Are Lautner's Sheats Apartments Descending into Madness?

5988976317_21a2588919.jpegPhoto: flickriver

Developed as utopian student housing, the Sheats Apartments in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles were designed by the legendary John Lautner. The project was commissioned in 1948 by artist Helen Sheats and her husband, Dr. Paul Sheats—the same couple who would later tap Lautner to design the famous Sheats-Goldstein House in Beverly Crest. Intended for housing for students at nearby UCLA, the building continues to receive praise as a work of architecture. In 2003, An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles called the building, known alternatively as L'Horizon or The Treehouse, "visually...as fresh today as when it was built...with each apartment completely separated from the others." Recent residents, on the other hand, have had a slightly less favorable experience, at least according to police reports and a resident review posted online.

IMG_1046.jpegAn apartment interior, circa 2007. Photo: Jan-Richard Kikkert/Picasa

Strike One: The Frat House— This section of Strathmore Drive is now dominated by UCLA's vibrant fraternity scene, and the Sheats Apartments have gotten in on the act as well, with the penthouse—also often referred to as The Treehouse—routinely housing parties that play music well into the early morning hours. That's hardly a ringing indictment, but not the sort of decorum one might expect from a revered work of architecture, and drunk college students probably aren't doing much to preserve the place. That sort of thing is fine with one recent resident, who says he or she "never wanted to live in a monastery anyway," but goes on to say that "my roommate parked his car at the spot right in front of the stairway (our assigned spot) and had his hood stomped in during a party that weekend. Pretty bummerific." Bummerific, indeed.


IMG_1042.jpegAn apartment interior, circa 2007. Photo: Jan-Richard Kikkert/Picasa

Strike Two: Condition— That very same reviewer takes issue with the general condition of the apartment, describing it as "pretty sad" with mold, leaky ceilings, broken windows, a sink that doesn't drain, and a permanently dirty kitchen. In 2004, former Massachusetts governor, presidential hopeful, and UCLA professor Michael Dukakis got in on the hatefest, calling the Sheats Apartments "a dump" and inciting an uptick parking enforcement. Dukakis thought there were "serious problems" with this one building (amid a row of student housing), with parking violations and trash on the street. The student review, posted in 2010, suggests that the "very frightening landlady" has done little to correct the building's woes.


IMG_4554.jpegThe courtyard, circa 2007. Photo: Jan-Richard Kikkert/Picasa

Strike Three: Crime— Drug related crime has also been an issue at the Sheats Apartments, with 2010 being the most recent reported incidents. That August, after conducting a search of an apartment in the building, police arrested two residents for possession of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and prescription pills and cultivation of marijuana, lending a whole new meaning to the "Treehouse" moniker. Then, in September of the same year, an armed robbery perpetrated by a former student turned drug dealer occured on site, with two residents tied up and cash stolen before police arrested the perp.


· An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles [Google Books]
· The Treehouse [BruinWalk]
· Monday Commentary [Daily Bruin]
· Police arrest two men on various drug charges after search [Daily Bruin]
· Police arrest armed robbery suspect, narcotics suspects [Daily Bruin]
· All Renters Week 2012 posts [Curbed National]

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