All posts in West

Placeholder Alt Text

Heavy Hitters

Fokke Moerel and Michel Rojkind to keynote Facades+ LA
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
The Architect’s Newspaper’s Facades+ conference, a series on innovative building envelopes, will touch down again in Los Angeles from November 14 to November 15. The first half of the conference is a full-day symposium, which will feature a morning keynote from MVRDV partner Fokke Moerel and an afternoon keynote from Rojkind Arquitectos founder Michel Rojkind. Each keynote is just under an hour in length and will focus on a particular area of their respective bodies of work. Moerel's keynote, titled "The Skin is the Message," will layout the MVRDV's design methodology and material approach, specifically focusing on a series of case studies; the Crystal House, Bulgari Kuala Lumpur, the Baltyk tower, the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, and The Sax. Michel Rojkind, who is behind such projects as the Foro Boca concert hall and the Liverpool Interlomas, will dive into the relationship between digital design and local fabrication in the aptly titled "Transmutations. From digital design to local fabrication." Rojkind will hone in on the learning process from technology to craft, and how the two can build upon each other. The remainder of the day will be dedicated to panels and individual presentations, while the second day of the conference features morning and afternoon workshops. Further information regarding the conference can be found here.
Placeholder Alt Text

Morty's Home

Tongva Park in Santa Monica is Californian through-and-through
What goes into a park? We dug into the parts and pieces of landscape design to explore and illustrate the forces, material histories, and narratives that hide beneath the surface. This article is the first of three such deep dives, which includes The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Hunter's Point South Park in Queens, New York. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

Santa Monica’s Tongva Park is a true product of Southern California. It certainly has a physical connection to its context—its hills and outlooks are packed with soil from construction sites in the area; its irrigation water sourced from the local runoff recycling facility; its plants were grown in regional nurseries—but in less tangible and more sociopolitical ways, too, the park bears the mark of the Golden State.

Tongva, which opened in 2013, was funded under California’s now-defunct tax increment financing (TIF) laws. The first of their kind in the U.S., California’s TIF laws went into effect in 1952 with the passage of the Community Redevelopment Act, which set a precedent nationwide for how infrastructure might be financed. Many states have since imitated the approach to establish the funding mechanisms behind massive—and often controversial—projects, including Chicago’s Navy Pier and New York’s Hudson Yards. Tax increment financing lets municipalities borrow money for developments in areas designated as “blighted” with the assumption that the developments will generate higher property-tax revenue as land values rise. Critics have argued that TIF programs have been abused to subsidize luxury developments that do little to improve the quality of life for local residents, and in 2011, while work on Tongva was well underway, then-governor Jerry Brown dissolved California’s TIF program, making the park part of the state’s final wave of TIF-backed projects.

The park benefits from Southern California’s crazy-quilt approach to urbanism, where the wealthiest communities of the Los Angeles region have remained independent cities, enabling areas like Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Santa Monica to invest tax revenue within their borders without sharing with the city of Los Angeles that surrounds them. Cities where the median home price is less than Santa Monica’s, ($1.6 million, more than twice the median home price for Los Angeles) may not be able to spend so lavishly on their parks.

California comes through most tangibly in the park’s siting and the aesthetic decisions by the park’s designer, James Corner Field Operations (JCFO). JCFO incorporated several beloved trees that were already on the site into an arroyo-inspired plan that orients visitors toward spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and a beach that stretches out casually, with an air of West Coast chill, just across the street.

Funding

The park was entirely publicly funded using TIF. The City of Santa Monica bought 11.6 acres of land from the RAND Corporation; besides the park, housing was built on the site and Olympic Drive was extended through it. The city spent $53 million on the property and another $42.7 million to design and build the 6.2-acre park, which includes a small area across Main Street in front of Santa Monica City Hall.

Plants

Tongva hosts more than 30,000 plants of more than 170 species, and more than 300 trees from 21 species, most grown in seven nurseries across the state; the farthest is in Watsonville, less than 300 miles up the coast. Some trees traveled even less distance: Morty, a Moreton Bay fig tree, and the Three Amigos, a group of ficus trees, pictured below, along with several palms, were preserved and rearranged on the site to fit into the new landscape. The park mixes native and non-native drought-tolerant species in zones modeled on three California ecological communities (coastal scrub, chaparral, and riparian), creating a landscape that feels familiar but avoids cliché.

