At the height of postwar progress, the San Fernando Valley promised the best of the modern dream: hillside views, sprawling homes and some of the coolest boulevards in the West.
The Los Angeles Conservancy is now celebrating the finest of L.A. modernism, with virtual tours of Valley ranch-house neighborhoods, hill homes and gems along Ventura Boulevard.
Its new educational series, "Curating the City: Modern Architecture in L.A," available at laconservancy.org, provides architecture buffs with online guides to hundreds of homes and businesses across Los Angeles County.
"This is just the beginning," said Linda Dishman, the conservancy's executive director, in a statement. "We focused on launching with great content, of course, but also on creating a strong technical foundation that we can continue to build on. It will only get better over time."
The series, supported by the Getty initiative "Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A.," focuses on a half century of the genre as a "living museum" through tours, panel discussions, the new website and more. Included are three virtual tours of the Valley, all accessible on a smartphone.
In the boom after World War II, according to the nonprofit group, the Valley led the way in evoking new images of suburbia -- and etching the Southern California lifestyle in people's minds. A home of one's own, good schools, affordable living, plenty of sun and easy access to jobs and more all conveyed the promise of a better, happier, more relaxed life north of Los Angeles -- the "Valley Dream."
"To a great extent, that promise was kept: The Valley offered a uniquely Southern California lifestyle, with just a little more elbow room, a little more ease," according to the conservancy's Valley tours.
The "Home on the Ranch" tour offers a glimpse of great examples of 20th-century ranch homes notable for their broad porches, shake roofs and rambling floor plans surrounded by sparkling pools and orange trees along curvy streets.
Perfect examples are Devonshire Highlands and Devonshire Country Estates in Northridge.
The "Head for the Hills" peek allows visitors to peer up at sleek homes designed by such vaunted architects as Richard Dorman, Ray Kappe, John Lautner, Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler, among others -- perched on hills with stunning views across the Valley and Los Angeles.
The "Cruising the Boulevard" tour encourages a top-down drive along the 16 miles of Ventura Boulevard, where Googie-style coffee shops, carwashes and modernist churches, banks, office buildings and commercial strips were designed to capture the attention of motorists at 45 mph -- and they did.
"Even R.M. Schindler tried his hand at commercial-strip design, as you'll see in the 1942 Lingenbrink Shops," the tour intones. "Just down the road, Hughes Market, now Ralphs, might be one of the Valley's most expressive supermarkets, with a dramatic curve to its roof and walls of glass."
The conservancy's virtual tours and modern architecture website links, funded by the Getty and Ahmanson foundations and the Donaldson Charitable Trust, were based on feedback from a survey of 1,300 respondents. Its features include a map of more than 300 modern places to explore throughout the county, searchable by keyword or filtered by architect, style, decade, property type, community and proximity to the user; essays on Southern California Modernism, with a spotlight on preservation concerns and information about upcoming events; and curated guides to historic places based on eight themes -- Art and Architecture, Big Business, Car Culture, Homegrown Architects, Housing the Masses, Innovations in Technology, Living the High Life at Home and the Public Realm.
Also available is a guide to historic places available to rent for special events.
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BEFORE YOU GO
Scroll through the list of influential buildings below and let us know which selections would make your top 10 in the comments.
"10 Buildings That Changed America" debuts nationally on May 12, 2013.