Michael Paccone

la gerbe

I’ve never been to LACMA before because I didn’t feel the experience was worth the drive.  My experience proved me wrong.  I had not anticipated the variety of not only artists, but also art medium.  My attention was first captured by the Levitated Mass as I approached the museum.  It is more impressive to see it in real life because of its sheer mass.  I struggle to Its hard to imagine the engineering that was required to transport the boulder and raise it into place.  However I struggle to understand why this is considered art.  La Gerbe by Henri Matisse caught my eye because of the vibrant color, which is emphasized by the white background.  The ceramic rendering of colored leaves arranged like a bouquet is simple yet explodes with life.  Of all the things I saw at LACMA, Metropolis II was by far the most fascinating.  It reminded me of the structures I would build as a kid out of Legos or K’Nex, but Chris Burden takes it to a whole new level.  Watching the cars speed around the track is mesmerizing.  It exemplifies California’s fascination with cars.  His structure symbolically shows the mass transit system moving at a far slower pace than the cars racing around the freeway system, but just as in real life, the cars become gridlocked while the trains keep plodding on.  All the movement going on makes it difficult to concentrate on just one area of the model, which captures the frenetic activity and detail of Los Angeles.  The building designs and materials are eclectic; onion domed buildings are placed next to modern day skyscrapers.  Burden uses several different materials for the buildings such as plexiglass, wood, Lego blocks, and Lincoln Logs.  This model is an example of art imitating life in the sense of a mini-city.


eames house

Charles and Ray Eames’ house was created as part of a program that consisted of 24 Case Study Houses.  They began designing the house in 1945 and completed it in 1949.  It is located on North Chautauqua Boulevard in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of LA on a 1.4 acre site.  This particular house is considered a landmark of mid 20th century modern architecture.  Their intention was to build the house using materials that would not interrupt the site.  Most of these materials and techniques used to build the house were derived from WWII.  They designed the house for a married couple with no children and to reflect their own household and needs.  The location of the house on the lot was chosen so as not to impinge upon the pleasant meadow that fronted the house.  It was created in a way that would integrate the house into the landscape while still preserving it.  Eucalyptus trees were planted to give shade and blend the house with the outdoors.  The exterior of the house was constructed of unconventional materials such as  glass and steel to create a new understanding of how people can live.  The steel frame was filled in with different solid and transparent colored panels to create a shifting light in the interior throughout the day.  Ray, as a painter, was most likely familiar with Mondrian paintings, which could have influenced this idea.  The use of natural materials on the interior brings the house closer to nature, giving the appearance of the house resting softly on the earth.


Richard Neutra’s Haus Rentsch in Wengen 1964

Picture Source:

Book: Visionary Gardens – Modern Landscapes by Ernst Cramer

The reflecting pool and sudden drop off of the house allows a person to be engulfed by nature and emphasizes its vastness, while at the same time being in a comfortable setting.


Ulm Science City on Eselsberg University Section West by Peter Latz 1988

Book and Picture: Syntax of Space: The Landscape Architecture of Peter Latz and Partners

The two sides of the walkway contrast with each other separating the landscape from the university buildings and allows the pedestrians to feel like they are on the brink between two worlds, natural and manmade.


Ron Herman’s Grid and Dimension in San Francisco, California

Book and Picture: Urban Landscape Architecture by Bridget Vranckx

The different colors and textures accentuate each other.  The darkness of the sides emphasizes the lighter material on top causing it to pop.

Cherry Canyon

Blog #4

Cherry Canyon in La Canada is a hidden pocket of natural beauty where I enjoy frequent hikes. It has a lot to recommend it – good trails, native plants, and interesting wildlife. At first, it might appear merely dusty and desolate, but closer inspection reveals the rich beauty of the area. The calming smell of sage and the soothing earth-tone hues contribute to a peaceful hike.

One of the attractions of Cherry Canyon is its many trails. They are well maintained with gravel on some of the steeper slopes and railroad ties to shore up slide areas. Boy Scouts routinely keep them clear of trash. There are a number of trails with varying degrees of difficulty, although some of them are steep. There are also fire trails that make for an easier hike. Many of the trails wind along the hillside and are narrow, making it necessary to walk single file. Most of them connect with other trails making it easy to hike in a loop. The views from the top are worth the climb. On clear days the ocean can be glimpsed in the distance.

