One of my favorite local organizations, The Los Angeles Conservancy, recently launched a long overdue redesign of its website. Normally I wouldn’t cover such an event, but in this case I want to let the Curating Los Angeles community know how much more preservation related information is now available online.
After living with its previous site for 13 years, the Conservancy has greatly improved the way it presents information about important architectural and cultural resources found throughout greater Los Angeles. It has also made it much easier to learn about the organization’s advocacy, education and outreach activities.
I particularly like the interactive map of more than 400 historic places in Los Angeles County, which shows the location of each building in relation to others in the Conservancy’s database. Click on any site and up pops a photograph and brief written description. Want to learn more? Click on the building’s name and you’re taken to another page that provides a detailed description of the structure or place. You can also search for specific buildings and filter your results using a variety of criteria, such as architectural style, property type and community.
To test out this new resource, I typed Paul William’s name into the “Architect” field and initiated my search. After reviewing the seven search results, I selected the Golden State Mutual Life Building, since I had written about this structure and its wonderful murals in a July 18, 2011 post. I then followed a link to the details page, where I was presented with a large photo of the building’s façade, an overview of its history and background information about the ongoing legal dispute that surrounds the aforementioned murals. While the Conservancy’s site doesn’t provide much information about the murals themselves, you can see pictures of them on my blog post referred to above.
Another of the new site’s compelling features is the section dedicated to Modern architecture, which was developed as part of the Getty initiative, Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A. While you’ll find information about some of the region’s iconic Modern structures, it’s real strength lies in its focuses on “…the hidden gems many of us don’t (yet) know about.” One example – La Villa Basque, described as “A unique landmark in the industrial city of Vernon for over half a century, its unique hybrid of coffee shop, lounge, fine dining establishment, and event space served everyone from truck drivers to wedding parties.” I wasn’t familiar with this building and was very disappointed to learn that the current owners have significantly altered its “…remarkably intact Googie architecture and authentic sixties design.”
While the Conservancy has done a great job updating its web site, there are many ways to improve what you’ll find today. I’d love to see bios and photographs of the many architects found in the Conservancy’s database. I’d also appreciate more photos, as well as videos, of the buildings and historic places, as well as links to additional third party resources that further contextualize the database listings.
According to Linda Dishman, the Conservancy’s executive director, “This is just the beginning. We focused on launching with great content, of course, but also on creating a strong technical foundation that we can continue to build on. It will only get better over time.” I look forward to watching how she and her colleagues take this online resource to the next level and will continue to promote and support their efforts to preserve the many historic places that help make Los Angeles unique.