Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fickett, an American Architectural Hero. Creator of West Hollywood Park Library.

West Hollywood Library Threatened with Demolition
Please Comment by July 11, 2011

The fight isn’t over until I am laying down in front of the bulldozer!  

What you think matters and I encourage you to support Mid-Century Modern Architecture as we enter a new era of preservation for work designed during this innovative and eco-friendly period in architecture.  

I would like you to take moment to brief yourself below and if you feel compelled to comment on the issue, please do.  It is the most economical way of supporting a Cause as your comments really do matter.  I can assure I will personally submit a file to the City prior to the July 18th City Council meeting, as long as you “cc” me your thoughts.  It will be important for me to keep track of things as the weeks advance.  I understand the Fickett Library is my own battle, but I’d sure like to feel I wasn’t alone on this issue of advocacy?  After studying the reports and inner-politics of the City itself, this issue just comes down to what is right and what is wrong.  I thank you for your time in advance.

The 1959 Edward Hale Fickett, FAIA designed West Hollywood Park Library is targeted for demolition in “the Fall” of 2011 as the City of West Hollywood implements their Phase 1B of the Master Plan.  I need your help to persuade the City that demolishing this 5,170sf building is unnecessary, misguided, and detrimental to the City’s and County’s program of local landmarks and cultural heritage. 

Ed Fickett’s Contributions to the Communities of Los Angeles

As the City was busy planning the celebration of their 25 years of Cityhood through their 25th Anniversary Capital Project initiatives, they seemed to overlook the historical relevance of the West Hollywood Park Library turning 50 and becoming eligible for Historic Cultural Monument status due to the 4th generation Angeleno’s cultural contributions to the City from the planning of the West Hollywood Park, including the Library to the design of one of the city’s first openly gay restaurant, if not the very first.  After the restaurant had closed, a trendy restaurant on Oscar Night was launched by an Austrian chef who turned the place into one of Hollywood’s biggest celebrity destinations in West Hollywood.

With Edward Fickett’s architectural contributions in West Hollywood, an estimated 35 projects at one point, his architecture firm opened a second office conveniently located at 9026 Melrose Avenue to accommodate the work in the area.  The main office was located only a short distance away on Beverly Blvd, but Fickett insisted to be close to the work he was involved with at the time.  If it meant opening another office, than so be it.  The 4th generation Angeleno was committed to the development of the City of West Hollywood, as well apply his genius on a local, state, national and international stage.

His work has inspired many architects and had the encouragement of Fickett himself as he often toured and spoke with students to discuss the merits of Modern.  His accessibility to the common man and modest ego kept this man’s feet on the ground while traveling the world involved with resort complexes, the development of Master Plans, port facilities, military installations along with the many residential homes built for not just the common man returning from a world of war, but the famous ones looking for a new place to build on the French Riviera.  Hence, the name chosen for his design for 1400 N. Hayworth Ave might have some relation as it is called, the Hollywood Riviera.   

His unique regional perspective as an architect born and raised in California, he emphasized openness, light, functionality, and a gentle footprint on the Mid-Century Modern design landscape.  The irony is Fickett notated the West Hollywood Park Library as an example of his Achievement in Architectural Design within his application for Fellowship to the American Institute of Architects.  How the City got past the historical significance of the West Hollywood Park’s creator is beyond anyone’s comprehension.  It makes you wonder whom the City hires to investigate merits of architecture and historical significance on behalf of the City.

Now, the City seeks to raze the environmentally friendly Library building in order to sod and water an additional 5,200sf of grass area in the park.  The park will transform from 1.09 acres of grass and trees to 4.78 acres when the proposed Phase 1B is completed.  This is an additional 3.69 acres of grass and tree area.  When the Master Plan originally was created, the contingent was for an additional 2.5 acres. 

A City Council playing by the rules?

With all things relating politics, we must follow proper decorum.  The city is required to conduct an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) notating any impacts to the environment such as tree removals, air quality, parking, Historic Resources, et al.  Due to the historic relevancy of the Fickett structures that comprised the Hollywood Park, the City included a specific study on those buildings.  As a result of that study and the gross negligence in estimating the severity of Historic Impact the project would have on the community at large, two mitigation measures were recommended and ultimately adopted.   Hence, the City decided to go around specific mandates and regulations in regards to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) along with the two negative impact report findings in the Initial Study Report and allowed themselves to move forward with their plans to raze structures in the Park area, including the Fickett Library.

