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Just Give It a Little Time

July 29, 2002

It's amazing how time puts a patina on things. Even a tiki totem pole gathers charm with the passage of enough years. (Emphasis on "enough.")

And so, with pangs of nostalgia, fans of kitsch--and anybody who thinks the Southern California landscape is slowly taking on a look of bland tastefulness--will say farewell next month to two remaining Disneyland-area icons of 1950s and '60s in-your-face architecture: the Rip Van Winkle Motel and Melodyland. The latter, a tent-shaped former musical theater/evangelical church, will be replaced by a shopping/hotel complex in something scarily called "fusion architecture." If only it could have hung on a couple more years, we're sure Melodyland could have been as universally beloved as the first McDonald's.

Given 20 or 30 years, a car design or building style takes on an embarrassing aura of design fatigue. Anybody up for a Pinto hatchback or a monolithic black-glass office tower? Now, give it 20 or 30 more years. That brings us to the new retro-Thunderbird and freshly built tract houses with front porches.

If only the gathering of age did the same for baby boomers heading into their AARP days. But it works only for buildings, cars and, on a faster cycle, clothing. (Oh, save us from another rash of hip-hugger bell bottoms.)

So here is our prediction: In 20 years, sliding aluminum-frame windows are going to be hot. Really hot. Vintage. Worth money. No point busting them out of the house to make way for simulated genuine-wood frames and arched fan windows. At about the same time, someone in Southern California will be tearing down those so-last-decade buildings of spare flat concrete in hues of purple and rust to put up a rocket-ship hotel with a blasting yellow neon sign.

Pop quiz: How many Southern California cities gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to strip malls, ignoring their deteriorating downtowns, until the idea of having a "there" there suddenly caught on? Now downtown redevelopment is on municipal lips and subdivisions come with instant village districts. Ah, for the day when they rip out all this tile-roofed pseudo-Spanish colonial and Tuscan architecture and give us back our avocado shag carpets.

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