Glitter Stucco & Dumpster Diving

Glitter Stucco & Dumpster Diving:Reflections on Building Production in the Vernacular City

  • Paperback

A free-wheeling guided tour to the cityscape of Southern California, grounding architecture as a multidisciplinary art

Commended in the PEN/Architectural Digest Award for Literary Writing on the Visual Arts (2001).
In this free-wheeling guided tour to the cityscape of Southern California, from movie-star mansions to the alleys of the homeless, urban planner John Chase combines gossip, anecdote, archival research and tabloid-worthy self-revelation, grounding architecture as a multidisciplinary art.
Speeding across the California landscape, Chase pauses frequently to see what’s really there: not just what the movies have taught us to expect, but the range and variation of the built environment that occupies what he calls “everyday space.“
An urban designer as well as an important architectural critic, Chase explores a myriad of locales and examines their architectural features from the gay community space of West Hollywood, to the stucco box apartment complexes of the 1950s, to the truly weird mix of domestic arrangements in Venice Beach, to gated communities, to some of the historic houses of Hollywood and Beverly Hills and to the most recent transformations of the casino architecture in Las Vegas. At once learned, witty and ironic, Chase makes the mundane world of Southern California vistas come alive on the page.


  • Setting aside costume jewels such as the Getty Center, Los Angeles architecture—think reckless Spanish-tiled mansard genre mixing, mammoth doughnuts and L-shaped mini-malls—gets little respect in highbrow circles. Thankfully John Chase is around to defend it. Every page of his Glitter Stucco & Dumpster Diving exhales affectionate architectural populism and a refreshing disdain for art snobs.

    LA Weekly
  • His findings reveal a fiercely democratic, if ad hoc, urbanism in which developers, homeowners, renters, retailers, pedestrians and the homeless all demarcate, and thereby create, civic place ... he spouts infectious prose and incendiary theories as easily as Dave Hickey or Mike Davis do to explain LA’s ever-proliferating landscape.

    Loud Paper
  • Chase’s arguments are refreshing and challenging ... They have the advantage of understanding contemporary architecture without the pitched crisis and naive celebration which postmodern theorizing tends to provoke.

    Fuse Magazine