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LA's Architectural Legacy Being Demolished For Megamansions

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Are we worrying enough about Los Angeles's less famous modern houses? Newsweek is very concerned today about "a certain kind of modernist property—namely, a lesser-known house situated on a prime lot in an expensive neighborhood." Los Angeles home prices have been shooting up, megamansion developers are flush once again, and they're zeroing in on modest little mid-century gems, which they can buy for a song and then demolish, usually with ease. (Beverly Hills finally put a preservation ordinance in place last year and Los Angeles has one, of course, but usually houses have to be officially landmarked to get any sort of protection. These houses, built by lesser-known architects, are less likely to be landmarked.) Go ahead and make your arguments about private property, but as NW puts it, "The modern single-family dwelling may have been invented in Europe, at the Bauhaus and elsewhere, but many believe it was perfected in Southern California." Little modern houses are this city's great architectural legacy (at least so far).

Greta Magnusson Grossman was one of LA's only woman modernists and just this week we heard that one of her most important designs, in Lake Hollywood, will hit the market soon asking $1.795 million. But that house is only 2,700 square feet, tiny for the Hollywood Hills. Newsweek is also concerned about her Backus House on Bel Air's superfancy Nimes Road. It's asking $6.9 million for just 1,800 square feet; even the listing urges "build your dream home." In May we learned that JR Davidson's Kingsley Residence in Pacific Palisades would be demolished. Davidson, who designed three fine houses for the Case Study House program, is crazy underrated. Over in Beverly Crest, even listing agent Joyce Rey is concerned about the Feldman House, designed by Gregory Ain: "all the buyers who want to restore it can't afford it right now, and the buyers who can afford it are the ones who want to replace it with something else. It's heartbreaking."

So what we're seeing basically is that most people with money in Los Angeles have decided that owning a beautiful, pedigreed mid-century modern house isn't cool. Owning a giant, wasteful, ugly megamansion is cool. But not everyone! In April, Ain's Schairer House in Brentwood went up for sale for the first time since it was built in 1949; the listing suggested the buyer "build a new estate" and we pegged it as a probable teardown. But Newsweek reports that the house has sold and that "a source with knowledge of the transaction tells Newsweek that the new owners have hired an architect to oversee a complete restoration." Where do we find more like that?