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Art and architecture highlights from Coachella

2016’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival kicked off this weekend in typical fashion: hit and under-sung musical acts playing late into the night, torturous sunshine interrupted by shade-giving monumental art. Amid the raucous tumult of teenagers and festival bros were a collection of large artworks commissioned specifically for the festival, running two weekends in a row. The seven monumental works by seven invited artists create interactive structures meant to complement the festival’s musical offerings and run the gamut from dank man caves to an ever-changing array of colorful balloons floating in the wind.

The Tower of Twelve Stories 📷: @robstok + @alliemtaylor

A photo posted by @coachella on

Takin a break from my normal thing(s) to shoot @coachella ! @goldenvoice @instagram Art = @0super A photo posted by Jeff Frost (@frostjeff) on
Jimenez Lai brings his The Tower of Twelve Stories to Coachella, a 52-foot-tall sectional model made up of a mess of stacked platonic bubbles. Inspired by the Lenoard Cohen song, “Tower of Song,” Lai’s work also takes inspiration from theories on the American skyscraper, from Rem Koolhaas’s notions of its genericism to Louis Sullivan’s prescriptions of classical proportioning for the type. The structure contains embedded lights and glows from within at night. Cuban artist Alexandre Arrechea’s Katrina Chairs utilize steel frames clad in plywood to create a sextet of bright yellow lawn chairs topped with stacks of Soviet-era, prefabricated apartment blocks. The monumental work takes its name from the disastrous storm that hit New Orleans in 2005 that gives the work resonant symbolism: it asks in surreal irony if one chair can hold an entire community above water. Phillp L. Smith’s Portals uses mirrored members to create a 85-foot-wide circular room around a large tree. This room is punctuated by fluorescently lit Space and Light era-inspired geometric niche sculptures. A planter containing the tree comes with incorporated seating. Wife and husband team Katrīna Neiburga and Andris Eglītis from Latvia repurpose scrapped wood and other building materials to create their two-storied The Armpit, an homage to the Latvian equivalent of the “man cave.” The installation fetishizes Latvian male’s tendency to crave time alone in the garage and upends a traditionally masculine space by allowing the view to peer into the cave and observe scenes of male solitude and domestic intimacy. Architecture-trained Argentine artists Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt take inspiration from the Mexican bolero song, ¡Bésame Mucho!, for their silk flower-clad monumental text sculpture of the same name. Coachella-based artists Armando Lerma and Carlos Ramirez, collaborating as The Date Farmers, evoke the Mexican migrant farm worker with their work, Sneaking into the Show, a Chicano Art-inspired totem showcasing a duo of migrant workers and their plow.

#goldenhour 📷: @erubes1

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  Lastly, Robert Bose’s Balloon Chain utilizes variously colored balloons strung together with attached LED lights to create a responsive amorphous sculpture that billows along with the hot desert winds.  
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Eavesdrop> ‘Chella Yo Self: Jimenez Lai excited about Coachella this summer
L.A. designer Jimenez Lai of Bureau Spectacular recently discovered that he would be designing one of the large installations at Southern California music festival Coachella this summer. Announcing the exciting news on Facebook, he said “I want to kiss the earth Kevin Costner–style. I’m now able to say I’ve been on the same poster as Ice Cube, LCD Soundsystem, and Guns N Roses.”
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Desert X to bring the art fair circuit to Coachella Valley
File under “X.” A new happening is coming to California’s high desert. Slated to open in February 2017, Desert X is “three-month site-specific international contemporary art exhibition,” aka, an arid art event timed to align with Palm Spring’s Modernism Week as well as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Writer and curator Neville Wakefield, known for curating site-specific works, will serve as inaugural artistic director. It’s promised that his knack for engaging alternative spaces will be on view as artists install in non-traditional spaces—one might expect landscape interventions a la High Desert Test Sites in Joshua Tree—as well as more conventional settings such as the Palm Springs Art Museum, a late modern design by architect E. Stewart Williams and A. Quincy Jones’ midcentury Sunnylands Center & Gardens, renovated by Frederick Fisher and Partners in 2012. “The desert has long exercised its fascination over the minds of artists, architects, musicians, writers and other explorers of landscape and soul,” noted Wakefield. He sets a high bar for the commissioned art works, asking that they simultaneously reflect the ideals and politics of the contemporary art world and respond to the desert context. The press release suggests that the pieces will “amplify and cast a gimlet eye on the geographies, ethnic/social and historical/geologic layers that exist in the southern California desert, while also looking to major movements in contemporary art world-wide.” The exact hows and whos of Desert X remain a vast and unknowable mystery, to borrow the evocative language of the press materials. “The landscape of harsh desert, high mountains, lush golf courses and a vanishing sea, holds a rich history and maintains mythical proportions in the narrative of the American West—one that includes ancient Indian tribes, prospectors, pioneers, and cowboys,” explained Susan Davis, Desert X founder and board president. “We see Desert X as unique in shining a spotlight on the rich preexisting architectural, natural and cultural legacies of the area, while offering the public a way to explore, activate and interrogate current, timely and historic issues through contemporary, creative practices.” However, Desert X’s board is well connected to the regional, national, and international arts organizations, including major arts institutions, such as Whitney Museum of American Art, the Park Avenue Armory Conservancy, the New Museum, the Hammer Museum, the Serpentine Galleries, and Creative Time. The truth is out there: Wakefield will share his vision and plans for the inaugural exhibition on January 29, 2016 as part of the Art Los Angeles Contemporary 2016.
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White Goods
The expressive roof of White's 1956 Truman Ratliff House in La Quinta under construction
Courtesy AD&A Museum, UC Santa Barbara