Buildings

The steel cocoon-esque pavilions, pictured below, and play structures were fabricated by Paragon Steel in Los Angeles.

Furniture

Custom furniture was designed using Forest Stewardship Council–certified jarrah wood, a variety of eucalyptus usually grown in Western Australia. Off-the-shelf benches from Landscape Forms were also used.

Art

Weather Field No. 1, by Chicago-based artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, comprises a field of 49 stainless steel poles with weather vanes and anemometers attached.

Hardscaping

Aggregates in the hardscaping came from pits in the nearby San Gabriel Valley. Walls have California Gold rocks.

Water

Plants are irrigated by water from the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility. Stormwater from the park is also collected in bioswales, and water features recirculate potable water in closed systems.

Transit

Tongva integrates into regional transit in some of the usual West Coast ways—there are bikeshare stations and scooter access—but it’s also just a block away from one of the Los Angeles area’s biggest transit initiatives: the LA Metro Expo Line expansion. The nearby Santa Monica Station opened three years after the park and was a part of a broader regional plan, whereas Tongva was part of a separate Santa Monica–specific urban plan.

The region’s ubiquitous car culture is also present. Tongva sits at the southern tip of the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway, which extends up the shore to Big Sur, San Francisco, and beyond, and Olympic Drive, a local three-lane street, was extended along the park’s southeastern edge.

Land

The site was previously home to the RAND Corporation headquarters, which have since relocated to a neighboring block. Housing developed by the Related Companies was built on the opposite side of the Olympic Drive extension.

Infill/Terraforming

Before being cleared for Tongva, the site was dominated by the RAND Corporation’s parking lot. To create the park’s lookouts, which rise in points to 18 feet and provide views to the Pacific Ocean, infill soil was taken from construction sites around the city, tested to ensure safety, and sculpted to create accessible slopes for the site.

Project Delivery

JCFO was selected through an international competition in which 24 teams participated. After JCFO won, there were five community workshops over six months, and the scheme was presented to six review boards and commissions before site work began in 2011. Although the scheme began as a design-bid-build project, the city turned it into a design-build project midway through the process to try to speed delivery after California revoked its TIF laws.

Maintenance

The City of Santa Monica spends just under $100,000 annually on basic maintenance, plus about $20,000 annually on tree work and $10,000 annually on custodial work.

Security

Although there is no operational security technology in the park, Santa Monica has used some unorthodox activity-based surveillance strategies. After squatters set up informal camps on the park’s western corner, city agencies arranged for a food truck to occupy that area, which has since discouraged people from living there. And on top of regular maintenance costs, the City of Santa Monica spends about $330,000 annually on “ambassadors” who staff the park, answering questions from visitors and keeping an eye on activity.

As is standard in many U.S. parks, Tongva closes at night; its hours are from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Placeholder Alt Text

A Cookout

Cooking Sections raises awareness of biodiversity loss at Venice Beach through audio tour
For this year’s Current:LA Food, an art triennial funded by the City of Los Angeles's Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), the London-based architecture firm Cooking Sections developed Mussel Beach, an audio tour sited near the world-famous Muscle Beach on the Venice Boardwalk, that sought to raise awareness of the loss of local biodiversity. Once participants reached the northwest corner of Venice Beach, they were invited to begin the 24-minute audio tour on their cell phones. The audio begins like a meditation app, with a calming voice asking participants to become aware of the muscles in their own bodies before quickly changing direction: “‘I didn’t know these mussels existed,’ we say when we recognize the disappearance of the California mussel, a threatened bivalve living in Pacific waters.” The narrator then invited the listener to question how “oiled muscles overtook salt-watered mussels; how shaping biceps, butts, pecs, traps, and triceps is deeply entwined with mussels, barnacles, oysters, and clams.” The tour provides a general overview of the site beginning 7,000 years ago, well before it became the home of Muscle Beach, when the location was a swamp teeming with shellfish that nourished the native Kizh Nation until both numbers plunged due to the ravages of European colonialism. What followed over the coming millennia was the gradual destruction of the land for natural resources in the pursuit of urban and cultural expansion, leading up to the creation of Muscle Beach in 1959. “As oil wells ran dry,” the narration explained, “gallons of suntan oil began to flow instead.” Over the remainder of the audio tour, the narrator drew parallels between the states of the natural and built environments, demonstrating that the waves of local urban development in the area are “demolishing more than just human communities; they are also demolishing the community of California mussels.” Rather than focus on the destruction of the natural environment, the tour reminded its listener that the general population is often more preoccupied with the perfection of the self. Ultimately, Mussel Beach was designed to not calm the listener, but rather to open their eyes to what’s remaining of the natural environment around them and to imagine the future of Venice Beach with a greater level of environmental sensitivity. The project was developed by conducting interviews with local experts and builds on the firm’s earlier research-based work exploring how climate change affects daily life.
Placeholder Alt Text

