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Architecture

Le Fugly: The Hideous French Pastiche of the Versailles Apartments, 918 S. Oxford Street, Koreatown

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Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 2:17 PM

click to enlarge WENDY GILMARTIN
  • Wendy Gilmartin
Finally a building style that will please everyone: Rapunzel, her prince, Dracula, the Wicked Witch of the West and Pepe Le Pew (but maybe not his lady cat friend). The Versailles apartments at 918 S. Oxford between James M. Wood boulevard and San Marino Street are sort of like that castle you pay 80 bucks to visit down in Anaheim, but up here, on this hilly residential street at the K-town/mid-city border, the sugary nostalgia's gone rank and its definitely not the happiest place on earth.

Featuring French turrets and corbels, Colonial arched windows, English pinnacle-topped roofs, Scottish crenelation, and drain pipes from Home Depot -- all this thing needs is a moat and a drawbridge, and the owners could charge admission.

Not to go all literal or anything, but at last check, the O.G. Palace at Versailles revealed zero turrets, towers and wackily stacked Flintstones-esque bricks at the corners probably because, by the 18th century, French architects had ditched many of the 700-year old medieval castle features so liberally applied to this Versailles -- many of which were originally developed solely for military purposes. But, on the other hand, if any Huns come to invade Koreatown, 918 S. Oxford is ready.

In addition to its march-through-the-centuries historical flavor, the Versailles apartments also feature that classic architectural characteristic of Los Angeles' late 20th and early 21st centuries -- the mansionization of the lot, built right out to its property lines while offering absolutely nothing back to the street (except when its whimsy blocks out the hot summer sun). Just a bow and arrow's shot away, other apartment buildings in the neighborhood have interior courtyards that open up to the sky and the street -- which connects residents pedestrians, and fresh air. Most of these buildings also have open air fire escapes that can be used for safety, hanging laundry and smoking the occasional cigarette. Even some others, like the La Bertha apartments, sport a truly homegrown L.A. building trait on their roof -- the metal framework and neon letters that spell out the glowing apartment name at night. (La Bertha's sign is sadly burnt out and has gone un-restored. Fortunately its badass steel armature is still there).

But, ok, if mish-mashed French castle pastiche is what the client ordered, then that too can be executed in an orderly and carefully tasteful way. The 1928 Le Trianon building by Leland A. Bryant at Serrano Avenue in West Hollywood does just that, plus it has a French name, and a badass metal sign on its roof.

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