Modular housing venice beach

BAA Destinations: Venice Beach

 As a practice we are dedicated to research. This involves travelling around the world to discover new and different ways of designing.


This year we have flown pretty much everywhere from LA to New York, Moscow, Romania, Egypt and more. Nicholas Jewell (Head of Research) and Fidel Saenz (Architect) recently travelled to Venice Beach in LA to experience the colourful culture and architecture. Below is a summary of what they enjoyed and found the most memorable.


What impressed you most about the architecture? 

NJ: The huge run of experimental houses onto Venice Beach is an unexpected delight - the architecture is very free and slips between post-modern and deconstructivist in a very unique way - this contrasts against the more temporary feel of a number of the buildings along the boardwalk.

FSO: How varied it is. In the same block you can find old beach surfing bungalows next to massive lot-to-lot cube-ish new developments. A good way of describing it would be eclectic.

What was your favourite building or design feature?

NJ: The renovated canals are a real joy and create a strong feeling of being close to nature that is a respite from the more relentless aspects of Los Angeles urban form. 

FSO: I loved visiting the Binoculars Building on Main Street, by Frank Gehry – it’s as postmodern as it gets. The building now is part of the Google Campus which is a good example of the transformation Venice has suffered in the recent years.

What would you recommend visiting while there?

NJ: Take a morning run along the beach to the marina and out along the piers - watching LA wake up next to the Pacific Ocean is hard to beat.

FSO: Abbott Kinney is a really lively street to have a stroll, there’s loads of shops, galleries, cafes and bars. Don’t miss the beach front walk either.

What was the food like?

NJ: Amazing. I'm still dieting to get over it.

FSO: The food was amazing. Definitely worth stopping by Gjusta on Sunset Ave for great coffee and deli snacks, it has a great patio to hang out in. Eggslut is also a Venice institution near the infamous Venice Beach sign, be prepared to queue.  I really enjoyed the tacos at Tacos Por Favor, in Electric Ave, close to Abbot Kinney Blvd.

What is your best memory from the trip?

NJ: The juxtaposition of city and nature - it was unexpected and very surprising.

FSO: The weather, definitely.

What was particularly surprising or interesting about the people and culture?

NJ: Venice is a real collision of cultures and incomes though not in a planned way. There is now huge wealth that has accompanied its gentrification in recent decades, though it continues to derive a sense of cultural identity from the area's Bohemian roots. Homelessness sits side by side with all of this as a result of the benign climate of the beach and the tacit acceptance of panhandling in this area. There is an uneasy tension in all of this that gives the area a contested feel in spite of the more obvious signs of gentrification.

FSO: Venice has a great artistic and cultural history. It has been known for attracting people with alternative ways of living; hippies, beat culture, artists, musicians - this makes it special and different from the rest of LA – it feels like a different vibe. However the area has suffered massive gentrification in the last decade and when there you are often faced with both sides of the spectrum, a mix of very wealthy and poor residents. It is apparent that there is an issue that needs to be resolved with homelessness, particularly around Muscle beach and the ocean front walk.

How would you summarise your experiences?

NJ: Unexpected - Venice presented a very different side of LA to the city that I had imagined before visiting.

FSO: Great!