Introducing "Deco Los Angeles" Landmark Prints Series

In my career in the TV business, I made frequent trips to LA, and I was always enchanted by its eclectic blend of architecture, a mix of styles that come together to create a vernacular that is singularly Angelino: streamlined Art Deco and midcentury Googy commingle with various revival styles — Mission, Spanish, Colonial, et. al. — across a commercial and residential tableau whose range, to a life-long East Coaster, feels fresh and modern regardless of a building's age. There's also the occasional dash of ersatz make-believe dropped in -- a chateau from the Loire in West Hollywood, for instance -- that earns the LA area its title as an architectural wonderland.

Griffith Observatory and Planetarium from The Municipal Prints Company

Griffith Observatory and Planetarium from The Municipal Prints Company

But it is the region’s abundance of Art Deco that had me in total awe on many a trip: LA possesses what I consider the finest collection of Art Deco public structures in the nation, most constructed for the ages in concrete or stone either during the boom of the ‘20s or during the throes of the Depression when, much like the cathedrals that went up in the Middle Ages, people sought reassurance from their government institutions. These public buildings served as potent symbols of the nation’s continued promise, that it would endure when mass unemployment had led to general despair, and their construction offered the parallel benefit of putting a great many people to work.

The Los Angeles Central Library from The Municipal Prints Company

The Los Angeles Central Library from The Municipal Prints Company

Indeed, the public buildings featured in this series were designed to inspire the civic imagination, as they continue to do now: step into the Central Library, one of LA’s best kept secrets, with its jaw-dropping rotunda. Or travel up to the Griffith Observatory and Planetarium: its promontory on Mount Hollywood inspires awe and offers magnificent vistas of the LA Basin below. Or amble through Union Station: its amber-hued halls feel timeless, as if you were just stepping off a Union-Pacific train in the early '40s.

Union Station Terminal from The Municipal Prints Company

Union Station Terminal from The Municipal Prints Company

And with the exception of the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, which is featured in the series and which has sadly been lost, these buildings serve as examples of what a group of organized citizens can do to preserve our built history in a country that too often belatedly realizes that what’s lost with the destruction of an “old” building is much more than just physical property: we lose a sense of ourselves, our shared history and our moorings to one another, as these public commons are often what increasingly unites us in a country splintered across various fault lines. We tip our hats to the Los Angeles Conservancy and other preservation organizations across the nation for their continuing efforts at protecting our public landmarks for posterity.

The Pan-Pacific Auditorium from The Municipal Prints Company

The Pan-Pacific Auditorium from The Municipal Prints Company

But conservation efforts sometimes fall short, as it was with the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, which came to symbolize the architecture of the entire region during the period but was lost to a fire in 1989 after years of neglect and decay. Originally built for a trade show — the National Housing Conference — in 1934, it had several lives over the years, and had it survived to this day, I’m confident that it would have found adaptive reuse, perhaps not unlike what’s going on with the Central Market downtown. We will never know though: it lives on in our popular culture and our imaginations, and we sought to feature a structure in the series that was no longer with us to be mindful of the critical need for preservation.

More about the series:

My collaborator and designer Brad Woodard had lived in Los Angeles, and the merry mapmakers at Herb Lester Ltd. in London had commissioned him to illustrate its "Old LA" map, so Brad was well acquainted with the Angelino terroir. I've loved Brad's bold graphic style for years, and I commissioned him to design a series of prints for the home decor market that would properly celebrate these architectural icons. After a five-day visit where I took almost a thousand pictures of each of the three surviving structures, we worked together to find the most dramatic angles to capitalize on each building’s best features. We chose to print in hand-pulled silkscreen in bronze and black with a different third color for each print. The prints measure 12 in x 18 inches in a first edition of 100.

In the end, in the same month that marks the 90th anniversary of the unveiling of the Central Library in 1926, it’s a profound privilege to commemorate what is surely one of the finest collections of Art Deco public buildings — if not the finest — in these United States. We need more buildings like them in the hopes that our civic wonder and promise can be stirred anew at a time when it’s much required in our local and national discourse.

Constellation Explorer

Introducing "Moon Landing Edition" of our Constellation Explorer Star Chart Series

Compass to the Northern Sky: Moon Landing Edition, a part of our Constellation Explorer series of star charts

Compass to the Northern Sky: Moon Landing Edition, a part of our Constellation Explorer series of star charts

WE LAUNCHED OUR original Constellation Explorer star chart over four years ago to coincide with the date Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon, so it gives us great pleasure to introduce our latest print — Compass to the Northern Sky: Moon Landing Edition — using the same typography that NASA chose for the Apollo moon mission plaques.

If you’ve never heard about these plaques, a brief history: NASA commemorated each mission to the moon with a metal plaque that the Apollo astronauts left behind on the lunar surface. The plaques included a brief inscription; on some missions, the number of the mission; the names of the crew members and the signature of the president of the time of the landings, Richard Nixon, all typeset in Futura regular or condensed.

Plaque on the landing gear of the Apollo 11 lunar module. The descent stage would remain on the moon, a permanent commemoration of the first visit at the landing site. (Photo: NASA)

Plaque on the landing gear of the Apollo 11 lunar module. The descent stage would remain on the moon, a permanent commemoration of the first visit at the landing site. (Photo: NASA)

We can only guess why NASA chose Futura for the type, but we’d like to think it was due to its clean and modern geometry while also feeling friendly.

In addition to all new type, the Moon Landing Edition features a handsomely redesigned dial inspired by luxury men’s watches of the era. We’ve also expanded the “how to use” instructions just in case you don’t have a PhD in Cosmology from Cambridge (hat tip to you Dr. Stephen Hawking, naturally) on making sense of the chart. And not to worry in the new edition: all 48 constellations commonly visible in the Northern Hemisphere night sky are still featured, just like its predecessor.

We think this new edition possesses that special combination of both looks and brains — it’s as functional as a map as it is beautiful.

We’re able to ship these framed pieces to any address in the Continental USA, with complimentary shipping — yes free shipping! — included. Framing takes 2 to 3 weeks from the date of your order. 

It’s our hope that these constellation prints become a prized and cherished addition to your home or office, that they continue to generate a sense of wonder and awe for many years to come, and they become an heirloom that you pass down to your family. They’re as timeless as the universe itself.

Constellation Explorer

Constellation Explorer in House Beautiful

A big hearty thank you to “House Beautiful” for including one of our prints — 

Constellation Explorer: Compass to the Northern Sky

— in its Dec/Jan 2014 issue on newsstands this week.

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An image of one of our star charts is featured in the mag’s “Master Class” column on page 24, where each month prominent decorators offer insights into the products and techniques that inspire their work. New York decorator Thomas O'Brien  – renowned for his tasteful modernism, fusing old and new together to create a timeless elegance – was interviewed for the column by Meeghan Truelove.

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In the column, Mr. O'Brien tells of a 1940s star chart that he found on an antiquing trip that has become a cherished possession, and links to our Compass to the Northern Sky print for a similar chart.

In fact, it was upon seeing Mr. O'Brien’s Rand McNally map some years back that we became enamored with finding a star chart of a similar size for our own walls. After scouring the market for years to no avail, we commissioned a mapmaker to lay out and design a new chart from scratch with the most up-to-date astronomical coordinates. We printed it in 3 ft x 3 ft in both black and dark navy, and it quickly became a touchstone for us, one of our most popular and beloved pieces.

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We feel privileged to be included in such illustrious company. Mr. O'Brien’s extraordinary good taste and formidable design talent are a source of constant inspiration. His latest book, released in early November — Aero: Beginning to Now — is already one of our favorites.