The Once and Future Bento Box


There’s a lot of this housing going up all over Los Angeles. Boxy, modular, poured concrete or stucco with some kind of horizontal wood feature set against a tiled entranceway.

This looked sharp and fresh half a dozen years ago but is entirely predictable now.  I’m not saying it doesn’t look good. I’m wondering how it will look 30 years hence. Will we look upon this housing stock the way we look at 70’s kitsch today? As an eyesore?


Or will it fall into some oddball historical cul-de-sac like the once-modernist work of Richard Neutra, admired by preservationists, but neglected by owners?

Is Craftsman and Mission style architecture the only native California form which will stand the scrutiny of the ages? Which will be both loved and lived in?

Atlas shrugged, Here


Here, a short walk from the orchard that is now the Northridge mall, Ayn Rand wrote much of her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged.  There she is on the upper right,  Alisa Zinov’eyvna Rosenbaum of St. Petersburg, Russia, with her signature bobbed hair, holding court behind a moat designed by Richard Neutra.  That’s Tampa Blvd. in the background, lined with eucalyptus trees, the farmer’s windbreak of yore.

Rand came to the Valley as a screenwriter for hire and an intellectual curiosity piece. She left with the manuscript of perhaps the most influential book of the 20th century, if reader’s polls are to be believed.   Among the eucalyptus and the koi and the orange trees and occasionally Barbara Stanwyck on horseback, Rand composed the epic of John Galt, and the philosophy of Objectivism, aided by dexedrine and a thousand packs of cigarettes.


Serious People smoked then.  Without a cigarette, you were naked.  You lacked the baton with which to conduct the orchestra of your obsessions.

Rand returned to New York.  Following publication, people came to sit at her feet and touch the hem of her garment.  A chosen few were invited beneath the folds for further study.  She was the closest thing to an intellectual rock star you could be in this country -as a woman, that is- and she behaved accordingly.


The house, built in 1935 for the film director Joseph Von Sternberg, was a modernist showcase of steel, concrete and glass…water-cooled by the moat. It was razed in 1971 to make room for, well, you can guess.