to argue that Dingbats almost have free facades. However, the Dingbats are frequently assigned cute graphic identities such as Capri or The Mary & Jane, and these names or the street number would be written with eccentric typeface on the facades. Second, we want to consider a comparison between the hard, concrete roof of Unite D’habitation (1952). This roof “garden” is more like a roof playground, littered with objects that can cast shadows, house artists, and contain water. The roof matter of many of the Dingbats we find in Los Angeles are not dissimilar - satellite dishes, water tanks, mechanical ventilations, and so forth - it can be seen as a plentiful sculpture garden like a late Le Corbusier roof garden.
Finally, we want to make an argument that the Ribbon Window of Le Corbusier is a filmstrip. It is a filmstrip akin to the montage storyboards of Sergei Eisenstein, and the Manhattan Transcripts drawings of Bernard Tschumi - life is flattened onto a strip window so the outside could see a glimpse of the actions inside. Windows are such framing devices that expose only tiny pieces of privacy and tell a partial story about a fragmented mystery. Learning from the body of work of Gregory Crewdson, we realize that the environments of the private life can be seen as a set. In addition, taking further queues from the movie Rear Window, we want to consider the narrative potentials of broken filmstrip on a Dingbat facade.