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Chris Pratt blasted for secretly demolishing historic LA home to build ‘McMansion’

Posted: Apr 22, 2024

Martha Ross – The Mercury News (TNS)

Chris Pratt has long had his online detractors who’ve dubbed him Hollywood’s “worst Chris.” Now, the “Guardians of the Galaxy” star has angered a new segment of American society — architecture fans and preservationists.

News outlets recently learned that Pratt and his wife, Katherine Schwarzenegger, quietly bought a 20th century modern “treasure,” the 74-year-old Zimmerman House in Brentwood, then “surreptitiously” demolished it last year with little warning, the Robb Report said. The iconic one-story home, built in 1950, was one of the earliest works of famed Southern California architect Craig Elmwood, and it was long regarded as one of the outstanding examples of Mid-Century Modern design in Los Angeles, Dwell magazine and other outlets also reported.

Pratt and his self-help author wife paid $12.5 million for the property and “wasted little time in demolishing it,” the Robb Report said. The couple have chosen to replace the Zimmerman House with a 15,000-square-foot structure home built in what Dwell said is the “increasingly ubiquitous, though contentious” farmhouse style.

Other architecture fans and preservation activists were not so diplomatic in criticizing Pratt and Schwarzenegger for replacing the smaller historic home with a farmhouse “monstrosity.”

“Yet another reason why he is the worst Chris,” someone said in reply to an Instagram Story post by Save Iconic Architecture, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

Over the past several years, Pratt has emerged as a polarizing figure in popular culture and the target of occasional flareups on social media. People take issue with his suspected conservative politics and have gone after the “Super Mario Bros’ Movie” star for attending a purportedly anti-LGBTQ church, for having a sheriff’s deputy brother who promoted hard-right imagery and for seeming to disregard the son he had with first wife Anna Faris in favor of the two daughters he has with second wife Schwarzenegger.

Now, the actor with the outward, regular-guy charm is the target of a whole new group of people who don’t like him.

“Special place in hell for people who do this, go buy a readily made McMansion instead you dumb (expletive),” someone wrote on X, while sharing a link to an Architectural Digest story about the demolition. Dwell reported that Pratt and Schwarzenegger also tore up all of modernist legend Garrett Eckbo’s original landscaping, “effectively turning the nearly one-acre lot into one flat slab.”

Members of the Midcentury Modern subreddit likewise expressed their horror and anger at the couple’s actions, Dwell reported. People posted such comments as “Yet more proof that money can’t buy good taste,” and “I know its (sic) just material but sincerely, burn in the deepest pits of hell bro.”

“This wasn’t some grandma’s ranch house in a random, sprawling suburb in Pennsylvania, with a no-name architect and zero significance!” one person said on the subreddit. The house had “architectural, historical, and artistic relevance,” the person said. “This was a grand dame of these homes.”

The Robb Report said the five-bedroom, 2,770-square-foot Zimmerman house was originally commissioned in 1949 by Martin and Eva Zimmerman, completed in 1950, and featured in Progressive Architecture magazine.

The preservationists are especially upset, Dwell reported. Save Iconic Architecture called the demolition “devastating,’ with at least one commenter likening the couple’s choice to “buying a Rothko for the frame.” The advocacy group’s cofounder, interior designer Jaime Rummerfield, said she more than understands the internet’s collective disgust for Pratt and Schwazenegger, the daughter of TV journalist Maria Shriver and former Hollywood action star and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rummerfield likened the situation to “an endangered animal that just got poached again,” Dwell said.

Nearly 40,000 people also have liked a TikTok video tour of the former home, presented by fashion and design historian Quinn Garvey. Garvey captioned the video, “Chris Pratt and Katherine Schwarzenegger ‘demo’ a mid-century home to build something ugly.” She shared her visit to the house during a 2022 estate sale. The video shows that the home featured many classic midcentury design features, including an open floor plan, clean lines, lots of glass and natural wood and a fusion of indoor and outdoor spaces.

In her video, Garvey said she was shocked to learn the home had been demolished. “I thought it was in great condition,” she said. “I never thought it was gonna go. It’s just like, Really? You had to do that?”

The Robb Report said that Pratt and Schwarzenegger probably selected the Zimmerman property because the lot happens to sit almost directly across the street from a two-house compound owned by Maria Shriver.

Dwell said people might be especially angry because they don’t think Pratt and Schwarzenegger needed to demolish the residence. Dwell quoted L.A. architect John Dutton who said that the couple could have kept the Ellwood-designed home, but “amended” it and added to its existing “footprint.” This effort would have taken longer and cost more, but the resulting home would have been more “special” than the “advertisement of status” that they are currently erecting, according to Dutton.

Many people also asked why the house wasn’t protected, saying that it should have been on some sort of historic list, Dwell said. But according to Rummerfield, Los Angeles has been incredibly lax about granting that sort of designation, passing the onus onto citizens and architectural fans in the community. Since there is no head of preservation in the city government, requests for a property’s historic designation can take years to be addressed.

Meanwhile, Pratt and Schwarzenegger can wait out the construction of their controversial new farmhouse-style home while staying in their current residence, a massive, contemporary Mediterranean-style manor that they’ve put on the market for $30 million, the Robb Report said.

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