Although I reside in the pleasant coastal city of Venice, CA, I’m constantly amazed by the metamorphosis this town has endured over the past 100 years, both architecturally and culturally. Originally envisioned as an American version of Venice, Italy, by developer Abbot Kinney in the early 1900’s, this West Los Angeles neighborhood was designed to be a cultural arts center to mirror its Italian counterpart. Canals and lagoons once coiled around Venice, with gondolas and boats serving as a primary means of transportation. However, Kinney’s plans soon devolved and resulted in him shaping Venice to be the Coney Island of the West Coast, complete with hotels, amusement parks and theaters. Venice emerged as a popular tourist destination, particularly for those residing in the Los Angeles area.
In the late 1920’s, oil was discovered just off the Venice shore, creating a cultural shift in the city. Venice started to thrive more from the commerce than the tourism. By the mid 1900’s Venice resembled a slum. All of its oil had been tapped and the city’s resources were drained from the Great Depression.
Over the past 40 years, Venice has undergone a transformative stage of rebuilding. Today, Venice is one of the most design-driven cities in the world. Architects, artists and designers find it to be an eclectic, historically-rich and inspirational epicenter, which possesses the cultural heart that Abbot Kinney so devotedly tried to craft. The high-end restaurants and shops intersect with a vibrant street culture, creating an ideal art scene. Once home to Jim Morrison and Frank Gehry’s offices, Venice represents a resilient and timeless neighborhood.
While some of the city’s most important structures no longer exist, the courthouse, canal bridges, intimate walk streets and colorful bungalow houses make Venice a hypnotizing design district. With the assistance of notable architects including Frank Gehry, Steven Ehrlich and Thom Mayne & Michael Rotondi of Morphosis Architects, Venice has emerged as a community with wonderful and eclectic character and charm.
The Binocular Building, strolling Abbot Kinney Boulevard, eating at any of the great restaurants, going to the beach, biking on the amazing and long bike path, perusing the boardwalk and stopping in Obsolete, a superb design store on Main Street, are worth experiencing when visiting Venice.