The Housing Network

Facebook pledges $1 billion to counteract California's housing crisis

To be a member of the middle class in San Francisco, California, it currently requires a minimal annual income of $192,000, more than double the national average of $78,442. While the rest of the country pays a mere average of $1,216 a month to rent a one-bedroom, the same space in San Francisco can easily set you back over $3,600. California has the highest poverty rate of any American state and the recent influx of tech companies in the Bay Area—along with the sudden increase in the cost of housing that followed—is cited among the biggest culprits. With accommodations for over 12,000 employees in Menlo Park, Facebook has become one of the largest companies headquartered in the area and critics have shown little restraint in pointing the cause of the local housing crisis squarely at the social media giant. In response to long-standing complaints, Facebook announced on October 22 that it will partner with the state of California and allocate $1 billion to address the housing crisis the company took part in producing.

According to Facebook Newsroom, the $1 billion will divided five ways: $250 million will go toward developing mixed-use housing in a partnership with the state of California; $150 million will be given to the Bay’s Future Fund toward the construction of affordable housing in the Bay Area; $225 million will be used to create roughly 1,500 affordable housing units on land in Menlo Park previously purchased by the company; $350 million will aid in the construction of affordable housing in other cities with Facebook offices (including Atlanta, Boston and Ashburn, Virginia); and the remaining $25 million will be used to develop housing on county-owned land for teachers and other “essential workers.”  

Altogether, the pledge will bring an estimated 20,000 additional housing units to the Bay Area, with an emphasis on helping teachers, nurses, and first responders “live closer to the communities in which they work.”

The news comes months after Google, another tech giant with headquarters in the area, also pledged $1 billion towards affordable housing in June. Just yesterday Apple shared it would one-up both Facebook and Google's offerings with a $2.5 billion commitment

Placeholder Alt Text

Brutal But Not Forgotten

Seattle’s Brutalist Freeway Park is reviewed for National Register and approved for renovation

The gorgeously staggered concrete elements of Jim Ellis Freeway Park, one of the most significant architectural spaces in Seattle, are scattered across a thickly forested hill atop an intersection of Interstate 5 between the neighborhoods of Downtown Seattle and First Hill. Completed in 1976 by American landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and Bulgarian architect Angela Danadjieva, the 5.2-acre Freeway Park is one of only a small handful of Brutalist-designed parks in the world and is a commendable example of how parkland can be used to bridge communities that were previously divided by highway infrastructure.

Given its significance to the field of landscape architecture and the urban history of Seattle, Freeway Park was recently nominated for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The nomination was submitted shortly after a $10 million capital improvement project was announced to restore Freeway Park as part of an agreement made with the expansion of the nearby Convention Center. A total of $9,250,000 of the funds will be used for much-needed repairs and restoration, while the remaining $750,000 will go towards the further activation of the park as part of its management by the Freeway Park Association, a non-profit organization founded in 1993 to advocate and host events in the park.

A portion of the funds may go towards reintroducing the water feature to the park, which was discontinued in 1992 following an issue with water loss that was present since its construction. The renovation process is expected to begin next summer and be completed by December 2021.

The nomination was reviewed on October 25 by the Washington State Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and it was subsequently placed on the Washington Heritage Register in a unanimous vote. Its placement on the NRHP is still yet to be announced.