Walter S. White: Inventions in Midcentury Architecture
Art, Design & Architecture Museum
University of California, Santa Barbara
Ended December 6, 2015

Social self-consciousness may reach its zenith in middle school, but intellectually we are at our most insecure in college. On view at the Art, Design & Architecture Museum (A&AD) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the exhibition Walter S. White: Inventions in Midcentury Architecture hands out a humbling reminder of our freshman ignorance. On the subject of White—a remarkably prolific architect and inventor working in Colorado and the Coachella Valley—midcentury monographs and weekend tours in Palm Springs have taught us almost nothing.

However embarrassing, White’s omission is at least explainable; born in San Bernardino in 1919, his career does not form a tidy resume of the sort normally favored by employers and curators. Attending school for only a brief time and with limited success, he parlayed his drafting skills and early familiarity with construction into works for Los Angeles firms whose names are no longer familiar.

Through 1942, White’s career could best be described as inconspicuous. His short stints in the offices of notable architects such as Rudolph Schindler and Harwell Hamilton Harris do not to appear to have been associated with important contributions or works. Rather than exaggerate his place next to acknowledged masters, the curators place this period of apprenticeship where it belongs— among dozens of more banal events preceding his independent career, such as the award that he received for architectural lettering at the California State Fair. In the context of this exhibit, it is an artifact at least as important as the names of his famous employers.

The exhibition is arranged into five sections: Early Career, Small Houses, Large Houses, Design Innovations, and Building with Nature—each is given a wall of detailed plans, photos, and elevations, and a display of associated ephemera. Models are absent except for a small card stock vignette of a roof. A commissioned reconstruction of a corner of one of his buildings sits in the center of the gallery and mostly serves to break up the size of an enormous room in which the detail of the drawings would otherwise be lost.

The curatorial intent seems clear enough; White was a professional engaged in the craft of designing and innovating through orthographic drawing, and his work is best understood with one’s nose at the wall. His design interests are apparent from what is registered on blueprint and vellum—the seasonal path of the sun, or an arc annotated “panoramic view of Pikes Peak Massif.”

One unpedigreed career stop does deserve note. In 1942, White took a job at Douglas Aircraft as a machine tool designer, which appears to have exposed him to methods of construction outside of conventional architecture, and reinforced an early inclination for detail. After Douglas and a short stint with Clark and Frey, White established his own practice, and the commissions become more varied and innovative—at first tentatively and then with the courage of someone who believes that while unconventional, what they are drawing is objectively better.

Later, still working primarily on residential architecture, he devised and patented the steel-framed hyperbolic paraboloid roof structure suitable for airplane enclosures as well as residences that was most notably used in his striking Willockson House from 1958. Dramatic roofs were the big formal move in most of his work. White continued to tinker with techniques to make their construction simpler and minimize their constraints on the underlying plan.

