Sundown Gardens & Residence

text for Pablo Internacional (UK), pp 28-37, Fall 2008 {jpeg} [PDF]


This is where I live and work.

I bought this house at the end of 2000. It is in the hills of the Mount Washington neighbourhood of Los Angeles on a short dead-end street called on Sundown Drive. It was built in the mid-1980’s by a doctor who designed and built it for herself with the assistance of an architect-engineer named William King. I’m really curious about both of them, but have not been able to find out very much. The realtor that sold me the place recounted how fleets of cement trucks travelled up and down the small winding road when they were pouring the vast amount of concrete for the immense foundations and underground spaces.

The doctor died a few months after it was completed.

She left it to a university and it sat empty for a year. The person I bought it from lived here for 13 years after that. I am told he rarely went outside. There was a chandelier in the kitchen, every surface was painted beige, the yard was so overgrown, you couldn’t walk in it, there was an office desk and an exercise machine in the dome and a lot of wicker furniture in the cave. My first focus was to work on the garden. Later I renovated the house, but in a way where you can not really identify what is original to the house and what is new. I made a sleeping hole behind a painting, installed a wall of bookshelves, made a bathroom with a wood sink, changed the kitchen and added a sliding slab of wood for a table, replaced the four exterior doors with Dutch doors and repainted each of the three levels it’s own distinct colour palette.

GARDEN

I spent my first year mostly outside, clearing the overgrown yard, creating terraces out of the slope with a shovel, digging up the native decomposed granite rock and covering the roof and garden with it, planting wildflowers, trees and vegetables and finally making a big fish pond. The garden is like an on-going laboratory. It inspired Gardenlab, an ongoing program to initiate ecology-based art and design projects, including the current project Edible Estates.

CAVE

The cave is lit only by skylights, all concrete. This sprawling subterranean space has an integrated stage of sorts. Acoustically and spatially it is ideally suited for musical, performative and social functions, which is what would often happen here at Sundown Salon events. They started in 2001, soon after I moved in. Now it is home to one long table where we work on studio projects. The furniture is all made of raw lumber and plywood screwed together. The dogs like to hang out on the cushioned seating/storage units that are around the table. They are a part of the team. I painted the entry door chartreuse and the rest of the space seven other shades of green.

LOOKOUT

The middle floor is the cooking and eating area. With 180-degree views of the San Gabriel Mountains, this part of the house is like a control tower. It has heavy redwood beams. I painted the door bright orange and the rest of the space six different shades of brown.

DOME

Perched on the top floor is a geodesic dome, all shades of blue…

This is where we currently have Sundown Schoolhouse meetings and yoga classes.  The room is lined with cushions upholstered in different shades of blue. Friends in town often stay here. Buckminster Fuller invented the geodesic dome. Since moving into the house I have read a lot about him. He is my hero. His life and work have had a profound influence on me.

SUNDOWN

The Sundown Salon events started in 2001 soon after I moved into the house. On periodic Sunday afternoons the house became a gathering place for an extended community of friends from Los Angeles and beyond. It was a free exchange of ideas and art through events, happenings, gatherings, meetings, pageantry, performances, shows, stunts and spectacles. The events and work that were presented were framed and affected by the unique house and gardens.

Over the course of six years there were 30 events that included hundreds of participants. The gatherings grew increasingly elaborate. The network of friends expanded exponentially with each gathering. Each salon was catalyzed by a friend with an idea, an inspiration. Knitting, boys, a dance, deliveries, a meeting, animals, haircutting, fashion, political ennui and it grew from there. Participants included My Barbarian, Pipilott Rist, Knitknit, Trinie Dalton, Los Super Elegantes, K48, Bedroom Walls, Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Deadlee, Anna Sew Hoy, D’Argento, Amy Adler, Jeff Ono, Yoshua Okon, Dean Sameshima, Alice Konitz, Graft, Pae White, Bon & Ging, Jeff Burton, Feral Childe, Alexis Rochas, Ponce de Leon, Bordermates, Lesbians to the Rescue (LTTR), Robbinschilds, Slava Mogutin, Eve Fowler, Katie Grinnan, Eileen Myles, Liz Larner, Chris Abani and Janfamily among many others. As a part of the Sundown Salon events, installations and projects were left behind as permanent features of the house by artists including AVAF, Anna Sew Hoy, Scott Hug, Katie Grinnan, Alice Konitz, Michael Magnan and Wayne Gonzales.

The ‘piece’ or ‘project’ of the salon began with the preparation for the event, the meetings, the planning and continues as a gathering of people, exchanging ideas, all in the context of a day of focused activity, experimenting, sharing. The Salons provided an alternative model to the isolated solitary creator in the pure hermetic white box, instead celebrating the truly engaged human, responding to their time, environment, community, friends, neighbours, weather, history, place.

In addition, many photo shoots have taken place here, by photographers including Jeff Burton, Eve Fowler and Nicolas Wagner, of subjects including Cindy Crawford, Johnny Hazzard and Frances Bean Cobain.

In autumn 2006, Sundown Schoolhouse opened as the first series of Sundown Salon events concluded. The social engagement, experimental energy, diverse community, gently radical tendencies, playfully serious nature and collective spirit of those gatherings were the seeds of the school. Some of the Schoolhouse projects take place in this geodesic home where it is based. Sometimes they travel, staging projects around the world where locals are invited to teach and present workshops, classes and seminars. Projects may last one day or an entire season.

LIFE

Life, work, art, design, performance, school, sociability, solitude all combine like a thick stew here, such that they can’t be pulled apart. It doesn’t really feel much like a house in the conventional sense. There are no closets, or formal bedrooms, or any rooms that have a clear function for that matter. It is more like a free flowing series of spaces that may change radically based on who is there and what they are doing.

– Fritz Haeg, 2007

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Author: Fritz Haeg on December 29, 2010
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