The End of an Era – Novelty Architecture sketches

My all time favorite sketch is… drum roll, please… a hot dog stand. Yep. Of all my sketches, this kitschy, little hot dog stand truly flips my boat, floats my world and rocks my switch (in all conceivable variations): Tail o’ the Pup – an icon of Los Angeles since 1946, and one of the last remnants of days long past. You know, the good ol’ days when buildings looked like the things they sold… otherwise known as Novelty Architecture. O.k., it wasn’t that great of an era, but still, it’s mostly gone, so show some respect.

The Pup is currently in mothballs, but slated to reopen in 2016. As befitting a work of (almost, kinda) art, Tail o’ the Pup is now a designated cultural landmark (the bar is apparently not all that high in L.A.). Greece has the Parthenon. We have a 17 foot long greasy wiener in a bun.

So why do I like it? Because it’s memorable. It’s silly. It’s fun. And, the Parthenon doesn’t make me smile. By way of context, I’m also a guy who thinks that all water towers should be painted with giant googly eyes. Seriously. That would be SO cool!

Not to be outdone, however, I’m currently working on an idea of my own. It’s a house, that looks like a shoe. Hope nobody’s already done it. I’ll get back to you on that.

Tim Bjella Sketches - Tail o the Pup

Tim Bjella Sketches - Tail o' the Pup

Tail o' the Pup

Below is another example of a novelty roadside attraction. Can you guess what type of food is served here? If you guessed Chinese, you are wrong (and probably don’t get out enough – or take-out enough).

Tim Bjella Sketches - Roadside Stand

Before you start thinking that Novelty Architecture as an art form lacks versatility and is limited to fast food stands, here is (was, actually) a famous (or not) real estate office in Hollywood, the Sphinx Realty:

Tim Bjella Sketches - Sphinx Realty

Sphinx Realty

And lastly, a long since demolished burger stand in Coulee City, Washington. A Tee Pee. Maybe they served bison burgers?

Tim Bjella Sketches - Coulee City, Washington

Tim Bjella Sketches - Coulee City, Washington

Novelty Architecture. Can’t get enough of it? See more on Pinterest .

Cheers! Tim Bjella

Unintentionally Anthropomorphic

Many years have passed since Robyn and I visited the romantic town of Rothenburg, Germany. A quick image search confirms it is still as picturesque as ever and, best of all, my favorite tower did not wander off. Huh? Wander off? Notice the stubby, little legs created by the archway!

I love unintentional anthropomorphic architecture! It is not unusual to spot an unintended face on a building, but this one has an entire body, including a distinct head defined by a thin stone ledge and a shoulder peeking out below that. Its face even has a mustache, nose, hair (not nose hair), cheeks and ears. This just makes me smile.

Rothenburg, Germany

The tower, Klingen Tor, was built in the thirteenth century to help fortify the medieval town of Rothenburg.

When is a Hotel not a Hotel?


When it’s the Kamandalu in Ubud, Bali. One of the interesting things about architects (or possibly annoying if you are one of our spouses) is we live and breathe architecture. So much so that we often plan our vacations around buildings we wish to see and places we wish to experience. This is one of those places.

The Kamandalu is built as a small village with individual thatched “huts” instead of typical shoe-box hotel rooms. It’s not kitschy like a Disney environment, but uses indigenous building materials and traditional construction techniques to create an amazing, tranquil landscape. How many hotels feature early morning strolls along misty, meandering paths, shadowed by the occasional monkey?

And, yes, there is a pool if you’re into that kind of thing 😉

Tim & Robyn Bjella, Kamandalu, Bali
Tim & Robyn Bjella, Kamandalu, Bali

Designing My First Home on Kauai – Getting a Feel for the Place

I’m designing my first home on the island of Kauai this week (it’s about damn time). After spending some time playing tourist, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to build here when there is plenty of land available in windswept North Dakota. Different strokes and all that.

Robyn doesn’t fly in until tomorrow, so I took the day off today and hiked the Kalalau trail, perhaps the most beautiful hike on the planet. After losing count of all the tropical flowers and growing weary of sublime beauty, I finally arrived hot and sweaty at a 200 foot waterfall, thus presenting me with my only decision of the day. Would it be the skimpy Speedo or au natural?