Placeholder Alt Text

Building G

Henning Larsen designs staggered office structure for Mission Rock
Mission Rock, a new 28-acre waterfront development in San Francisco that's co-owned in a public-private partnership with the San Francisco Giants, Tishman Speyer, and the Port of San Francisco, is scheduled to break ground next year. Along with Studio Gang, WORKac, and MVRDV, the Copenhagen-based firm Henning Larsen Architects was selected to design a significant portion for the upcoming neighborhood. The design of Henning Larsen’s contribution, a 13-story office block with a “rock-like outline” tentatively named Building G, was inspired by the geologic rock formations in Eastern California and San Francisco’s steep hills and streets. According to the firm, “the building breaks down the scale of a large commercial block into a ‘neighborhood’ scale” on the ground floor, with public amenities including benches, niches, retail, and “touchable materials." Above the recreational terrace on the fifth floor that wraps around the tower (described by the firm as the “mesa”), the general massing of the 300,000-square-foot building is broken up by volumes of 20-, 40- and 60-foot widths to mirror the dimensions of typical domestic buildings around San Francisco. These volumes are distinguished by green terraces and are arranged to both mitigate dominant winds from the bay as well as produce varying appearances from the street level. “We think of this as a big fat rock instead of a tall one,” said Louis Becker, a partner at Henning Larsen in a statement. “The idea is not a glass building, but a mass that’s carved out.” Building G’s rooftop features wind-sheltered terraces sloping toward the southwest to frame views of the San Francisco Giants’ Oracle Park stadium, the San Francisco skyline, and the Bay Bridge.
Placeholder Alt Text

Through the Looking Glass

Phillip K. Smith III's 10 Columns of mirrored light forces total immersion
Artist Phillip K. Smith III’s site-specific commission 10 Columns is the inaugural show of Bridge Projects, a former roving art salon turned Los Angeles gallery. Located next to a public storage facility near a burgeoning series of art galleries in Hollywood, Bridge Projects has amplified the intensity of the exhibition by keeping its front windows and doors completely opaque. When the viewer steps inside, the glare of California sunshine briefly illuminates what appears to be an otherwise pitch-black room. Once the door swings shut and one’s eyes adjust to the 7,000 square feet of darkness, the glow of 30 rectangular mirrored surfaces mounted on a series of 10 columns become visible. The slowly shifting colors of the artist’s signature dynamic light program combined with their perpendicular mounting calls to mind not only a desert landscape but a Blade Runner-type dystopia, as well as the joy and terror of our ever-shifting present. The illuminating surfaces are mounted at a height of 42-inch each and arranged into three groupings of 10 with three lengths of 16, 26, and 36 inches. The sheer size of the space, together with the surrounding darkness, creates an outsized feeling of immersion and contemplation. Even when seen with a group of people, it becomes easy to wander out to the far edges of the exhibition like a lone desert traveler. There is no specific beginning or endpoint and the longer one stands in the eerie glow, the easier it becomes to feel unmoored. The lack of signage and explicit directionality makes every viewpoint as valid as the other. Is one witnessing a sunrise or a sunset, a cultural awakening or a catastrophic meltdown? Ultimately, in this constantly changing landscape, the simple act of witnessing becomes its own reward. 10 Columns is on view through February 16, 2020.
Placeholder Alt Text

Getty Protection

The Getty Center survives nearby fires while Ellwood-designed home goes down in flames
Last Sunday, a wildfire spread to the approximately 656 acres surrounding the Getty Center in the hills of Brentwood, California. Named by the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) as “The Getty Fire,” the blaze was reportedly caused by an errant tree branch that landed in nearby power lines amid powerful wind conditions. Miraculously, the Richard Meier-designed Getty Center, which contains museum space, research institutes, and a vast collection of priceless artworks, was virtually unscathed by the fire. Given its siting in an area commonly threatened by wildfires, the 24-acre complex was designed to be both fire and smoke-proof when it was completed in 1997. Its material palette of travertine, concrete, and steel make the entire property nonflammable, while each gallery space is a self-contained module, providing additional insulation and ventilation in the event that disaster should somehow strike. Additionally, the Getty Center’s maintenance crew is instructed to rigorously clear brush on a regular basis in its outdoor areas, which are also designed to be relatively fire-retardant. This isn't the first time the complex has fended off encroaching flames, as a similar situation (and protective response) unfolded at the end of 2017 when the center faced down the Skirball Fire. While the Getty Center remains unfazed by the fires, the LAFD has placed 7,091 residences within the Mandatory Evacuation Zone and has determined that 12 residences have been destroyed so far while another five have significant damage. One of the 12 structures lost to the wildfires was the Zach House, an exemplary mid-century home designed by Case Study House architect Craig Ellwood, built in the Crestwood Hills area of Brentwood in 1952. Its wooden construction and delicate structural frame made the home especially prone to natural disasters. “It was an early Ellwood design, but it demonstrated all his distinctive and influential ways of interpreting modernism,” said Southern Californian architectural historian Alan Hess. “Though it remains in photographs, the loss of the actual building to experience makes us poorer.”
Placeholder Alt Text

