To the family and fans gathered at Trader Vic's Thursday night, Welton Becket was an architect whose work is often seen but whose name is not much heard. Drive around Los Angeles and Becket's most iconic structures--the Capitol Records building, the Cinerama Dome, the Music Center--are impossible to miss; the man could bring imagination even to the prosaic office tower. But his admirers consider his profile, and that of the corporate firm he ran, in need of dusting off.
"In a way, Los Angeles is BecketLand," said Alan Leib, a self-described architecture geek and one of a number of thirtysomethings here to celebrate the forgotten modernist's 100th birthday. "His signature style was his own turn on International Modernism, but more futuristic, less linear. He'd build a dome, or a round building, like Capitol Records." To Leib and others, Becket hasn't gotten his due because of a bias against corporate modernism--a category that bears the same stigma as military music.
Becket's admirers were at Trader Vic's not only to pay homage to the man who died in 1969 after working in Los Angeles for almost five decades, or to sip the Polynesian bar's sweet, umbrella-topped drinks. They were there, too, to discuss an event for the spring, a centennial celebration with a panel of scholars and designers, an appearance by architecture historian Alan Hess ("Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture") and a Museum of Contemporary Art tour of Becket buildings. (The event will be put together by the Los Angeles Conservancy and its Modern committee, several of whose young cultists were in attendance Thursday.)