GCA Zone XII Meeting – “Urban Oasis”

This year’s Zone XII meeting which was titled “Urban Oasis” was hosted by the Hancock Park Garden Club in Los Angeles. Hancock Park is truly an “Urban Oasis” neighborhood situated in the heart of Los Angeles with architecturally distinctive single family residences of styles such as Tudor Revival, English Revival, Spanish or American Colonial Revival and Mediterranean Revival.

Prior to the meeting was an optional Frank Lloyd Wright Symposium featuring speakers who discussed the architect’s time in Los Angeles, with his use of a Modernistic Mayan influenced architecture with gardens and landscapes then Japanese influences due to an extended time in Japan when he built the Imperial Hotel. We enjoyed an extensive tour of the magnificent Unesco World Heritage site Hollyhock House built for oil heiress Aline Barnsdale. The plan was for a residence and other buildings to be surrounded by cultural arts complex. The flower, hollyhock, was to be an inspiration for the home’s design. Although the full scope of the project was never realized then, but today the city of Los Angeles has revitalized a vibrant public arts campus on the property. Another special tour was arranged at a private residence designed by Wright in a similar Mayan temple appearance in the Hollywood hills. Ennis House was constructed of 27,000 patterned granite blocks on the side of a very steep hill – a true architectural marvel.

Other pre meeting tours included a Tour of the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures which takes you on a visual historic tour of the So Cal movie industry and includes an opportunity for a visitors to receive their very own Academy Award on video. Alice H. and I held our Oscar’s high (quite a heavy small statue)!

There were tours of notable Beverly Hills gardens: Gottlieb Native Garden, the spectacular Henry Kern Estate and the Virginia Robinson Gardens. Another option was for a tour of Carlos Herrera’s Innovative Recycling Facility and a cooking demonstration with Chef Stephen Kalt. This day of pre-meeting optional activities culminated with a night of magic at the famous private club, the Magic Castle.

The kickoff gathering for the zone meeting featured a presentation by Architect Robert Rock about the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing. This project of a natural land bridge over the very busy 101 Freeway is currently under construction. Prompted in honor of the famous P-22 mountain lion known for miraculously crossing two of the busiest southern California freeways and living in the hills surrounding the Los Angeles urban corridor and responsible for generations of mountain lions. The meticulous detail of this project includes growing native plants from seed, matching the soil biome down to the microbe level, restoring ridges and hydrologic components and attempting to attenuate the highway sound. The project’s completion date is scheduled for 2026. The purpose of this land bridge is to protect the kin of P-22 from extinction and to allow all wildlife in the Santa Monica hills to thrive. The question was asked “How do you know it will work?” The answer was that the ecotone will speak “natural” to the animal.

The members of Hancock Garden club treated us to tours of five beautiful and varied gardens in the neighborhood. We were envious of the lushness and the variety of plants that are so easily grown in their climate. Our day concluded with special private dinners in member’s homes.

Our final day was reserved for the Zone XII business meeting at the Wilshire Country Club which was beautifully choreographed and directed by our very own Meg N. The keynote speaker was GCA Medalist and landscape architect David Rubin who spoke of designing human engaged parks and city plazas with socially purposeful designs. The intent is for these landscapes to create positive social change.

Presentations were then made by each of the Zone XII clubs on civic projects. Our team headed by Cindy, Alice and Missy performed a clever skit mimicking a (television/radio?) interview of our Civic Center project. The meeting concluded with awards and a delicious California inspired lunch.

I thank GCD for this wonderful opportunity to experience and learn from the sites, the hospitality and the beauty of the natural environment in this Los Angeles Urban Oasis.

-Sally O.

Meeting delegates from Colorado.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House has a terrific view of downtown LA.
The Ennis House with its Mayan-inspired concrete blocks.
The Academy of Motion Pictures Museum.
House tours in Hancock Park.