This yen to improve seems not to have been entirely rewarded—the exhibition is sprinkled with darting references to cost overruns, unhappy clients, and projects going unrealized. Nothing suggests that these setbacks left White dispirited, but it is impossible not to wince, seeing his careful drafting etch out “Industrial Designer—Not an Architect” on the title block a design in which he was obviously invested.

White eventually became licensed and earned some regional fame, yet his work escaped posthumous recognition. It’s too bad; most of the best experiences of the designed world come from architects like White, the ones tinkering in the background.

The AD&A has a history of mounting exhibitions on minor players who made major impacts. We should be grateful to the museum for refusing to let us forget them in favor of noisier contemporaries. This show is a great reminder that occasionally, we, like White, should sometimes leave Los Angeles behind. There is much to be learned from an architect who had no significant commissions in Los Angeles, left behind no single iconic work, but instead left his mark on Palm Desert and Colorado Springs with hundreds of remarkable residences that elevated the ambitions of modern vernacular housing.

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The Legacy of Architecture for Humanity
In a process led by Kounkuey Design Initiative, residents of St. Anthony Trailer Park in Californiaas Coachella Valley plan the design of a public space.
Courtesy Surdna Foundation

The recent closure of Architecture for Humanity, the San Francisco–based nonprofit known for its post-disaster rebuilding projects, had a distinctly funereal feeling. Founded by Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr in 1999, Architecture for Humanity (AFH) was guided by the tagline “Addressing global humanitarian challenges with architectural solutions.” In addition to managing the design and construction of specific projects in the U.S. and abroad, the organization was known for its international network of local, volunteer-run chapters and its high profile publications including the book Design Like You Give a Damn and associated museum exhibitions.

As with any funeral, these past few weeks have been filled with sadness, loss, hand-wringing, and questions: Why did this happen? What a shame. Who or what is to blame?  

Jessica Garz.

The stages of grief and mourning are universal, but they are also ephemeral and often productive in helping us gain perspective. AFH’s demise has catalyzed an important conversation about the organizational infrastructure surrounding architects, designers, and planners working expressly for public good. Even as we cope with the loss of this internationally recognized organization, we too must use this moment as an opportunity to celebrate the incredible work of innovative organizations that are placing communities at the center of the architecture and design processes.
While AFH may be the most recognized name in the field of public interest design, we look to organizations like Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), the Hester Street Collaborative, and Indigenous Design and Planning Institute (iD+Pi) at the University of New Mexico for best practices here in the U.S. The work of these organizations, ranging from urban to rural to tribal, are challenging top-down methods through planning, design, and architectural processes that are guided by equity and democratic decision making. When such processes are grounded in deep partnership with community organizers, community development corporations, municipal and tribal governments, and other representative groups, planning and development happen with low income communities and communities of color, not to them.

Kounkuey’s work in California’s Eastern Coachella Valley, for example, shows how residents whose views were once excluded from public processes because of their immigration status or inability to attend meetings because of language barriers, long work hours, or limited transportation options, have gained an important voice in local land use and development decisions. Working in partnership with the Pueblo Unido Community Development Corporation, the local chapter of Legal Aid, and residents from the towns of Mecca and Northshore, KDI has improved unsafe flooding conditions in a local trailer park and is currently working to develop a new eight-acre public park. The nonprofit design and community development practice was able to raise $2 million for the new park from public and philanthropic sources, based on the trust the staff has built with local residents, organizations, and elected officials.


Kounkuey’s work, which demystifies the often opaque language and processes of planning, leads to substantive outcomes both in terms of changes to the built environment and empowerment in the local community. Neither KDI’s work in the Eastern Coachella Valley nor any of their other projects is likely to make it on to the pages of architectural magazines or the white walls of a gallery. And that’s okay. We would rather not reduce the story to a simple park design project, but rather connect KDI’s work to broader issues of equity and inclusiveness.

Unlike a funeral, in this situation, no lives were lost. Rather a single organization, albeit an important one, has gone out business. So, we have taken a moment to reflect on AFH’s legacy, and celebrate life—the life, challenges, and successes  of a new generation of practitioners and the communities with whom they work whose voices are increasingly driving a new type of practice.

