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Artist builds a towering statement in East Hollywood — “I want to add more art to my neighborhood”

Christoff Van Kooning looking out from his tower at Virgil and Fountain

Christoff Van Kooning looking out from his tower at Virgil and Fountain

By BARRY LANK

East Hollywood — Is it a lighthouse? A water tower? Whatever you think it might resemble, it certainly doesn’t look like anything currently under construction nearby. And that’s what artist and builder Christoff Van Kooning intended.

“I wasn’t interested in just building a big trendy box,” said Van Kooning of the 45-foot tower. “I want to add more art to my neighborhood.”

Kooning said the tower that he and an assistant are building at the corner of Fountain and Virgil avenues is designed as “a new take on an old fashioned water tower.”

Van Kooning, a visual artist who’s had several exhibitions in California and Florida, lives with his family in the orange house adjacent to the new tower. He said he wanted the new structure, which replaced a former patio, to match the period style of the main house, which was built more than a century ago.

Before construction really got going, Van Kooning’s corner house was already notable for having a glass case in front with art displays. Early on, the display was of a giant nose — inspired by an “incessant drippy nose head cold” the artist once endured. Later displays have generally incorporated noses in some way.

The tower at Virgil and Fountain in East Hollwyood

Four octagonal windows frame views of the neighborhood below

But installing a giant nose in front of your house is much less complicated than building a water-tower inspired structure next door. It took him more than two years to win city approval of the tower’s unique design and features — including a catwalk that wraps around the third floor and dangles over the sidewalk.

Van Kooning expects to finish the tower — which will have space for his studio as well as a top spot for a short-term rental — by the end of the year.

Inside, the three levels of the narrow tower — it’s only 16-feet-square — are connected by a spiral staircase. Different views of the neighborhood emerge as you make your way to the top, where that catwalk affords views of the Hollywood sign as well as the Downtown skyline.

“I’m also a tall guy who’s always liked views,” he said, “and since I’m in the flatlands here, I had to build my own room with a view.”

“I wasn’t interested in just building a big trendy box” — Christoff Van Kooning

11 comments

  1. Dorit Dowler-Guerrero

    i LOVE this property! I am so thankful to Van Kooning for building this. And to The Eastsider for this report

  2. Thank you for writing this article! Been wondering about this building and LOVED the nose!

  3. That’s so dang cool! Would love to see more unique and different architecture in our neighborhoods. I didn’t know I wanted a watch tower at my house until now. I bet getting permits for this must have been a real pain though.

  4. I love this guy and his protean creativity! I remember how this house looked before he moved in – abandoned, haunted and ready for demolition. Always interesting to see his well-constructed and unique additions.
    An antidote to the anodyne.

  5. I remember at least two years ago I wanted to leave a note at this persons home saying I LOVED what he was doing to his property. I remember seeing a cat hanging out on this busy corner and a mom with her baby in the glass case….so beautiful:). I drive by his home
    and just love what he’s doing!

  6. Sorry, I truly think this is offensive to good architecture! I love the unusual, or classic moderne, Spanish revival, etc ,but this has no redeeming features except to service the view . How could the city approve this ugly building ? Oh yes the same officials that are allowing multi complexes in pseudo French style & monolithic skyscrapers.

    • Variety is what makes cities interesting, and this definitely adds to the area. I much prefer this to anything else going on in the neighborhood!

  7. The crap this city calls art, is hysterical

  8. Plus 1 on the positive comments – driving past this every day for over 6 years its been a joy to see this site evolve from a dilapidated lot, on what is basically a fairly ugly – and commercial centered – intersection, to something pretty inspiring. More performances in the glass box please,I caught one with the lady wearing butterfly wings a few years ago.

  9. hooray for art! Yay More!

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