3234 Hutchison Ave. in Culver City: Unfinished, Olive Garden Knockoff | Public Spectacle | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Architecture & Design

3234 Hutchison Ave. in Culver City: Unfinished, Olive Garden Knockoff

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Tue, Feb 7, 2012 at 10:57 AM

click to enlarge WENDY GILMARTIN
  • Wendy Gilmartin

Could it be they ordered the wrong number of stone tiles and then had to make up a pattern for the front of this Culver City gem?

Some smart contractor came up with this ingenious plan: Make it look intentional to leave the upper half of the crap-brown stucco exposed.

Odds are it was neither a counting error nor a brick shortage, but that the owner or contractor was a real rebel -- a motivated, subversive punk soul -- who has pushed the limits of the building department (and probably his or her tenants' and neighbors' patience), and in doing so, attempted to make something out of nothing, or at least something out of Home Depot scraps. And whoever you are, we salute you.

There is a fine, fuzzy line between failure and success when making cool shit out of inexpensive, banal materials. Successful projects include Dan Flavin's fluorescent lights, Tara Donovan's toothpicks and drinking straws and Shigeru Ban's cardboard and paper. Failures include 3234 Hutchison Ave. in Culver City.

Each isolated aesthetic move is its own bad idea -- combined, this sore thumb makes a big statement about D.I.Y. overdrive. The curlicue cornice up top is the cherry on the sundae -- it dwarfs the doors below, and makes the second floor look like a munchkin lives upstairs.

Zoning guidelines usually allow for shallow overhangs or "architectural projections" to a tiny 5 feet maximum beyond the structure of a building without it counting toward the total building area -- which means that you can build a "balcony" and get some more square footage out of your property, but it will be the most pathetic, 3-foot-wide thing imaginable, one that barely fits a TV tray. To this, our pioneering property owner must've responded with gusto: "Hell yeah, we're putting up a balcony," and we're left to wonder how does one get out of that little door without knocking the TV tray over?

Ditto for the undersized "overhang" feature on the ground floor, adorned with its cartoon-character eyelashes in rectangular stone. Like the balcony above it, it's worthless and close to useless, providing not a smidge of shading over the ground floor apartments' windows and doors -- hence the beach towel covering the screen door on the right.

The old-world flare doesn't stop at the sun-blasted upper deck, and God knows what's up with the two outcroppings near the rear -- perhaps it's the munchkin's loft area?

Most honorably though, 3234 stands proudly defiant against its upscale surroundings. I kid you not, this Home Depot flunkout is located directly across the street from the bourgeois, Westside design mecca of the Helms Bakery building. In its glorious fugliness, like a self-conscious, snot-nosed teenage punk -- awkward, out of proportion and angry, because it's been staring in the sun all afternoon -- 3234 Hutchison is a two-story-tall middle finger flippin' the bird at Room & Board, Rejuvenation, H.D. Buttercup and Vitra. Well-to-do customers visiting Helms' design district are aghast at this half-finished, Olive Garden knockoff as they drive out with their $11,000 Thos. Moser lounge chair and ottoman. They are. I asked.

But there's a lesson shoppers at the campus could take away from 3234 Hutchison, and many surely do not: Although clean aesthetics and designer-approved style can be purchased with a big wallet, it's more fun to think outside the showroom. This apartment is not successful in that thinking by any means, but it's sure trying. We're giving mad props to this stone-clad eye-popper because it stands in opposition to the accepted design ideas across the street.

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