August 10, 2008
Bottle Village in Simi Valley is an obscure folk-art marvel, akin to the Watts Towers: the creative handmade output of a single obsessed individual over the course of decades.
It was heavily damaged in the Northridge Earthquake, but when funds were made available for its restoration, Rep. Elton Gallegly sneeringly derailed the measure, along with Simi Valley city officials who considered it junk, trash or an eyesore. My wife and I visited recently (following a piece in the Star a week earlier), and while it is in sad shape, there is also much to marvel at. We were allowed in one structure, and the collection of embedded bottles in the walls looked like stained glass walls in some rustic cathedral.
It takes a certain amount of vision to see the past -- and see the potential -- in ruins, but it is fixable with a lot of work. Simply restoring the one structure we went inside could be enough to show the value of restoring the rest of it. In the bland Simi suburbia, it could once again be an oasis of color, funkiness and uniqueness.
I've seen pictures of the buildings, pre-earthquake, in a book about unusual owner-built homes around the country. It would be a shame if people were to see this amazing home as anything less than an example of the wonderful creative work that it is. Also, perhaps many people forget that the triple arrow symbol doesn't just mean recycle, but "reduce, reuse, recycle" and that they are listed in order of greatest effectiveness. These buildings are an example of reuse that I wish were emulated more often.
Thanks for the reminder of the triple-arrow symbolism.
One of the strange, sad aspects of the Bottle Village battle is that some Simi Valley elected officials want to raze the property... but it's not any viable or valuable commercial site, it's just a narrow lot on a faded bit of Cochran Street that otherwise would just be another apartment house or or a handful of condos or such, nothing grander.
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