LOHA in SoLA

Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects designs porous supportive housing in South Los Angeles
Though over 1,700 parcels owned by the city of Los Angeles were designated for affordable housing development in 2018, the vast majority of them remain empty to this day and without any plans in the foreseeable future. This may be due to the fact that many of these sites are “leftover spaces”—irregular geometries tucked in the margins of already-developed neighborhoods. Local firm Lorcan O’Herlihy (LOHA) is one of the first, however, to boldly make use of one of these compromising sites with their newest project, Isla De Los Angeles Supportive Housing and Annenberg Paseo, a 54-unit housing project on a triangular lot near a freeway interchange in South Los Angeles. Renderings of the project recall both the staggered apartments of Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 and the spatial porosity of Steven Holl’s Simmons Hall dormitory at MIT. Rather than appear as a single, monolithic building on its narrow parcel, the project is broken down into housing units placed within modular boxes then arranged into informal towers. The units would be assembled by welding together three 20-foot-by-8-foot shipping containers, each of which would provide roughly 480 square feet of living space in an open plan featuring a kitchen, bathroom, and a living room that doubles as a bedroom. The units can be assembled offsite by half of the construction team while the other half prepares the grounds on-site, cutting the construction time from four years to two. They will be arranged along the perimeter of the site to make room for several green spaces in its center, which LOHA anticipates will serve as a “green lung,” helping to filter air pollution from the nearby freeway. “Our aim,” stated LOHA in a press release, “was to create something that was compartmental but solid, strong enough to withstand the demands of the project’s location but porous enough to engage the residents on a human scale with outdoor activities and places to work and socialize.” Following MLK1101 in 2017, Isla De Los Angeles Supportive Housing and Annenberg Paseo is the second project LOHA has designed in collaboration with nonprofit developer Clifford Beers Housing in South Los Angeles.
Placeholder Alt Text

