Architecture for the Elite and Art for the Masses in Venice

Separate studio at the Sale House
Separate studio at the Sale House

While millionaires admired each others’ handiwork at yesterday’s New Wave of Venice Architecture tour, part of this weekend’s Venice Art Walk & Auctions events, pedestrians flocked to the nearby Art Auction preview for something more within reach. First up was the Architecture tour, comprising six modern (some just-finished) homes, several of which have won design awards. The homes were located in the “West of Lincoln” neighborhood, with five of the homes inside the area bordered by Lincoln, Venice, and Abbott Kinney Boulevards, and the sixth home just across Abbott Kinney.  I was told that this area has the most architects per capita on the planet, and I wouldn’t doubt it.  Some of the architects took a break from their houses to check out the competition.  Likewise, some area residents got a rare opportunity to do the same, and to get some design ideas for their own homes.

We were able to navigate some of the neighborhood’s “walk streets” (Marco Place, Amoroso Place, and Nowita Place), which are not streets but rather lovely, lush walkways that immediately give the neighborhood a small-town, homey feel. Amid the aging Craftsman houses, if you looked carefully, you could see alien shapes pop up from behind the bamboo.

The new looks out over the old
The new looks out over the old

Although the tour homes differed in size, materials used, furnishings and otherwise, they shared some striking similarities. All of them had nearly seamless flows from indoor to outdoor spaces, usually through the use of giant steel-framed sliding glass doors. In the smaller homes, and some of them were quite small, this essentially doubled the usable space.  Given our climate, this makes perfect sense. The homes also incorporated industrial materials, sometimes cheap ones such as corrugated steel and chain-link fence. The influence of Frank Gehry, who pioneered the use of some of these materials thirty years ago in his Santa Monica home a few miles away, was palpable.

Maximizing outdoor space
Maximizing outdoor space

Although the attendees all seemed enthralled, attendance at the architecture tour seemed fairly sparse to me. At some homes, event volunteers outnumbered patrons. I did not want to speculate, since I have not attended previous tours, but my neighborhood friends who accompanied me and who have been on several such tours confirmed that attendance seemed to be down. If so, I can only guess that charging $100 per person for this tour in the depths of an economic recession had something to do with that.

The Marchyn Residence's movable panels eliminate the need for window treatments
The Marchyn Residence's movable panels eliminate the need for window treatments
A perforated steel mesh surrounds the structures of the Palms Boulevard Residence
A perforated steel mesh surrounds the structures of the Palms Boulevard Residence
The aliens have landed!
The aliens have landed!
Window=wall=door
Window=wall=door
Sculpture garden at Westminster School
Sculpture garden at Westminster School

On the other hand, the free Art Auction preview at Westminster School on Abbott Kinney was mobbed. Just about every classroom and hallway was lined with art of all types, including paintings, prints, photographs, cartoons, and more. The auctions take place today, and I suspect that some recession-era bargains will be found. Bringing art to the masses in Venice? Founder Abbott Kinney himself would be proud.

This softballer may be within your reach
This softballer may be within your reach
Obama and Gehry, the twin towers of Venice
Obama and Gehry, the twin towers of Venice