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Desert Oasis
The new Edwards Harris Pavilion.
Dan Chavkin

On November 9, The Palm Springs Art Museum opened its newly renovated, $5.7 million Architecture and Design Center—The Edwards Harris Pavilion. E. Stewart Williams designed the original 13,000-square-foot glass and steel structure in 1961 for the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan. In its new incarnation, the modernist building recognizes architecture and design in its own right, not as a cultural side show to acclaimed art collections.

Williams is a member of the group of early post-World War II architects that landed in the Coachella desert and helped turn the resort into a burgeoning center of modern design. Marmol Radziner conducted the renovation, transforming the old bank building to serve as an exhibition space with a plan that opens up to the sweeping landscape beyond. The facility also houses an archive and design collection in its basement level.

Inside the pavilion prior to installation (right) former bank apparatus left intact (left).
dan chavkin

The design of the facility—with its sharp right angles, polished terrazzo floors, and floor to ceiling glass—represents a period of architecture that was sensitive to the user, offering a range of affordable housing to meet the post World War Two demands of growing families. The attractive houses, a favorite of retirees and seasonal residents, are now getting more expensive, as evidenced on a tour of select homes that accompanied a preview of the center. An estimated 45,000 devotees attended the city’s Modernism Week last February.

Midcentury design objects (right) and building exterior (left).
lani garfield

When Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan went bankrupt in the 1980s, the building’s site was proposed for a 4-story retail centerpiece to 19 condos. The proposal galvanized an emerging preservation movement, spurred by the architect’s daughter-in-law, Sidney Williams, which stopped the project in its tracks, declared the building a historic monument, and, in time, launched the rehabilitation of the center. Sidney Williams is now the curator of the new center.

Marmol Radziner’s renovation is based in part on the photographs of Julius Shulman, who documented many of the mid-century modernist buildings in the area.

E. Stewart Williams will be honored in the opening exhibit, entitled An Eloquent Modernist, which is accompanied by an illustrated book of the same title.

