LA River archive opens at historic modernist barn

jc-mg-200-names.jpgJon Christensen writes: Finding an unassuming historical barn in the midst of Century City's bluster is a strange enough anomaly. But when you enter the plain white building on Santa Monica Boulevard just a block from the Westfield mall, a study in even more beautiful juxtapositions opens up. In the 1960s, architect A. Quincy Jones grafted his signature mid-century modern, indoor-outdoor, open floor plan, and spare lines on to the back of a simple New England-style barn. It became his home and studio for many years.

barn.jpgWhen I walked through the building--which is now owned by Metabolic Studio--I felt like I had left Los Angeles for an uncertain location outside of time. The studio acquired the building in 2010 and has spent the past several years conserving the building and its contents, including many artifacts and books that influenced a particularly Californian strand of utopian thinking around housing, urban development, the environment, design, and social structures.

The occasion for my visit was a celebration of the Ed P. Reyes LA River Archive, which is now located in the barn. Reyes, a former LA City Council member, grew up near the river in Cypress Park, and has spent the past several months working in the barn, sorting through the archives of his own work along the river during his 12-year tenure on the council. The still barn-like living room in the home is now filled with an evocative collage of artifacts and maps on the two-story walls and on the floor, which, in another mind-bending turn, bring the LA River right into the house.

Ed Reyes.jpgWhen Reyes was termed out of office last fall, artist Lauren Bon, founder of Metabolic Studio, invited him to "take some time, to unpack his boxes, so that we can learn from them together," said Laurie Peake, a curator with the studio.

Reyes said that when he looked over the documents from his own archives, he realized that "the river doesn't know political boundaries." And his archives could serve as a reference point for how to build public engagement with the river, restoration of the environment, and social and economic revitalization all along the river corridor.

The barn and Reyes archive will be open to the public by appointment on Wednesday afternoons this summer between 1 and 4pm. To make an appointment email

Reminder: Our "Just Add Water: The Discussions" series at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County continues this Thursday evening, July 17, with a conversation about the LA River. On Thursday, July 24, Lauren Bon will participate in a discussion on "Chinatown, Revisited," with Jim McDaniel of the LADWP and artist Rob Reynolds. On Thursday, July 31, Ed Reyes will participate in a discussion on "Water Wars," and the struggle for clean water with Mark Gold, Elsa Lopez of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California, and Mary Pardo, professor of Chicana/o studies at California State University, Northridge. To RSVP, visit the museum website here.

Photos courtesy of Metabolic Studio.

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