History of L.A. Modernism | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo courtesy Minnie Ortner

Everyday Modernisms: Diversity, Creativity, and Ideas in L.A. Architecture, 1940-1990

by Alan Hess

Defining Modernism

Modernism is the broad term defining a wide range of buildings and city planning concepts reflecting the new conditions of twentieth century life. Modern architects believed that new conditions of lifestyles and technology should be given a fresh interpretation, rather than being forced into the forms of previous eras.

Modernism derives its forms and beauty from a fresh use of materials, structures, and functions. Modernism includes a wide range of styles, looks, and aesthetics, including (but not limited to) the rich ornament and natural materials of Organic Modernism, the smooth sculptural volumes of Late Moderne, the muscular exposed concrete of Brutalism, the exuberant structural expressionism of Googie, the exposed steel or wood structures of the Case Study House Program, and the spare flat-roofed steel-and-glass International Style.

The primary theme linking these varied expressions is the free exploration of the new, wherever that search led the architect.

L.A. Before 1940
1940-1950: The Modern Commercial City in War and Peace
1950-1960: Suburban Metropolis
1960-1970: Imperial California
1970-1980: Los Angeles Rediscovered
1980-1990: Los Angeles Confirmed