The canyon is full of native plants. The trees are mainly oaks and sycamore, which provide welcome shade in the summer. Most of the hillside is covered in chaparral and sage that release a pleasant scent. Other plants include currant, California lilac, and toyon. Currant bushes have straight branches, small, shiny, green leaves and yellow blossoms that attract birds. The California lilac has dark green leaves and pale blue blossoms in the spring. Toyon, or California holly is an evergreen shrub that has white blossoms in the spring and red berries in the fall.

The native plants attract many local animals. Lizards frequently dart across the path and occasionally, rattlesnakes are found sunning themselves on the trail. Rabbits scurry on the slopes, which attracts red hawks that are frequently seen circling above looking for dinner. Many birds can be heard and hummingbirds hover over the lilac and holly bushes. In the evenings around dusk, families of deer can be seen coming out to graze. They bound gracefully away at the slightest noise.

The selection of trails, the fragrant plants, and the occasional spotting of wildlife make Cherry Canyon an enjoyable place to hike. I feel a sense of freedom and peace that I do not experience in the city.


Blog #3 Revised

Cherry Canyon in La Canada is a hidden pocket of natural beauty where I enjoy frequent hikes. This particular afternoon it is warm as I start off on a hike, but the dappled shade from the occasional group of oak trees is cool. The trail I’m taking begins off of Descanso Drive next to Descanso Gardens. At first it is a steep incline with ruts made by erosion and mountain bikes making it difficult to keep my footing. Eventually, the slope becomes more gradual allowing me to focus more on my surroundings. I spy the occasional rabbit scampering across the hillside as it tries to avoid catching the attention of the hawk circling overhead. As I climb higher there is mostly tall, greenish-yellow grass. Lizards dart across the path when I startle them basking in the sun and the many holes would indicate there are ground squirrels, although I don’t see any. After about 20 minutes, the trail dips slightly down as it curves around the hillside, winding in and out of oak and sycamore trees. At a sunny spot on the trail I stop at the sight of a baby rattlesnake sunning itself. I pick up a long branch and gently nudge it, then watch as it languidly slithers off into the undergrowth. Along this part of the trail there are wildflowers blooming. The lavender and yellow blossoms are a sharp contrast to the gray-green hue of the leaves. Ten minutes later, the trail, again, begins to climb. Farther down I can hear the faint trickle of water in the creek bed as a result of the recent rain. Paw prints and scat are evidence of coyotes, but it is still too early for them to come to hunt. Another steep climb brings me to the top of a ridge where there is a radio tower. If I look to the west, I can just make out the ocean in the distance. When I turn around, all of La Canada is spread out below. Although this place is dusty and somewhat desolate, there is a subtle beauty to it. The earthy tones and lack of vibrant colors is calming. When I spot the occasional brightly colored wildflower, it is a jolt to my senses. The wide-open space allows me to feel a freedom that is missing in town. As the sun begins to set, I begin the hike down, running when the trail is not too steep. It is much cooler now and most of the hikers are gone. It is a peaceful feeling.


Blog #3

As I stand looking up into the oak trees, the light breeze stirs the leaves making a pattern across the ground. It’s warm out, but in the dappled shade it is not too warm. Across the canyon I can see stunted trees and tall grasses freshly green from the recent rain. Farther down the slope I can see the town laid out and can even make out my house. Most of the plants are native to California and are prickly to touch and are soft hues of gray-green. There is the occasional lavender and yellow wild flower, which give off a subtle sweet scent up close. The flowers are delicate and velvety in contrast to the stems which are rough. Some of the blossoms are shaped like small trumpets and others dangle down from long stalks in a bell-like form. There is also the spicy aroma of sage brush overlaying everything. If I listen hard enough in the distance I can hear a faint trickle of water in the creek bed as a result of the recent rain. The soil is dry and compacted in spite of the rain and ruts have been worn into the path by countless hikers on the trail. At first my reaction to this place is that it is dusty and desolate, but as I take the time to closely observe my surroundings there is more to this place than meets the eye. The subtle earthy tones and lack of vibrant color is calming. When I spot the occasional brightly colored wildflower against the somewhat muted background it is a jolt to my senses and my eyes linger on the color. The wide open space allows me to feel a certain freedom, of not being closed in, unlike what I feel in town. The lack of other people contributes to the deep silence, so all I can hear are the sounds of nature.