Artist preserves LA’s past and present with tiny models of the city’s iconic buildings

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A new short documentary screening next week at a short film festival in Hollywood offers a glimpse into the life and work of a Los Angeles miniature-maker. Gerald W. Cox has made about 20 models since starting in the 1970s. Today, at 81-years-old, he’s still cranking them out, filmmaker Matthew Arnold-Ladensack tells Curbed. Cox just finished a model of the Eastern Columbia building, though it’s not featured in the short.

His choice of structures, especially some that have been demolished, reflects his desire to preserve LA’s past. “One of the things that disturbs me so much about Los Angeles is the lack of respect for our history,” Cox says in the film.

His models include a mix of structures that are long gone and others that are holding strong. Throughout the short film, Cox’s tiny versions of the glitzy Art Deco Richfield Tower (demolished in 1968), Angel’s Flight, the Brown Derby, the Victorian Hale House (now a part of the Heritage Square Museum), the Watts Towers, and the Formosa Cafe make appearances.

His model of the Richfield Tower. The Downtown Warner Theater is visible on the bottom right.

Cox says the two biggest projects he’s done are the Richfield building and Angel’s Flight. He spent years researching the Angel’s Flight model, and then spent at least three or four months building it—”maybe even a little longer, because it was done in different pieces,” Cox says. Kept under a plastic cover in his neatly organized garage, the model takes two people to lift.

Cox says he’s driven to create his models out of the personal necessity that drives all artists, but he seems hopeful, too, that his work could have an impact beyond himself. “Maybe it will perk [people’s] interest in the history of Los Angeles and the preservation of Los Angeles.”

LA //1:87—1:87 is the scale of the models Cox makes—will play 5 p.m. Friday, August 19 at the TCL Chinese 6 Theaters, as part of the HollyShorts Film Festival. You can also watch it below:

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