The Charming Mid-Century Dingbats Of Los Angeles: LAist
“The dingbat represents the worst architecture of residential buildings in Los Angeles,” said the Californian historian Leonard Pitto once. But the simple, box-shaped apartment buildings are as popular as they are loathed and as common in the Los Angeles countryside as palm trees and parking garages.
Dingbats took over in the development-driven era of the 1950s, many replacing artisanal bungalows and Victorian single-family homes – they offered affordable rents and living space.
Born during the post-war expansion of the city, this icon of Los Angeles architecture “enabled the expansion that LA is infamous for while creating a consistency of urban density few other cities achieve,” according to the Los Angeles Forum for architecture and town planning, which publishes a book about the buildings after a successful Kickstarter campaign. This won’t be the first book to add ink to the temples of the home kitsch. There is another book called Pretty Vacant: The Los Angeles Dingbat Observed. (And one person even started documenting the remaining dingbats on Instagram.)
Structurally, they are “half park structure, half stupid box” and not exactly the most stable in an area that turns out to be quite a quake. They have at least one native attribute, however, but they do highlight LA’s auto culture: “Like the mall, the dingbat took advantage of Angelenos’ romance with the car,” noted Architizer’s Lamar Anderson. “The format is essentially a habitable park structure.” “
Dingbats were not so named until the 1970s, decades after the first was built – “Reyner Banham in Los Angeles first made reference to the term” Dingbat “: The Architecture of the Four Ecologies (1971). He attributes the coinage to The Architect Francis Ventre, “who described them as” indicative of the basic features of primitive modern architecture “. Around the back, away from the public gaze, they show simple rectangular shapes and flush smooth surfaces, thin steel pillars and simple box balconies as well as extensive overhangs to protect four or five cars. “There are variations on this setup, but most dingbats are constructed as described by Ventre.
Sure, they’re cheaply built, glorified, thin-walled garages … but they have an undeniable retro charm about them, and the way their names are written in special fonts on the facade gives them a bit of personality and becomes too their main characteristic. “Like asterisks trying to get noticed, many of them announce their names in quirky mid-century scripts,” said Anderson. “Their distinctive ornament is usually a star, diamond, or other geometric flourish.” They are cookie cutters with a little flair.
In the nineties, they created an oppressive backdrop in the Beverly Hills slums – screenwriter Tamara Jenkins once remarked: “These dingbats are so poignant. So beautiful and heartbreaking. Small makeshift houses for the lower class like apartment buildings with fanciful names that look extravagant the front is drawn like hotels. They break my heart, these buildings. “This was spoken more precisely by the character Vivian Abramowitz (played by Natasha Lyonne), who explained in the film that dingbats are” two-story apartment buildings with cheap rent and fancy names, who promise the good life but never deliver “. The film was shot in the mid 1970s when the fraud popped up and the carpeting was worn out.
Last year Joshua Stein dug himself into the dingbats, as seen in the film, and found that they are “oddly enough for millennial Los Angeles.” That patina des passé that covers all surfaces of slums seems to be more than a simple retro aesthetic. accurate representation of much of the current Los Angeles housing stock. “
Right now, dingbats that have been better maintained or renovated are roughly on par with regular apartment rents – here one in Santa Monica for $ 1950 / month and one in West LA for $ 1850 (both 1 bedroom). Some neighborhoods have more than others, but you can find them just about anywhere from Santa Monica to Los Feliz – at least for now. Dingbats are slowly disappearing and are being “demolished by the dozen to make way for multi-storey complexes with underground parking,” noted Frauenfelder in 1999. Well, they are not all Guardians, but maybe some of them are worth keeping.