Decoding the Architectural Symbolism of Neverland Ranch

APphoto.jpgYou know Michael Jackson‘s design legacy—those patented anti-gravity illusion loafers—but what has the King of Pop left us architecturally? Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne visited Neverland Ranch last week to find out. “At the height of his popularity, Jackson bent the music industry toward an androgynous, perpetually childlike model of superstardom,” notes Hawthorne. “He managed a similar trick in transforming the architecture of this classic Santa Barbara County ranch property.” In making the 2,600-acre spread his own, Jackson “somehow neutered and sexualized” the traditionally rugged, masculine ranch ideal. Neverland wasn’t a venue for wood-chopping photo ops or Gatsby-scale parties but an amusement park to call home, complete with a Disneyland-style train, a petting zoo, and a free-standing theater.

There are countless signs at Neverland of Jackson’s attempts to put his architectural stamp on the estate. Some of them suggest a dedicated interest in architecture—and the design bookstore Hennessey + Ingalls in Santa Monica was said to be a Jackson favorite—but there is no coherent theme. Nothing matches. A few switch plates in the main house are decorated with Renaissance-style putti. The frilly gazebos might have been lifted from a Georgia plantation.

Meanwhile, some fans swear that Jackson is back at the ranch, albeit in ghost form. See for yourself in this “haunted” CNN footage.


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