Esther McCoy at work circa 1944. Image from the Smithsonian Esther McCoy Archive. Photographer unknown.

Esther McCoy at work circa 1944. Image from the Smithsonian Esther McCoy Archive. Photographer unknown.

One of the titans of 20th century LA architecture was Esther McCoy (1904-1989; seen, left, in a photo taken at a time when she was working as a draughtswoman for R.M Schindler).

She arrived in LA as a writer of fiction and in the 1940s began writing about architecture. Her decades of writings in trade and mainstream magazines, including the legendary Arts & Architecture,  and books (among them: “Five California Architects” and “Modern California Houses, Case Study Houses 1945-1962″) contributed enormously to the global appreciation of Modern architecture in  Los Angeles and Northern California. She has even been labelled “Patron Saint of Socal Architecture Historians” for her work in keeping alive the legacy of founding Modern architects in California like Irving Gill, Greene & Greene and Bernard Maybeck.

So it is with some trepidation that next week I will receive an honor in her name. The USC Architectural Guild is conferring on me its sixth Esther McCoy Award, which “recognizes and honors individuals whose creative work educates the public about architecture and urbanism.” I certainly hope I have done her legacy justice.

At the same time the Guild will give prominent conservationist and urban planner Joseph T. Edmiston its Parkinson Spirit of Urbanism Award.

These honors are going to be given Thursday, October 7, at what could be an unusually entertaining awards event. It is being held at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens in downtown Los Angeles, a place so charming it is a location of choice for weddings. The evening will be introduced by USC Architecture School’s Dean Qingyun Ma, a force in architecture who also happens to have a delightfully droll presentation style, not to mention great taste in wine. Jennifer Ferro, KCRW’s very own General Manager, will speak. And musical entertainment is going to be provided by my husband, Bennett Stein, writer-director-guitarist and creator of music mixes to suit every occasion.

There is a ticket price but the money goes to a good cause, the USC Architectural Guild. I do hope you might attend.

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