Monday, June 17, 2024

Tour of oil islands, sneak inside Villa Riviera penthouses, more events attached to 2023 LB Architecture Week

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It is perpetually among the favorites of residents and visitors alike when asked, “What is your favorite building in Long Beach?” The answer: The Villa Riviera, the green-roofed, stone, neo-gothic masterpiece at the southeast corner of Ocean Boulevard and Alamitos Avenue.

And this year, guests can explore the historic landmark’s insanely ornate and unique spaces: From the first floor social gathering rooms and spaces to the four penthouses that line the building’s top floor, including the North Grand Penthouse—the largest residential space inside the building—in a private tour.

Or tour our famed “resort” islands—that is, our THUMS Islands, used for oil digging and often amusingly confused as resorts to visitors (and hold their own fascinating history that will be broken down on said tours). 

The North Grand Penthouse inside the Villa Riviera. Courtesy of home owner.

This is but two of many events at this year’s Long Beach Architecture Week (LBAW), running May 31 through June 11.

“Architecture week isn’t just about architecture—it’s about community and love for our city and community,” Brian Trimble, LBAW’s founder and leading organizer, said. “Long Beach has a long and fascinating history around the built environment. We want to explore that history and it’s impact on our community today.”

Trimble’s point about the effect of architecture is more poignant today than ever for Long Beach, as the past decade has seen its largest physical transformation in our history—something not to be taken lightly or to ignore in terms of our history and our future.

The skyline has changed: The Shoreline Gateway towers as our tallest building while the newly minted ONNI East Village stands tall at 3rd Street and Long Beach Boulevard. There have been more buildings erected in the last five years than the previous twenty. More and more historic buildings—from the Lafayette to the Breakers to Ocean Center to the Villa—have seen massive renovations or restorations. Streets have become safer and more complete while parks are undergoing large scale rebuild or reimagining—like the new Lincoln Park or the now-under-construction altering of the Colorado Lagoon.

The Villa Riviera acts as a foredrop for the THUMS Islands off the shoreline of Long Beach. Both are part of this year’s Long Beach Architecture Week celebration. Photo by Brian Addison.

“Long Beach has a long and fascinating history around the build environment,” Trimble said. “We want to explore that history and it’s impact on our community today. We see the future of architecture week as an opportunity to explore both the historic and contemporary structures in our city and the impacts those buildings have on our community.”

The list of events attached to historic and older spaces is impressive.

We’ve already mentioned the Villa Riviera—surely to sell-out with its one-night-only ticket on June 3—but there are some distinctly worthy events that showcase the breadth of Long Beach’s architectural history, particularly including LBAW’s “Select Great Homes” tour.

Architect Kirtland Cutter’s famed Henry Clock house, located in the Virginia Country Club neighborhood, is an example of his Monterey-style grandeur. Courtesy of CRMLS.

Taking place across the Park Estates and Los Cerritos neighborhoods of Long Beach—and given their age, may not have full ADA accessibility as a head’s up—four homes will be explored: Three homes from famed mid-mod masters Paul Tay and Richard Neutra as well as a look into one of Kirtland Cutter’s Monterey-style homes, a style that is largely unfeasible nowadays due to cost and materials.

Cutter, who died in Long Beach in 1939, has risen in popularity following the restoration of his famed Henry Clock House in Virginia Country Club in 2021—and it is one the finest examples of his approach to Monterey-style houses, a super-colonizer blend of French, Spanish and English styles. (Laugh or cry at that as you wish.)

The Villa Riviera as seen from the highest balcony of the Shoreline Gateway tower. Photo by Brian Addison.

Other notable events are seemingly endless: an Art Deco and Streamline Moderne double-decker bus tour in DTLB with historic preservation consultant John Thomas (with cocktails to boot), a Long Beach Heritage tour of the Roarin’ 20s in DTLB’s East Village…

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.

In other words: Go.

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Long Beach Architecture Week runs May 31 through 11. 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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