Piecing Together Los Angeles

Posted July 6, 2014

An Esther McCoy Reader

Many insights into the personalities and work of Charles and Ray Eames can be found in this important book.

Esther McCoy (1904-1989) is one of the twentieth century’s foremost architecture historians, and one of the greatest chroniclers of the architecture of midcentury southern California.

EstherMcCoyBookHer 1960 book, Five California Architects, has long been acknowledged as an indispensable classic, and as Reyner Banham famously observed of her, “no one can write about architecture in California without acknowledging her as the mother of us all.”

Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader is the first anthology of McCoy’s writing. It features a selection of some 70 pieces—ranging from her 1945 article Schindler, Space Architect to Arts & Architecture: Case Study Houses, a 1989 essay commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

McCoy also wrote fiction for The New Yorker and seminal essays on new architectural forms. Her works chart the progressive edge of American idealism, from the collective utopian spirit of Jazz Age Greenwich Village, through the Depression and the war years, to the optimism of the 1950s and 1960s.

In preparing this volume, writer and editor Susan Morgan extensively researched the McCoy papers at the Archives of American Art. Her editorial decisions were based, in part, on McCoy’s original selections for an unrealized anthology solicited by W.W. Norton in 1968. Expanding on that project, Morgan has included essays, articles, lectures, correspondence, memoirs, and short stories that illuminate the breadth and complexity of McCoy’s writing as well as the southern California region that inspired her groundbreaking work.