CONF: 4th International Iconic Houses Conference (Los Angeles, 17-19 Feb 2016)

January 2016 – Joining us as Guest of Honor is legendary architect, inventor and environmentalist Harry Gesner (1925), who designed the Cahuenga Pass Boat Houses in LA (1959) and some of Malibu’s most awe-inspiring architecture. His distinctive designs include the Cooper Wave House (1957), Raven’s Eye (1993) and, of course, the architect’s own abode, the Sand Castle (1960) found tucked along the Pacific Coast Highway. If there ever was an architect equivalent to the International Man of Mystery, James Bond, it’s Harry Gesner. In fact, the lauded architect’s life story reads like a script for the dashing, playboy spy: ‘the movie-star- handsome Mr. Gesner surfs and water-skis like a pro; he survived Normandy, though he nearly lost both legs; he audited architecture classes at Yale, turning down a chance to study with Frank Lloyd Wright, who admired his drawings; he tussled with leading men, like Marlon Brando and Errol Flynn, and fell in love with leading ladies, like a young June Lockhart’ and married the famous Broadway star Nan Martin. Harry’s latest invention, The Autonomous Tent, is an exciting new form of architecture which has been engineered as a permanent structure, yet can be raised in just a few days and ‘leave without a trace’ ( The first monograph dedicated to Gesner and his thoroughly heterodox 60-year oeuvre, Houses of the Sundown Sea, was published in 2012.
Decisions, decisions…
December 2015 – Since we began our early bird registration for February’s Iconic Houses Conference, we’ve heard from some of our member houses that you’re having trouble deciding between the two options in the Wednesday programme: the house tours or the expert sessions on fundraising and conservation management. If you’re also struggling with this decision, hopefully this post will help you make up your mind!
Please remember that we have organised the house tours so that all those planned for Wednesday (the Gamble House, Hollyhock House, Schindler House and Neutra’s VDL Studio and Residences) can also be done independently before or after the conference, since they are all more or less ‘regular’ house museums (unlike those we visit on Thursday and Friday, which are mostly private houses that you would not otherwise get to see).
If you would like to do some or all of the Wednesday tours by yourself, so as not to miss out on the expert sessions, you can easily rent a car. But do allow plenty of time or consider limiting your choice to two or three houses, since the LA traffic often makes journeys slow. Alternatively, just save these particular houses for another visit – it’s always great to have an excuse to come back to LA!
Iconic Houses founder Natascha Drabbe announces the start of early-bird registration for the next conference in February
November 2015 – With 2016 not so very far away, online registration started 19 November for our fourth Iconic Houses Conference in Los Angeles – and there’s a lot to look forward to. There will be more tours, more speakers, and more fun stuff than ever before, plus we have the perfect location – the Getty Center in LA – and the wonderful support of our hosts the Getty Conservation Institute and the Getty Foundation, which has also brought us an enthusiastic conference partner in Susan Macdonald. You can ‘meet’ Susan in the Five Questions. We are also fortunate to have teamed up with our local conference organiser, Pasadena Heritage. You can find the full program HERE
You can register HERE.
Location, location, location
The theme for the conference is A California State of Mind: The Modern House Museum in Southern California. Since LA is the spiritual home of the modern house, there will naturally be some extraordinary and inspirational houses to visit (some of them not normally open to the public), both during the optional pre- and post-conference tours and as part of the regular program. The story of the Mid-Century Modern movement will be told in one day with tours of the Gamble, Hollyhock, Schindler and Neutra houses, and there will be opportunities to see landmark homes like the Eames House, the Sheats-Goldstein Residence and several more. We are also thrilled to be holding our closing cocktail party at the legendary Goldstein Residence, designed by John Lautner in 1963, in Club James, the house’s newest addition, with spectacular views of the City of Angels.
Organising the house visits for the 150 conference attendees (plus guides) was a huge challenge. As residential homes, none of the sites is easily accessible for large groups and buses. Luckily, we have had the help of a highly professional tour organiser and we think all the challenges of arranging the visits have been well worth the effort. Of course, the tours are an intrinsic part of the event for us, balancing our mornings of talks and lectures with active afternoons, enjoying and learning from other museum houses. The tours are also an opportunity to meet fellow attendees – although we have plenty of other occasions lined up, from our welcome reception and closing cocktail parties to the long breaks that we factor in so that you too can do some of the talking!
With our speakers, we’ve tried to ensure that all the key stakeholders – curators, owners, architects and residents – are represented for a variety of perspectives and opinions. We have included some highly original viewpoints – keynote speaker architect Toshiko Mori, for example, has had the unique experience of working on three Modernist classics – completing the visitor centre for the Darwin D. Martin House by Frank Lloyd Wright, plus extensions for two homes by Marcel Breuer and Paul Rudolph. How she coped with their greatness is topic of her talk, ‘Frank, Paul, Marcel and Me.’
Another idiosyncratic vision comes from the author of the Anarchist’s Guide to Historic House Museums, Franklin D. Vagnone. Taking a critical point of view, he exhorts us to prevent our house museums from dwindling into dull mausoleums and presents ideas on how to make them fresher, more exciting, and more connected with the local community. House curators and directors share their experiences. The East Coast is represented as well as California – we hear about three Cape Cod museum houses that are rented out as holiday homes, an interesting business model. Naturally, we are also responding to Iconic Houses members’ greatest concerns, with two expert sessions devoted to those hot topics, fundraising and conservation plans.
With so much on offer, we expect that our 150 tickets will sell out soon, so to guarantee your place, why not take advantage of our early-bird registration?
On behalf of the conference team, I look forward to seeing you in LA.
Natascha Drabbe
Founder Iconic Houses network

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