GREATEST: Hood Midcentury Modern
Jerald Cooper and photographer Nicholas Alan Cope showcase a selection of buildings in and around South Central Los Angeles.
In View Park, at that cul-de-sac off of Slauson and Overhill, jettisoning out into the street where people eat; or hiding amongst Craftsman homes in West Adams; shit, even on your TV. That's where you’ll find the “unseen.” The ever changing. The never changing. The modernism of South Central Los Angeles.
I ain’t goin hold you…Until 2020, I hadn’t heard of most of the neighborhoods in South Central LA, let alone their connection to modernism. You used to hear “South Central,” but then that became “South LA” because the former was too “hood”-sounding after the ’90s riots. You rarely hear though about why this area was given its namesake: being south of Central Avenue. This area was the cultural epicenter of Black LA after the Great Migration that took place between the early 1900s and the mid-century. Throughout America at this time, our families, communities and histories were colliding with modernism. It was and is EVERYWHERE.
Come to think of it, did Googie architecture and the environment in South Central LA and other parts of LA influence the creative output of Dr. Dre, Kendrick and DJ Quik? It had to. But anytime I heard about architecture or the built space in our neighborhoods, I heard about the failures of federal modern housing developments and the redlining that prevented home ownership—and does to this day. No one talked about the buildings that we saw on album covers or in music videos. I ain’t know that we were designing and building homes in the ’20s in West Adams or flourishing in creative communities like Leimert Park or along Central Ave. These unseen yet omnipresent structures and histories need our attention more than ever. No?
I love when rappers talk about dropping the roof on a convertible and they say, “Yeah, my roof missin’.” Hah. It’s my favorite home in LA right now and was built in 1952. And nope, haven’t been inside yet, but you have to see the interior photos I was able to find on @hoodmidcenturymodern.
The third time I visited this home, I noticed that this wasn’t the best view. The first two times, I would stand to the right of the house or I’d walk up towards it to view the Japanese landscape a bit closer. But then, I’d walk all the way back towards the entrance of the street. On that third time, I saw this home was built for its view (duh, we in View Park). I thought, “Man, the whole back wall is blown out. It was probably never built.” Damn, as I’m writing this, I just remembered that I saw this home on HBO the other day in Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. It was Kareem's home on the show. I wonder if it was for real…
Designed by Paul Revere Williams in 1927, this house really feels like a mix of Bauhaus and Spanish Colonial Revival. The opposing styles work together, like in the curved walls, interior details and modernist windows—or are those Spanish Colonial windows?
I found out about this house when I got a DM from its current owners. They were left very rare images of the original owners who built the home. The original owners were a Black couple: The wife, who was a well-known TV chef, and the husband, who was a doctor. The images that were left with the current owners are rare because you didn’t often see, in the 1950s, a home built by Black folks; let alone intentionally building a mid-century modern home with custom built-in furniture—especially in West Adams, a neighborhood known for historic Craftsman homes.
Until I really learned about John Lautner, the creator of Googie architecture, I didn’t know that there was any connection to this kind of futuristic design I’d seen in movies and in architecture books.
This church takes up a whole city block! It’s massive. And that's just the first thing that strikes you. What I love about it most is the interior courtyard. Y’all remember that church on Euphoria? This that one.