The official Public Comment period is over and the City has decided to move forward with plans of the Park without the Fickett Library included and without preserving one building on the site by using the excuse the Public Opinion Period is now over.  It has been over for years now.  But, it doesn’t mean we cannot continue the conversation with the City, as they have not finalized their design plans for the Phase 1B portion of the development, which includes the area of the Fickett Library. 

One of the latest renderings of PHASE 1B actually includes a reference to a new building in the same area of the old library, so I just have to question the City’s intent? 
Phase 1
Phase 2

Phase 3

The City has demonstrated their lack of respect to the Park as they have not maintained the buildings sufficiently within the last three to five years.  The Library sees sandbags protecting it from water damage, invasive root growth from harmful trees in front of the structure and an overall lack of general upkeep make apparent the City’s dislike for entertaining a thought from the past. 

Re-Use: the Eco-Friendly Approach

Wouldn’t it be a novel idea for the City to hold on to the building and start to treat it with a little respect as it now has sand bags blocking any water damage and the overall lack of care for a responsibility of upkeep to the County of Los Angeles.  Again, the City has no regard for anyone else’s rules.  I believe there is always room for a win-win situation.  They have all ready taken the park, in theory.  They have stated there is no intent on keeping anything.  What if they did?  What if the Fickett Library became a place where couples could go perform a wedding ceremony or wedding reception or both?  It will only be a matter of time before the State accepts same-sex marriages, again.  What an ideal setting for ceremonies and mid-sized receptions.  The City could benefit economically by renting it out for special events. Kings Road Park is appropriate for small wedding ceremonies. 

But take a moment to imagine the park with the Fickett Library transformed and properly maintained while included within the new proposed plans?  THe CIty still has time to save face before the ugly mess comes crashing back to haunt them in the long run.  The City could also work special event gatherings in conjunction with the PDC special events across the street.  Why not?  The Party Palace is just one idea and there could be thousands of re-use ideas yet to be explored.  

It has to be mentioned as it is too obvious not to.  The approach to re-use is one of the most eco-friendly and economic approaches towards development, considering the building itself was designed as an energy efficient and sustainable structure.  One look at the design closely allowing morning direct light through the floor to ceiling windows while the pocket windows on the roof allow for diffused light to filter into the building.

West Hollywood Cultural Resources Designation Program’s Mission Statement

“The primary mechanism for the protection of cultural resources from demolition, inappropriate alteration, and neglect is through cultural resources designation programs. While listing in the National Register and California Register may dissuade demolition and inappropriate alterations, such listings also trigger environmental review through Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and the California Environmental Quality Act. Designation under the West Hollywood Cultural Heritage Preservation Ordinance offers the strongest protection. Buildings may only be demolished if their preservation will result in economic hardship for the owner.  Alterations to these cultural resources are reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission.”

When a City cannot seem to live up to it’s own messaging, it then becomes time for the people of the community to hold the elected and appointed officials to their commitment to cultural heritage, especially a city only 25 years old.  It is of the utmost importance we speak now or forever hold our tongues!

Nomination for the Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture (Category 1)

The Fickett Library is eligible to be nominated for the American Institute of Architects, Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture (Category 1).   The objective of this prestigious award is to merit architects who follow(ed) the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson.

“Jefferson demonstrated a commitment to excellence in architecture in order to improve the public's understanding of its own potential through various models of quality design. He pursued a more sensitive and responsible government as well as enhanced standards of living and learning for the general public.

The product of good public buildings, such as post offices, recreation centers, libraries, educational facilities, and infrastructure projects that impact a broad cross-section of a community structure, must be recognized for the significance of their lasting contribution to our enhanced quality of life.” - AIA

Not only did Fickett design the urban plan for the West Hollywood Park initiated by the State of California to improve park areas during the 1950s, but he also designed the Port of Los Angeles Cargo and Passenger areas; planned and designed large-scale HUD home developments under the Eisenhower Administration, which provided tens of thousands of homes to Vets returning from war; Multi-Housing innovation with projects like the Hollywood Riviera, West Hollywood, a Historic Cultural Monument; he served as the Architectural Commissioner for the City of Beverly Hills from 1977 to 1986, as well as designed several other Civic buildings of our community.  Fickett’s body of work merits the Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture as well as saving one of his designs from the historic park.