Build it Better

Designing Justice + Designing Spaces builds infrastructure to end mass incarceration
While “justice” might be considered too abstract a design initiative for most architects, it has become a second language for the Oakland-based Designing Justice + Designing Spaces (DJDS). Co-founded by Deanna Van Buren and Kyle Rawlins, DJDS was established to create spaces for restorative justice, rehabilitation, and community building to provide solutions to the root causes of America’s mass incarceration crisis. As Van Buren stated in her popular TED Talk, the goal of DJDS is to focus design attention away from the “improvement” of the prison system and to instead transform the everyday spaces where justice should be taking place. By helping transition the punitive justice system into one of restorative justice, the firm hopes to improve the living conditions for millions of traditionally-underserved citizens while seeking an end to mass incarceration. Given that the projects they create do not fit into any traditional funding mechanism, the eight-person team decided to become both an architecture firm and real estate development nonprofit. They receive funding from philanthropic organizations, which is then used to leverage financing from socially-responsible lenders and investors, and state and federal programs, such as New Market Tax Credits, which support investments in low-income communities. These strategies have allowed DJDS to avoid many of the traps other justice-oriented firms have fallen into while establishing and improving upon several novel building types, including “resource villages,” “peacemaking centers,” and “social justice campuses.” To develop each project, DJDS intimately engages with the communities it intends to service. For a housing facility for youth transitioning out of foster care in Atlanta, for instance, DJDS engaged with the community during a nine-month process that included model-making, visual games, and finance education. In many cases, they learned that the spaces they create should be flexible, reconfigurable, and mobile in order to provide civic resources wherever they may be needed. Restore Oakland Completed last July, Restore Oakland is a 20,000-square-foot complex providing community advocacy and training sessions in the Fruitvale district for those in the Bay Area requiring such services, including immigrants, people of color, and those who have been previously incarcerated. Its bright walls, use of warm woods, and well-lit spaces are intended to contrast the aesthetics commonly associated with the prison system. Restore Oakland is a “social justice campus,” which Van Buren describes as a center for facilities in the service of restorative economics, including housing, restorative retail, and spaces for peacemaking and trauma-informed education. “What Restore Oakland represents,” said Van Buren, “is programs, place, and people coming together to build infrastructure that’s equitable.” It is jointly owned by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, whose goal is to reduce incarceration rates and improve resources for people of color in the neighborhood, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, which has placed a COLORS restaurant on the ground floor to train low-income communities of color for jobs in the restaurant industry. The two owners of Restore Oakland hope that the new campus will help community members “dream, organize and act together for real community safety and self-determination.” Mobile Refuge Rooms In collaboration with Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), DJDS designed low-cost living units in Alameda County for recently incarcerated men. Each unit is primarily made of durable, inexpensive wood and is equipped with three essential furniture components—a bed, a desk, and storage space—that can be easily reconfigured to meet the personal preferences of its occupants. Sliding doors, folding panels, and built-in amenities are installed as space-efficient design gestures that appear both solid and permanent, despite the fact that the units can all be easily transported. Formerly incarcerated citizens not only participated in a two-month community engagement process following their design, but were also involved in every step of their fabrication, from initial designs to the finished product. Five Keys Mobile Classroom For the Five Keys Schools and Programs in California’s Bay Area, DJDS created the Five Keys Mobile Classroom, a retrofitted MUNI bus with classroom space, a library, and a mobile hotspot for online learning. The ergonomic detailing of its built-in furniture makes the compact interior ampler, providing room for guidance counseling sessions and social services that address issues including violence and drug abuse prevention. By bringing “the school to the people,” the Mobile Classroom provides much-needed educational facilities for neighborhoods whose residents are below the federal poverty line and cannot easily afford to travel. Its lime-green exterior becomes a beacon of hope in the neighborhoods it services, helping participants “choose their own path in life rather than stumbling along one strewn with gangs, drugs, and possibly, jail.” Pop-Up Village  Much like the Five Keys Mobile Classroom and the Mobile Refuge Rooms, the Pop-Up Village is not fixed in any one location, as a way of providing services wherever they are needed. When the Pop-Up Village was first deployed in February of this year, it turned a vacant outdoor lot in an underserved area into a vibrant public space catalyzing “the magic that emerges when people and programs come together,” according to DJDS. As a “site-activation tool,” the Pop-Up Village brings together several justice-oriented programs, including those for health and wellness, retail, food, education, and services targeted toward youth and families. With the aesthetics of a swap meet or a farmer’s market, the project elevates the task of providing civic resources with dignity and uplifting design.
Placeholder Alt Text

Don't go a-changin'

