Saturday, October 29, 2011

a “ham-and-Swiss-cheese sandwich of white-bread Modernism with a filling of L.A. funk"

No one may have asked architect Stephen Kanner if he designed the whimsically skewed Harvard Apartments to annoy the neighbors, but after nearly 20 years, the 14-unit building punched with odd windows in Koreatown is doing just that.

“We all dislike it,” says Craig Lander, right, standing with a gaggle of his neighbors at the building next door, a 1937 structure called the French Chateau, which fronts James M. Wood Boulevard. Encircled by the French Chateau's balustrades, ornamental parapets, bay windows and soaring turrets, Lander says his neighbors call the 1992 Harvard Apartments “the Swiss cheese building.” He adds that the Harvard doesn’t complement the area’s other structures.

“Maybe if it was painted one solid color, like gray,” Lander says, “it would be more attractive.”

Architecture writer Leon Whiteson differed in his 1993 Times article, calling the Harvard Apartments “an act of sheer delight.” He termed the design a “vivid fusion of seriousness and lightness.”

Architect Kanner said his client asked for a “building that was more than just another box.” Kanner said he delivered a “ham-and-Swiss-cheese sandwich of white-bread Modernism with a filling of L.A. funk."

Kanner, who died last year at age 54 from pancreatic cancer, bemoaned “the incredible sameness” of clients and architecture and “vanilla firms where profits are everything.” Many agreed, and the Harvard Apartments won awards, including the Distinguished Building Honor Award from the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

No comments: