Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

When news of the demolition of sci-fi master Ray Bradbury’s former home by none other than Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne hit the internet last month, literary fans, preservationists, and even LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne mourned the loss of a piece of cultural history.

Bradbury, who passed away in 2012, lived in the house for fifty years and wrote from his basement office. His 1937 Old Yellow House located in the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Cheviot Hills, bore no visual hint of the author’s dystopian fictions.

“I could make no connection between the extraordinary nature of the writer and the incredible un-extraordinariness of the house. It was not just unextraordinary, but unusually banal,” Mayne explained in an interview with design journalist and radio host Frances Anderton.

It would seem, then, that the basic ordinariness of this modest residential structure was the root of its own undoing. By his account Mayne’s new design is an eco-friendly update on the Case Study house programme — the mid-century experiments in modern living that would define Californian Modernism. A potential departure from his techno-futurist oeuvre, his scheme will no doubt wow the neighbourhood with its distinctive form. But perhaps in using ordinary versus extraordinary as the rationale, we miss the potential of the deadpan or the banal. Read More …