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Palm Springs Architecture & Design Center opens tomorrow, November 9th
Palm Springs Architecture and Design Center will officially open on November 9 with its inaugural exhibition, An Eloquent Modernist, E. Stewart Williams, Architect. Williams is a member of the group of early post-World War II architects that landed in the Coachella desert and helped turn the resort into a fledgling center of modern design mostly for vacation and retirement homes but also of schools, commercial buildings, and civic monuments. Williams fittingly designed the building that houses the new museum as the Santa Fe Federal Savings in 1961. It has now been entirely renovated by Marmol Radziner and seems to easily work as an exhibition space with an uninterrupted, unified and open plan that both contains space and opens up to the beautiful landscape beyond. The glass and steel building has many of the design details like brise-soleil, terrazzo flooring, sliding grates, and grills and columns that mark high modernism in southern California but are not usually seen in commercial structures like banks. In fact, it works perfectly for a museum and exhibition space devoted to design and architecture. The 13,000-square-foot facility will also house an archive and design collection in its basement level that allows it to create an ambitious facility devoted to design. The Palm Springs Art Museum, the parent of this new architecture and design center named the Edward Harris Pavilion, has assembled a talented and passionate team to direct the future of the center. A museum devoted simply to architecture might be hard to program after the first few exciting years but the managing director of the museum, J.R. Roberts, will open up its programming to include fashion, automobile design and other design disciples. The Executive Director of the Palm Springs Art Museum, the historian Dr. Steven Nash, has announced that the museum has been able to raise the $5.7 million (including the building purchase) it needs to renovate the bank and support several years of programming that is critical to running any sort of cultural facility in the 21st century. Finally, this team includes the accomplished daughter-in-law of Stewart Willams-Sidney who wil be the new museum's head curator. There are virtually no models for an architecture and design museum in this country so it will be fascinating to watch this facility in the next decade as it grows and develops.
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"Breaking New Ground" Competition Tackles Affordable Housing in the Coachella Valley
Architectural competitions with substantial cash prizes tend to focus on monuments, museums, and other high-brow concerns. Such is not the case for Breaking New Ground: Designing Affordable Housing for the Coachella Valley Workforce. Sponsored by The California Endowment, a Los Angeles–based private health organization, Breaking New Ground targets the gap between the people who come to the Eastern Coachella Valley to play and those who keep its $4 billion agriculture and tourism industries running. Home to resort communities including Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and Rancho Mirage, the Eastern Coachella Valley lacks affordable housing for the permanent and seasonal workers who harvest its crops and staff the local service industry. With annual salaries of just $15,000–$30,000, workers and their families are forced to live on the streets, in cars, or in one of more than 100 unpermitted mobile home parks, without access to adequate heat, hot water, sanitation, or ventilation. Breaking New Ground will offer a total of $350,000 in unrestricted awards, including prizes for four finalists in each of the Open and Student categories. The jury will evaluate submissions based not just on physical design, but also on their economic, social, and regulatory aspects, such as: market feasibility, the provision of integrated social services, and proposed policy changes. The competition will be based on an existing 9.4-acre vacant site, selected by the County of Riverside for competition purposes only. Though Breaking New Ground is a design and ideas competition, “The California Endowment does intend to fund a project inspired by the competition entries,” said Colin Drukker of PlaceWorks, the competition’s lead project coordinator. “Winning entries will not be guaranteed a chance to participate in a potential construction project, but they will obviously have an advantage in any subsequent RFP.” The competition begins October 21, with online registration open sooner. The first round will conclude December 19, at which point the jury will select four winners from the Student category as well as four finalists from the Open Category. The second round, to begin January 22, will conclude with live presentations and a celebration March 30–31. (All dates are subject to change until registration opens.)
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AIA announces 2013 Small Project Award recipients
The American Institute of Architects has announced the winners of the 2013 Small Project Awards, a program dedicated to promoting small-project designs. Since 2003 the AIA Small Projects Award Program has emphasized the work and high standards of small-project architects, bringing the public's attention to the significant designs of these small-projects and the diligent work that goes into them. This year's ten winners are grouped into four categories: projects completed on a budget under $150,000, projects with a budget under $1.5 million, projects under 5,000 square feet, and theoretical design under 5,000 square feet. CATEGORY 1: These three recipients had to complete small-projects constructions, objects, an environmental art, or architectural design with a budget of $150,000. Bemis InfoShop Min | Day Omaha From the AIA: "More than a new entry and reception area for a contemporary art center, the InfoShop is a social condenser and transition space between the city and the galleries. With increasing emphasis on social and environmental issues, the art center is becoming a laboratory for ideas rather than a repository for