This LA concrete classic is the star of this new xx video

Alasdair McLellan makes a video for The xx with help from Raf Simons, Calvin Klein and a little LA modernism
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Ashton Sanders and Paris Jackson in the new xx video, I Dare You
Ashton Sanders and Paris Jackson in the new xx video, I Dare You

Most iconic horror movies have tended to favour traditional architecture. Think of the Victorian Bates Motel from Psycho, or the Amityville series, set in a Dutch Colonial house.

However, in a new video for British band The xx, shot by fashion photographer Alasdair McLellan and made in collaboration with Raf Simons for Calvin Klein, it’s Frank Lloyd Wright Jr’s distinctly modern looking Sowden House that spooks out the teenagers.

 

The Sowden House in The xx video I Dare You
The Sowden House in The xx video I Dare You

The building, created by Wright - son of the better-known Frank Lloyd Wright - back in 1926 in the Los Feliz neighbourhood of Los Angeles, is one of the architect’s ‘concrete-block’ houses. Wright built the place from modular concrete pieces – a controversially modern material at the time – yet also referenced earlier, Mesoamerican architectural motifs, and today the building brings to mind both ancient and contemporary America.

 

The Sowden House in The xx video I Dare You
The Sowden House in The xx video I Dare You

However, the house found a grizzlier place in history during the 1940s, when its owner, George Hodel, was singled out as a prime suspect in Los Angeles’ famous Black Dahlia murder case. Though Hodel was never charged, his son, Steve Hodel, has claimed that the Black Dahlia victim, Elizabeth Short, was tortured and killed in the house’s basement, leading some to believe that Wright’s building is haunted.

 

Singer Oliver Sim in The Sowden House in The xx video I Dare You
Singer Oliver Sim in The Sowden House in The xx video I Dare You

McLellan – taking a lead from The xx’s song title, I Dare You – cast the Moonlight actor Ashton Sanders, the British actress Milly Bobby Brown, Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris , and the Calvin Klein model Ernesto Cervantes, as a pack of crazy kids, double-daring each other to enter Wright’s building.

 

Milly Bobby Brown in The xx video, I Dare You
Milly Bobby Brown in The xx video, I Dare You

Do they find a ghostly, dismembered cadaver, or just one of Britain’s best bands, playing their new single around the building’s pool? Why not watch the video and find out.

 

For more on Wright Sr's work get this book; for more on innovative uses of concrete, both ancient and new, get Concrete; and for more on West Coast modernism get Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide: West Coast USA.


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