Soft Schindler at L.A.'s MAK Center seeks the ephemeral in the obdurate
“One of my dreams,” Pauline Schindler wrote to her mother in 1916, “is to have, someday, a little joy of a bungalow, on the edge of the woods and mountains near a crowded city, which shall be open just as some people’s hearts are open, to friends of all classes and types.” Six years after this letter was written, Pauline and husband Rudolph Schindler designed and built a place to live on the edge of the woods and mountains in the center of Los Angeles, but the hard-edged, modernist building that became the Schindler House has little of the features that come to mind when one envisions “a little joy of a bungalow.” That is, at least, the impression one gets when walking through the hollowed building several decades later, following its acquisition and renovation by the Friends of the Schindler House (FOSH) in 1980, with the intention of repurposing it as an event and exhibition space. The year used as a point of reference for the renovation was 1922, predating the bohemian life that once took place within that made the house a home.
Many of the items on display in Soft Schindler, an exhibition currently running in the space and throughout the grounds, capture much of the essence erased by renovation by treating ephemerality itself as a medium. Curated by local design critic Mimi Zeiger, Soft Schindler exhibits the work of artists and architects as they creatively interpret the “century of fluid, alternating domesticities” since the Schindler House was first built, while also redefining modernism as softer than they had originally been described. The most thought-provoking pieces in the exhibition, however, are both time-based or site-specific. One installation which brilliantly embodies these two qualities is The Garden of Earthly Delights, a series of curtains by Colombian architecture firm AGENdA Agencia de Arquitectura that nearly fill the entirety of Rudolph Schindler’s original studio while establishing soft volumes of their own. The curtains are dyed using coffee and tobacco—two consumables which were once the “silent witnesses to discussions, encounters, and disagreements” within the home, and the piece's layout takes the gridlines of the home’s floor plan and renders them translucent and permeable. Visitors are invited to walk through the spaces created within The Garden of Earthly Delights to recall the “social dynamics of the Schindler’s table” during its early years. New York-based firm Leong Leong initiated a four-month “culinary experiment” with their outdoor installation Fermentation 01. Three marble-block vessels designed by the firm were placed in the Chace Patio, each one filled with a unique recipe by local fermentation experts Jessica Wang and Ai Fujimoto. The vessels will ferment the recipes, using the home and the Southern California climate as a sort of outdoor kitchen, and become the centerpiece of a tasting event near the end of the exhibition’s run. Like The Garden of Earthly Delights, Fermentation 01 reestablishes the home as a place of evanescent pleasures. Though not as site-specific to the Schindler House as others in the exhibition, Jorge Otero-Pailos’s Répétiteur 3 and Répétiteur 4 is a remarkably inventive take on the prompt outlined by Zeiger. The artist peeled the “dust and other residue” left on the walls of choreographer Merce Cunningham’s rehearsal studio in New York and placed them in two lightboxes occupying either side of Pauline Schindler’s original studio. The result is an uncanny reflection of the endless hours of practice that took place in Cunningham’s studio through a method unachievable with archival photography and correspondence. Had the Schindler House not been so thoroughly renovated, it would have been a real treat if Otero-Pailos presented its own decades of residue in the same format. Soft Schindler reminds its viewers to not only think of the Schindler House as “a little joy of a bungalow,” as it truly was once, but also to seek out the diaphanous between the hard lines of modernity as we know it. The show will be on display through February 16, 2020.
Placeholder Alt Text

Horton Hears a Lawsuit

Macy’s is filing suit against the Horton Plaza Mall demolition
Nearly five months after a unanimous City Council vote in May to demolish San Diego’s postmodern Horton Plaza Mall and replace it with a mixed-use block tentatively named “The Campus at Horton,” a group of local politicians and business executives have urged Macy’s department store, one of three retailers at the mall, to reconsider a lawsuit that would prevent the demolition from taking place according to the San Diego Tribune. Earlier this month, Macy’s West Stores, Inc. had filed a lawsuit against Stockdale Capital Partners, the Los Angeles-based real estate investment firm that purchased the Jon Jerde-designed Horton Plaza Mall complex in August of last year, to slow down or halt the forthcoming conversion. The department store intends to halt the mall’s destruction by appealing to a San Diego Court judge, arguing that the developer’s plans to replace the complex with high-tech office space and rebrand the area violate Macy’s lease agreement. Additionally, Macy’s real estate executive Douglas Sesler wrote a letter to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer confirming their desire to take legal action, according to the Tribune. “We’re eager to continue a productive dialogue in good faith,” wrote Sesler, “but we concluded that litigation was necessary to prevent further deterioration of our rights and, even worse, another potential non-starter in the history of Horton Plaza redevelopment proposals.” The lawsuit claims that repurposing the mall violates Macy's lease agreement as well as a reciprocal easement agreement they had signed, which gives the company veto power in the case of major property changes. Though portions of the mall’s one-million-square-foot interior have already been demolished as part of the original development schedule to complete the first phase of the tech campus by the end of next year, the project will be legally required to come to a standstill if the judge finds Macy’s claim to be substantial. If the conversion moves ahead as originally planned, the amount of retail space on-site would be slashed to 300,000 square feet, as office space would "float" above the street on top of first-floor retail podiums.