Friday, November 21, 2008

Superfluous Detail: Playhouse Alley

They didn't have to do this. They didn't have to put that shield, or whatever it is, on the side of the building. It's in an alley, for heaven's sake. Nobody sees it. But they did it anyway, so it's a superfluous detail, and that's why I love it.

This one's on the Pasadena Playhouse building, the south side, looking out over Playhouse Alley. Those scallops on the lower part are shadow from the building next door. Click on the picture to enlarge it so you can see the little lion heads on the soffits. (The soffits are above El Molino Avenue. Just look up!)

All these lovely details were designed for the Playhouse by Pasadena architect Elmer Grey. The 1924 structure has an illustrious history. It has always been a great theatre. May it always remain so.

14 comments:

Cafe Observer said...

A great theatre with a history of not being a great place to place a restaurant.

USelaine said...

It's there because it's the honorable way to construct something that humans will interact with, and humanity trumps the vacuum of cold, dumb function. Fear not. You are not the first or last to see this gift of art.

USelaine said...

One or two blocks east of this, there was an amazing florist where they had a specialty of "swiss bouquets" as well as grander arrangements with outstanding materials. I wandered in there and was entertained for an hour at least.

USelaine said...

Sorry, I was just adding my own superfluous detail there...

Petrea said...

I wonder why that is, C.O.? Have there been restaurants in the plaza that failed? What can you tell us about that history?

Elaine, you've perfectly articulated what I've been trying to illustrate. May I quote you in future "S.D." posts?

I encourage you to add your details here, superfluous or otherwise, at any time.

I'm not sure I know the florist you refer to, but others might. There's a florist/gift shop right on the corner south of Playhouse Alley that's somewhat elaborate called Jacob Maarse, could that be it?

HearkenCreative said...

Superfluous details in architecture are there for the joy of art/design. Too often there is no joy in modern architecture, especially non-competition run-of-the-mill everyday buildings. May it be that it returns soon...

Actually, we have an embarrassment of riches with joy in architecture here in Pasadena (and lots of superfluous details), with buildings by Wallace Neff, Myron Hunt, Sylvanus Marston, not to mention the Greenes. The more modern buildings have not been able to completely live up to their historic neighbors, but, again, here's hoping.

And Petrea, good encouragement to us: always "look up."

Miss Havisham said...

I agree Hearken C, an embarrassment of riches...Julia Morgan, soon Frank Gehring (although controversal) at least, there was a plan for Gehring in some sort of expansion of the Playhouse. Perhaps that plan was abandoned?

My mother said that when the Pasadena Playhouse became a state theatre it opened doors to young, underprivileged (now termed "at risk youth")and struggling young adults in all aspects of works theatrical. At 13, she submitted her first play directly to Mr. Brown. She received a very nice rejection letter from him with much encouragement for her to continue to pursue writing. If she had lived closer to the theater then, I'm sure her talents would have developed.

My imaginary husband, Raymond Burr, spent a great deal of time at the Playhouse. There was a memorial held there when he died in 1993. He was such a sweet, generous person.

The link you posted on the history is excellent. Thank you.

Laurie said...

I don't believe any gorgeous detail is superfluous -- it should be a requirement!

Another beautiful corner of Pasadena highlighted for us, P. I've never looked up right there and I'm glad you pointed out this wonderful reason to do just that. One of the things I love most about the San Gabriel Valley is the fact that so many old buildings remain, with so many of these wonderful little flourishes. You can even find beautiful manhole covers and, of course, the abundance of great street lamps. I wish we had more of a design aesthetic in this country. Something seems to have happened since mid-20th Century -- a lean toward all function and little form. (I just love form!)

Speaking of superfluous details, now I'm rambling.

lynn said...

Ah where would we be without the detail of life?

D.C. Confidential said...

Sometimes, the superfluous is the most interesting. Unless you're one of the Big Three automakers flying to Washington in private jets to beg Congress for money. Then it's just hubris and greed.

USelaine said...

P, I think that must have been the place. I thought it was further away.

Miss H, Mr. Burr had property just south of my county, where he made wine and raised orchids. But you knew that. I always thought he looked a little like my father.

USelaine said...

I've never been able to locate the honest-to-jezuz theme music from Perry Mason, with the deep rumbling piano pounding... All the remakes just sound tinny.

Petrea said...

Embarrassment of riches is right, Hearken. I brag about Pasadena's architecture all the time.

That's a sweet story about your mother, Miss Havisham. And I hadn't realized you were an imaginary widow. Have you considered remarrying? So many TV stars, so little time.

Laurie, share away, please. It ain't rambling when it's you.

Lynn, all I can say is our faces would look really weird.

Oh yes, D.C., but with one minor detail missing: NO PLAN FOR HOW TO SPEND IT. Excuse me?

Elaine, if anyone can find that music it's Mlle. Gramophone.

Chuck Pefley said...

Another detail that they didn't "have" to include is that nice rippled lower edge. Nice angle for this composition!