Thursday, May 30, 2024

Tour of oil islands, Doris Sung talk, more events attached to Long Beach Architecture Week


One of Long Beach’s hidden mid-mod gems—the Belmont Shore Mobile Estate’s clubhouse, designed by famed Black architect Roy Sealey—was at one point forgotten, like much of Sealey’s work and, if we are being civically honest, much of Long Beach’s architecture itself.

Before its restoration brought with it a returned respect, Sealey’s work was being not just forgotten but outright demolished: Sometimes, when a structure becomes so dilapidated that it becomes an outright blight, it’s hard to imagine that it was once a mid-century modern and Googie masterpiece that is now demolished, its space the retail complex currently known as 2nd & PCH.

Popularly and previously known as SeaPort Marina Hotel, or what was originally called the Edgewater Inn, opened in the beginning of 1963 and reflected mid-mod decadence at its best.

Its destruction was something deeply lamented—of course, post-demolition. The juxtaposition of what his work—on one hand, if restored to its former glory as with his clubhouse or, on the other, demolished without even the decency of a funeral—could reflect for the city is but one of many events at this year’s Long Beach Architecture Week (LBAW), running June 8 through 12.

Long Beach Architecture week is more than just a celebration of local architecture; it is a set of tours, walks, talks, and social gatherings that finally uplifts the city as the architectural gem it always has been.

“Hopefully people really see this as a good thing for our city,” said Brian Trimble, LBAW’s founder and leading organizer. “We have the backing of KCRW as a media sponsor, we have the backing of Modernism Week [in Palm Springs, largely considered one of the most influential architectural events in the nation]—they see the importance this so I hope Long Beach residents do as well.”

Trimble’s attempt to achieve just that—a local appreciation of architecture here in Long Beach that goes beyond the design nerds, history buffs, and niche crowds—will hopefully succeed through what is, in all frankness, a pretty spectacular series of events.

One of the celebration’s stand-out events is a boat tour and event exploration of Island White, one of the THUMS oil-digging islands that dot the coastline of Long Beach.

While many residents still like to think they’re just private little resorts (like many a tourists), the story behind them is fascinating: The work of Joseph Linesch—a theme park landscaper whose work garnered him gigs at Disneyland, Disney World, Busch Gardens, Universal Studios, Astroworld and more—the islands were his first major project in Long Beach.

Linesch’s creative task was not the only unique aspect to the tale of what would be known as THUMS Islands, an acronym for the oil companies which were taking part: Texaco (now Chevron), Humble (now ExxonMobil), Union Oil (now Chevron), Mobil (now ExxonMobil) and Shell Oil Company.

Each island, however, had distinct names: Islands Grissom, White, and Chaffee are the closest to shore from west to east while Island Freeman sits farther out, southernly to White. Each are named after fallen American astronauts: Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Roger B. Chaffee, and Ed White, all died during the Apollo I fire of 1967; Theodore C. “Ted” Freeman is the first astronaut to perish while on active duty, piloting a T-38 Talon jet trainer before dying in 1964.

Trimble will lead a tour of Island White for LBAW.

This year’s keynote speaking event, hosted at the Aquarium of the Pacific’s relatively new Pacific Visions Theater, will feature none other than architectural royalty, Doris Sung.

Blending technology and architecture—through grant-funded research, she has designed projects with smart thermo bimetals to self-ventilate, self-shade, self-structure, self-assemble and self-propel with zero-energy and no controls—her work is largely considered the future of sustainable structures.

Other notable events are seemingly endless: Afternoon Tea at the Victorian Bembridge House, an Art Deco and Streamline Moderne double-decker bus tour (complete with Cosmopolitan cocktails and sandwiches), a Charles Phoenix Long Beachland event, free self-guided tours…

These events are not just important to any city that considers itself cultural, let alone Long Beach’s self-appointed moniker of being the “International City,” they are an essential cog in cementing civic pride, cultural education, and neighborly connection.

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In other words: Go.

Long Beach Architecture Week runs June 8 through 12. For information on events and tickets, click here.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.


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