artifacts." The jury commented: "This is such a remarkable process! It represents a designer's victory as opposed to an ideologically born, experientially rich element. ... A context is built on triangular patterns cut into a wall of panels and beautifully engages a sculpturally reception desk that double as a bar for entertaining. The reception space looks great, effortlessly orients the visitor and functions very practically. It is playful without being whimsical. This project is an exemplary demonstration of craft in the digital age." Cemetery Marker Kariouk Associates South Canaan, PA From the AIA: "Before dying, a woman left a note for her children to be read after her death. This note was less a will (she had nothing material to leave her children) than several abstract wishes for them. The sole request on her own behalf was that her gravesite becomes a garden." The jury commented: "This is a design that embodies the idea of ‘remembrance’. The bronze plates, graced with a deeply personal and poetic message, are organized beautifully—pushing and pulling you through the space as you engage it. This is respectful, celebratory work that gracefully merges with its landscape and poignantly reveals the spirit of a woman." Studio for a Composer Johnsen Schmaling Architects Spring Prairie, WI From the AIA: "An unassuming structure nestled into a rural Wisconsin hillside, this intimate retreat serves as a studio for a Country Western musician to write his work and reconnect with nature." The jury commented: "The wood detailing, the use of color, and the simplicity of this retreat for a musician is inspiring. An inspiring place in which to create music and commune with nature. The color palette is at once animated and subtle." CATEGORY 2: These three recipients had to create small-project constructions with a budget of $1,500,000. Nexus House Johnsen Schmaling Architects Madison, WI From the AIA: "This compact home for a young family occupies a small site in a historic residential district in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. Successfully contesting the local preservation ordinance and its narrow interpretation of stylistic compatibility, the house is an unapologetically contemporary building, its formally restrained volume discreetly placed in the back of the trapezoidal site to minimize direct visual competition with its historic neighbors. The jury commented: "This is absolutely beautiful. It is well detailed and not overwhelming. It fits fantastically into the surrounding neighborhood and doesn’t take away from the other architecture. As the name Nexus suggests, this house is very well connected. Composed of a brick podium and a wood clad block on top, it masterfully accomplishes a variety experiences in a compact footprint." Pavilion at Cotillion Park Mell Lawrence Architects Dallas From the AIA: "Commissioned by the Dallas Parks Department, this new shade structure bridges the gap between two groups of trees at a natural gathering place in the park." The jury commented: "This is such a fantastic way for the public to be able to experience architecture in a park setting. The whimsical pop of red draws the eye and leads to you walk in and experience the space. It plays with light and provides a shading experience. An exquisite filigree steel structure, that is at once shade pavilion and large environmental art piece." Webb Chapel Park Pavilion Cooper Joseph Studio Mission, TX From the AIA: " We were asked by the Department of Parks and Recreation to create a picnic pavilion to replace a decaying 1960s shelter. Given Texan heat and humidity, climate control was a priority." The jury commented: "Cleverly integrated into the site the side berm and concrete overhead create a thermal cooling mass the way sustainable design traditionally did. This pavilion project is unlike anything we have seen before. A beautiful public work that will surely inspire those that experience it to embrace architecture in a new way." CATEGORY 3: The three recipients in this category had to complete a small-project construction, object, an environmental art, or architectural design under 5,000 square feet. These projects had to be designed as well as constructed, fabricated, and/or installed majorly by the architect. 308 Mulberry Robert M. Gurney, FAIA Lewes, DE From the AIA: "The starting point for this project is small house at 308 Mulberry Street, originally constructed in the early nineteenth-century in the heart of the historical district of Lewes. In the redesign, the exterior of the original structure is meticulously restored." The jury commented: "A demanding redesign that respectfully preserves the original architecture, while artfully transforming the home." Nevis Pool and Garden Pavilion Robert M. Gurney, FAIA Bethesda, MD From the AIA: "Located in a neighborhood bordering Washington, DC, this suburban site has the advantage of being located adjacent to woodlands. A contemporary house surrounded by mature trees and manicured gardens anchors the site. A new swimming pool, stone walls, and terraces behind the house organize the rear yard and establish a dialogue between the existing house and a new pavilion." The jury commented: "A suburban backyard is transformed with a new panoramic awareness of water, forest and sky." Tahoe City Transit Center WRNS Studio Tahoe City, CA From the AIA: "The Tahoe City Transit Center (TCTC) represents a vital step toward achieving a more sustainable transportation network within the region." The jury commented: " This is first class design and craftsmanship that works on many levels. The scale of the bus is tamed. The project is reminiscent of the approachable architecture of the early century. The wood siding and trees in the background integrate very well. The design is modern and vernacular at once. This profound piece of public infrastructure serves a very important civic function with a low impact modest foot print." CATEGORY 4: The recipient in category 4 was challenged to draft a completely original architectural design that is purely hypothetical and theoretical, and less than 5,000 square feet. Four Eyes House Edward Ogosta Architecture Coachella Valley, CA From the AIA: "A weekend desert residence for a small family, the Four Eyes House is an exercise in site-specific "experiential programming". Rather than planning the house according to a domestic functional program, the building was designed foremost as an instrument for intensifying particular onsite phenomenal events." The jury commented: "The imagery is expertly rendered and communicated. Both rational and lyrical and possessing excellent spatial quality. Architectural towers and horizontal lines modulate the viewer's experience and connection with an elemental landscape. It redefines how a home should be built. ... This project takes the experience of place and via an ‘architectural amplifier’ of thoughtful movement (ascension into each bedroom space) and choreographed view capture / light receiver (well-placed windows), makes it a triumphant celebration of humankind situated in the center of the natural universe."
