- Perfect Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Gibbs Smith; 1 edition (March 9, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1586856995
- ISBN-13: 978-1586856991
- Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.6 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,688,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Leisure Architecture of Wayne McAllister, The Perfect Paperback – March 9, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Ebullient and breezy, this retrospective on the multi-generation career of commercial architect Wayne McAllister is the perfect vehicle for the architect who defined the southern California look and, according the New York Times, "elevated commercial structures like the drive-in restaurant...to art forms." Needless to say, the look he gave birth to has become so ingrained in popular American culture that it's largely taken for granted; McAllister's overwhelming influence and sizable output get some deserved recognition in this volume, thick with photos and illustrations, that has the feel of a lovingly assembled collage. Historic preservationist Nichols, a Los Angeles native, shows a deep knowledge and passion for his home state, and displays his architectural chops in simple, unpretentious and occasionally cheeky writing that susses out the idealism and everyday glamour of McAllister projects like the Melody Lane restaurant (which graces the cover) and the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Academics and serious architecture buffs may be frustrated by a lack of new insight or research, but less demanding fans of mid-20th century commercial architecture, and many fans of American pop culture in general, will find this volume as fun and welcoming as the oversized figure of Bob's Big Boy adorning McAllister-designed drive-ins all along the western seaboard.
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From the Inside Flap
"[McAllister] elevated commercial structures like the drive-in restaurant and the theme resort to art form." - New York Times
"Think of how many people have lived in, or even visited, a Frank Lloyd Wright and then compare it to the number who have visited his [Wayne McAllister's] Las Vegas hotels. Millions more people have been influenced and affected by their quality."
- Alan Hess, architectural critic
American twentieth-century culture is not best explained through the architectural legacy of individual monuments but by the patterns and forms of its places. The spaces that are created and the way people use space dictate a lifestyle. The commercial architecture created by Wayne McAllister created much of the character of Southern California. His Fred and Ginger nightclubs and glinting steel and blazing neon circular drive-ins brought Busby Berkeley's Hollywood to life. His Sands Hotel in Las Vegas became the home of the Rat Pack; the mythology of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. owes a great deal to the swank glamour of the Copa Room and the Sands Hotel, McAllister's finest Nevada hotel.
Wayne McAllister was an iconoclast, a designer with no formal architectural training who changed the fabric of cities, a quiet conservative who created some of the most outlandish and sometimes garish spaces in North America. His works are defined by the monumental roadside sign at the edge of the highway, the rambling, relaxing scale of everything-a leisurely freedom of space spread over vast acreage, with rolling lawns, open patios, winding paths and miles and miles of neon beckoning to the automobile.
From the famous Sands, Fremont and Desert Inn hotels in Las Vegas to neon-laden drive-ins such as Bob's Big Boy, McDonnell's and Simon's to extravagant dinner houses like Lawry's the Prime Rib, Richlor's and Melody Lane, The Leisure Architecture of Wayne McAllister explores the history of this architect's best-known projects.
A native Angeleno, Chris Nichols has worked in the historic preservation community for fifteen years. His work has been profiled in Smithsonian Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, L.A. Weekly and New Times L.A. He is the outreach chair of the Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee and an editor for Los Angeles Magazine. Nichols has created tours, publications and exhibitions while also working with property owners and serving as an advocate for endangered buildings at the local and state levels.
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The first half of the book was a biography of McAllister's early life and a chapter on Agua Caliente, the very first project McAllister, and his wife/design partner Corinne, took on. The Agua Caliente in Mexico, was an elaborate, glamorus resort, that Nichols describes as being "the inspiration for Las Vegas." Easy to believe when you see the amazing collection of illustrations and photos of the place printed in the book
From then on though the text became a bit rocky for me to read. Yes, all the projects are here and outlined; Bob's Big Boy restaurants, the El Rancho resort in Las Vegas and a slew of hotels, restaurants and drive-ins, but. All of a sudden the editing problems in the book became distracting, and the text hard to follow. To be honest, at this point I started paying more attention to the fantastic photographs and illustrations (and their captions) that cover every page of the book. They are why I gave the book 4 stars, rather than 3.
Make no mistake, this is a beautiful book that I would definitely recommend to anyone with an interest in the architecture of this era, but there are a few technical issues. If you're willing to overlook them, and simply pay attention to the beautiful buildings McAllister created, you'll enjoy this book very much. The beautiful cover illustration is exactly the kind of thing you'll find inside, a colorful, bright accounting of the career of an architect (and an unlicensed one at that!) that helped shape the southern California and Las Vegas landscapes of the early and mid 20th century.
However, as a historian and McAllister fan we need more in depth text and pictures about other landmarks other than Agua Caliente whose founders seemed to have dissapeared. or did they?
About the Flamingo Hotel. Words were given to the mob but not enough about Billy Wilkerson and the Hollywood Reporter or builder Del Webb and his own stock piling of building materials during wartime which enabled Bugsy to build the Flamingo Hotel (I performed there in 1966). The connection of all these men was gambling. These men started off-shore gambling (1912) with Baron Long whose famous nightery was a Rudolph Valentino hangout. One wonders if he in fact also needs a book.