Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Metropolis / Fixations

The Skyscraper's the Limit

A Modeler's Monuments to Architectural Splendor

July 21, 2002|LESLEE KOMAIKO

You'd think it would be easy to find a designer-quality model of the Chrysler Building in New York. But when Marcus Brandly tried while residing in Gotham during the mid-'90s, he was disappointed. "They were little 5- or 6-inch tabletop casts for tourists," recalls the West Hollywood resident. Others might have settled for a nice photo, but Brandly was obsessed. "The Chrysler Building is the most extravagant example of Art Deco architecture. That building almost has a magical spell on me." There appeared just one solution: Build it himself. Little did he know he would also be building a new career.

The task wasn't altogether farfetched. After all, Brandly had been building models since he was a kid (granted, out of a box), and he had earned a mechanical engineering degree in his native Switzerland. He also had most of the necessary tools through his then-job of fashioning prototypes for a New York inventor. Brandly obtained drawings of the building from the New York City Department of Buildings, took hundreds of photographs, measured ground-level doors and windows and even faked an appointment with a dentist on the Chrysler's upper levels to get closer to the skyscraper's deco-gothic gargoyles (made of radiator caps, in the Chrysler's case). While the receptionist searched her appointment book, Brandly was at the window snapping photos.

Two years later back in Los Angeles, he put the finishing touches on a 4-foot-tall, 257:1 scale Chrysler Building model prototype constructed mainly of smoked acrylic and resin and reproducible within weeks. One of the first to see the piece was Emmy award-winning production designer Roy Christopher, who had commissioned props from Brandly in the past. (As a neon artist during the late '80s and early '90s, Brandly created custom fabrications, including "RoboCop 2's" brain and a neon backdrop for a Playboy shoot starring a little-known actress named Pamela Anderson.) Christopher commissioned Brandly to construct a model building for a TV show whose plot line involved real estate investment (the result, needless to say, had deco touches). Christopher also commissioned a stage model for the 2001 Oscars.

About this time, Brandly began another valentine to Art Deco architecture, a model of L.A.'s Pan Pacific Auditorium, a classic built in 1935 that burned down in 1989. "It's one of those icons which are timeless," he says. Unable to locate original drawings, he used old photos to gauge measurements and scale. The Pan Pacific's original color took further detective work. "When I asked around, some people said pink. Others said green or brown," Brandly recalls. By chiseling multiple layers of paint from a surviving lamppost at the site, he found the answer-an unapologetic green.

He recently completed a model of Anaheim's Edison Field for an upcoming girl action flick and is working on a model of the Empire State Building, which Brandly will sell along with his other architectural models at his new La Cienega gallery and studio, ARTpiece (the gallery also features work by other artists). For his next L.A. landmark, Brandly is thinking City Hall or Bullocks Wilshire. "L.A. is not very good to its history," he laments. "But I can bring a little back for your personal pleasure."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|