We're all winners with Fickett

Fickett received numerous awards over his lifetime.  In 1954, he received an ‘Award of Merit’, National Association of Home Builders, Sherman Park Housing Development and a ‘Design Award for Progressive Architecture’, Housing Development for Araco, Inc., Northridge.  In 1955, Fickett received the ‘Award of Merit’ from the National Association of Home Builders, Apartment Project for George Alexander Co., Hollywood.  1956 was a big year for Fickett to be honored.  Again he receives an ‘Award of Merit’ from the National Association of Home Builders, Sherman Park Housing Development, a ‘First Honor Award’ by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for his Buena Park Housing Development for GMB Corp., an ‘Award of Merit’ from the AIA for his Speculative Housing in Encino, CA., and another ‘Award of Merit’ from House and Home for the Residential design of the Encino home.  In 1957, the architect received an ‘Award of Merit’ by the AIA for the Housing Development for McDonald Brothers in Covina, CA. Also that year Fickett received the ‘Award of Merit’ from the AIA for the Housing Development in Palos Verdes associated with the McCarthy Co. The awards just continue with three more received in 1960.  ‘The Regional Merit Award’ by Parent’s Magazine for the Housing Development in LaMesa, CA, a ‘National Merit Award’ given by Parent’s Magazine for the Residence of Dr. and Mrs. David M. Stenzil, LaMesa, CA and a ‘Citation for Architectural Design by American Home Magazine’ for his Grossmont Hills Housing Development in San Diego, CA.  In 1963, the ‘Better Homes for All America Award’ was given to Fickett by the Better Homes and Gardens Magazine for yet another Housing development as well as receiving a ‘Design Leadership Award’ by Practical Builder Magazine for his Housing Development in association with Westborough Homes.

Fickett also was recognized with 'Certificate of Appreciation' by the Federal Housing Administration (1960), National Association of Home Builders (1961), Pacific Coast Builders (1965 and 1967).  He also received an 'Appreciation of Service’ award by the American Arbitration Association (1963).

Fickett was appointed to the Federal Housing Advisory Board, Washington, DC, in 1958.  He attended quarterly meetings during 1958 and 1959 and was. With other members of the Advisory Board, he was jointly responsible for rewriting the Minimum Property Requirements of the Federal Housing Administration.

At the time of Fickett’s first submission of his application for Fellowship with the AIA, he happened to be the Chairman of the Southern California Chapter of the AIA and ultimately received the Fellowship in 1969 with a major endorsement by A. Quincy Jones, FAIA.

Take Action.  Speak out.

  • Every effort should be taken to avoid the demolition of this potential landmark building and find a way to incorporate it into the design of the Master Plan.

  • The West Hollywood Park Library can be adapted to fit the needs of the gay community as a place for marriage ceremonies and receptions with the City receiving an economic incentive by renting the facility as a special events room.

  • With proper maintenance and the removal of invasive roots from trees around the site, the building could once again be restored to the original luster it once had.

  • The West Hollywood Park Library can be sensitively upgraded for enhanced energy efficiency to meet the project’s sustainability goals. 

  • Increasing the Parks total green area by more than 3 acres would indicate there is room for discussion in keeping the West Hollywood Library from being razed as there would adequate green area with the new Master Plan including the Fickett Library.

  • Demolition of the West Hollywood Park Library, would call into question the City’s ability to protect our cultural heritage when clear adaptive reuse options exist.

  • Plans to raze the West Hollywood Library should be avoided.  This sets a precedent and could invite further changes and cumulative impacts to this linear historic landscape monument.

Please Comment by July 11, 2011 and Get One Friend to Do the Same

I ask you from the bottom of my heart to take a few minutes to gather your thoughts and contact the Councilmembers of West Hollywood through a letter.  If you and one friend of yours could spend 20 minutes to put together some thoughts on a situation that just isn’t right, you could help create history by protecting this cultural resource for future generations to come.  Take action now!  Write to the West Hollywood Councilmembers and let them know what you think.  Let’s make a difference.

Helpful Contacts to allow you to express your thoughts:

(Just click the email link and your email will be ready to send.)
subject:  Fickett Library

us mail:
City of West Hollywood
8300 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA  90069

please hold...:

Mayor, John Duran jduran@weho.org
Mayor Pro Tempore, Jeffrey Prang jprang@weho.org
Deputy to Mayor Pro Tempore, Michael Haibach, mhaibach@weho.org
Councilmember John D’Amico, jdamico@weho.org   
Councilmember John Heilman, jheilman@weho.org
Councilmember Abbe Land, aland@weho.org

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