BY BARRY LANK
Why have so many architects set up shop along a short stretch of Hyperion Avenue on the border of Silver Lake and Los Feliz? There are at least ten between Riverside Drive and Fountain Avenue – a stretch of less than one and a half miles.
The architecture offices are tucked in between the preschools, auto repair shops, cafes and homes that line the winding street. They range from small, no nonsense workrooms to spacious, light-filled studios. This strip of architects and designers has even been featured on self-guided tours.
“It is a fascinating phenomenon,” said Benjamin Lehrer, project designer at Lehrer Architects. “I don’t know any reason that applies to us.”
The architects we interviewed didn’t have a definitive answer about why Hyperion is a design hot spot. But they noted local history, the convenience of the area, the restaurants, and the timing of the real estate market have all played a role.
The tradition of architecture here dates back as far as the 1950s, when Gregory Ain and James Garrott set up offices along the 2300 block in a space now occupied by the architecture and design firm of Unruh Boyer. Ain was noted for applying modern architectural ideas to affordable housing. Garrott – described as a pivotal avant garde modernist – was one of the few African-American architects active in the mid-20th century.
But many architects currently in the area share a more personal reason for locating here. They live nearby.
“Something like half the office walks to work every day,” said Juanito Olivarria, principal architect with Luxigon on the 1900 block.
Warren Techentin, owner of Warren Techentin Architecture in the 2800 block, lives in Los Feliz. He used to work Downtown. But when he had to relocate a few years ago, he moved here, where friends already had offices.
Lehrer said the founder of his company, Michael Lehrer, was born and raised in Los Feliz. And Oyler Wu and Jenny Wu of Oyler Wu Collaborative on the 2400 block … well, they live right in the second floor of their offices.
“It doesn’t hurt that our favorite bar/Mexican restaurant is across the street,” Olivarria said, “and they make a mighty fine bánh mì next door.”
It also helps that, in the relatively recent past, real estate in this part of Silver Lake/Los Feliz was still affordable for small, creative companies.
Oyler Wu said he arrived here in 2009, and has been seeing everything become upgraded and renovated ever since. Techentin said his company came here around the same time – in 2010 – and now he’s watching new restaurants opening. And way back when Lehrer Architects first set up shop, their space had been an old warehouse for sex toys.
But even now that Silver Lake has become gentrified and mainstream, local architects say this stretch of Hyperion retains a creative atmosphere.
“It’s always been a creative neighborhood,” Wu said. “It has a young culture of creative people, but more affordable than creative cultures on the West Side.”
Techentin added, “People here all seem to be trying to doing something interesting, and I like being part of that.”
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