Dingbat 2.0: The Iconic Los Angeles Apartment as Projection of a Metropolis

Dingbat

Edited by Thurman Grant and Joshua G. Stein
Published in cooperation with The LA Forum for Architecture and Urban Design

May 2016. Softcover. Fully illustrated in color, 288 pages with an index.
$45 | 9780983254058

Book design by Jessica Fleischmann / still room
Cover design by Thurman Grant


Dingbat 2.0 is the first critical study of the most ubiquitous and mundane building type in Los Angeles: the dingbat apartment. Often dismissed as ugly and unremarkable, dingbat apartments have qualities that arguably make them innovative, iconoclastic, and distinctly “L.A.” For more than half a century the idiosyncratic dingbat has been largely anonymous, occasionally fetishized and often misunderstood.

Praised and vilified in equal measure, dingbat apartments were a critical enabler of Los Angeles’ rapid postwar urban expansion. While these apartments are known for their variety of midcentury decorated facades, less explored is the way they have contributed to a consistency of urban density achieved by few other twentieth century cities.

Essays by Barbara Bestor, Aaron Betsky, James Black, John Chase, Dana Cuff, Thurman Grant, John Kaliski, John Southern, Joshua G. Stein, Steven A. Treffers, and Wim de Wit. Photographic series by Judy Fiskin, Paul Redmond and Lesley Marlene Siegel.

Dingbat Grid -5x4_JamesBlack (1)

Dingbat 2.0 integrates essays and discussions by some of today’s leading architects, urbanists and cultural critics with photographic series, typological analysis, and speculative designs from around the world to propose alternate futures for Los Angeles housing and to consider how qualities of the inarguably flawed housing type can foreground many crucial issues facing global metropolises today.

Thurman Grant and Joshua G. Stein were consulted for Bloomberg’s CityLabs series about the Los Angeles installment of their “Iconic Home Designs That Define Our Global Cities”. Read the full Bloomberg feature here or watch the accompanying video.

PRAISE

The book successfully leverages the dingbat as a launchpad for surveying multi-family housing in Los Angeles, picking apart the prickly and multivalent nature of its creation myth and subsequent existence through the lenses of prior appreciation, scholarly interest, and post-war art production. […] A sprawling examination of the economic, social, and technocratic instruments developers, architects, and occupants used to design, build, and enjoy one of L.A.’s most unsung contributions to architectural-historical patrimony. […] The book’s central matter, the field guide to dingbats, will change the way you see L.A.
–Antonio Pacheco, The Architects Newspaper

One of the many brilliances of this great book is the telling comparison of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye—raised on its skinny pilotis to create an entirely ornamental void—and the dingbat—likewise lally column-upped in the air but usefully making room for cars beneath. Ever not quite modern, Corb pontificated about “machines for living” while never quite knowing what to do with their true enabler: the machine for leaving. The indelible dingbat is a sandwich of necessity and desire that bespeaks the throwaway (and getaway) modernity uniquely Made in L.A.
-Michael Sorkin, Architect, Urbanist and Author; Principal, Michael Sorkin Studio

Dingbat 2.0 gives an often-maligned Los Angeles building type its long overdue moment in the sun, not only advancing a sophisticated typology of dingbats, but also reimagining the potential of the dingbat for the twenty-first century—at a moment when the imperative to create livable and modest affordable housing is more pressing than ever.
– Ken Bernstein, Principal City Planner, Los Angeles Department of City Planning and Office of Historic Resources

This book is extremely valuable for designers, particularly when one considers that architects generate species of buildings. An in-depth study of this particularly indigenous species to Los Angeles allows architects to not only become familiar with the causes and effects of the dingbat, but also the many possibilities for its future morphologies.
– Jimenez Lai, founder and creator of Bureau Spectacular

DELIRIOUS L.A. interviews the editors. March 21, 2016.

KCET’s Artbound blog considers dingbats in the history of Los Angeles housing. By Mimi Zeiger, June 14, 2016.

Bloomberg CityLab (September 24, 2021) explores the relevance of dingbats amid the housing and climate crisis facing Los Angeles in the 2020s:
“Dingbats hold lessons for modern Angelenos: They tell a story of when the city met the demands of the day with a low-cost, replicable, yet individualized housing form factor. Stein and Grant’s Dingbat 2.0 book — a collection of essays, photography, and diagrams — was the culmination of a 2010 design competition sponsored by the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design that called for a new housing typology for Los Angeles that could meet the new century’s demands for density while staying true to the urban fabric. A more recent contest sponsored by the city to generate “missing middle” housing ideas shows that the needs are only growing stronger, between the unsustainability of suburban sprawl in the face of climate change and a homelessness crisis. ‘We put forward the dingbat as something that reshaped L.A. and made it what it is,’ Stein said. ‘The future of the city will be dependent on what comes after it’.”

Find out more about required earthquake retrofitting of dingbats in Los Angeles!

ABOUT THE EDITORS

Thurman Grant is a Los Angeles based architect and educator (thurmangrant.com). He is a faculty member of the Interior Architecture Department at the Woodbury University School of Architecture, and through the university has taught in related programs in China and Italy. Grant has contributed to a long list of built residential, commercial, institutional and urban design projects, as well as award-winning design competitions in the U.S. and Asia. In 2011 he partnered with artist Olivia Booth on the installation Schindler Lab, Round One at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House in West Hollywood, Los Angeles. Grant is a former president of the LA Forum Board of Directors and was a project leader for the Dingbat 2.0 competition and exhibition.

Joshua G. Stein is the founder of Radical Craft (radical-craft.com), a Los Angeles-based studio that advances design saturated in history (from archaeology to craft) and inflects the production of contemporary urban spaces and artifacts, evolving newly grounded approaches to the challenges posed by virtuality, velocity, and globalization. He has taught at the California College of the Arts, Cornell University, SCI-Arc, and the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. He was a 2010-11 Rome Prize Fellow in Architecture, and is currently Professor of Architecture at Woodbury University. He is also a former member of the LA Forum Board of Directors and was a project leader for the Dingbat 2.0 competition and exhibition.