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Our Man At The AIA/LA Awards
[Editor's note: Our fearless correspondent Guy Horton shares his thoughts—Gonzo Style—on the AIA/LA Awards Ceremony that took place on the Broad Stage in the Santa Monica Performing Arts Center. And he was surprisingly assured by it all.  Read ahead, if you dare. And enjoy the slideshow of the Design Award winners at the end.] To those who missed it, Man you should have been there. It was crazy. Honestly, the most insane Awards I've been to in years. Moby was there. You know he's been doing this LA architecture blog. He called LA urbanism a "shit show." Can you believe that? Brilliant. That got repeated a lot and I imagine it will become the buzz-word for the 2012 Awards: The Shit Show. In a good way, of course. He looked a little nervous. Saw him before he went on stage to introduce things. Told me the whole architecture economic situation really sucks. I know, I told him. But that's OK. We get by. And that was the vibe on the floor at the Broad Stage that night: we get by..."but we don't feel the same", as The Brian Jonestown Massacre song goes. Somehow we have all made it through the last four years of a wasted economy. We are all desolation's angels for having arrived on the other side of that and I think there was this sense that a corner was being turned and a new view coming into clarity. Call it a giddy post-recession fatigue. Soon the election will be done with and the book on 2012 closed. I think LA's architecture scene has undergone a permanent brain chemistry alteration. I got the sense things are bouncing back and people were feeling it at the Broad. It was like a shared sense of having come through a war of sorts. Was it just me? The Awards made me happy and I can't explain why exactly. That was unexpected. It could have been the merlot or the colorful tubs of sangria. People just seemed to be in good moods. You know I'm the last person to use the "O" word, as in optimism, but there was this pervasive atmosphere of just that. Many I spoke to said business wasn't great but that they were somehow doing fine and thought next year would be better. Frances Anderton was there and hearing her radio voice up close and in person just made the whole thing feel regal and legitimate. I won't go into all the different awards but our old friends Koning Eizenberg won the Gold Medal. They also won an award for the South Pasadena House they worked on. As if by magic, I sat right next to the couple who own the house. They were thrilled to be there and they remembered how great it was working with the whole team. They really love the place and their lives have clearly been transformed by the house and the design experience. That reminded me how great this stuff can be. The comedian Richard Montoya (Honestly, I had to Google him), from the Department of Cultural Affairs, was definitely on something. I think mostly himself, and as far as I'm concerned he can do that as much as he likes. He might as well have been on stage with a flaming hulu-hoop on a unicycle. He was on his game. End of story. He knew just what to say to a bunch of partying architects. We all looked sharp and have like five percent body fat. He could be reading the recession on us. The recession diet does wonders. It's the original lap band. Somebody said I looked taller so maybe the recession made me grow. The other thing was the reverse stage diving that took place throughout the evening. Alissa Walker and Marissa Gluck announced a best run-and-jump-on-stage-to-get-my-award award. I'll have to find out if anybody actually won. I think Mehrdad Yazdani, actually. He made it look so effortless. Peter Zellner also made a nice landing—neither his glasses nor his hair seemed to move. It's not just me, right? There was something in the air that night. Everyone seemed to be in that space. At one point a Broad Stage associate tried to block the stage jumper-uppers like one of those burly Coachella security people, but in the end she just gave up. Who forgot to put another set of stairs on stage right? Who needs them! Am I missing anything? Let's see Eric Owen Moss won the 25-Year Award for the Petal House. Though he is good at giving speeches, there was none. Hernan Diaz Alonzo, in a beautiful moment of doubling, somehow had on the same suit and crazy scarf he was wearing in his projected photograph as he walked up (he didn't jump) to receive the Educator Award. As you can see, there is just too much to get into here, but you get the idea. Maybe it was the merlot. By the way, Moby sends his best.
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Docomomo Tours In Palm Springs (and across the country)
If you've never seen Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House or Albert Frey's Palm Springs City Hall, now is your chance. This weekend Docomomo is hosing Palm Springs architecture tours, which will show off some of the city's most famous architecture. The tours, which also include visits to the homes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Cary Grant, are part of  Docomomo's US Tour Day, which offers similar events across the country, in 22 states. These includes tours of the Farnsworth House in Illinois, Eero Saarinen's TWA Terminal in New York, and buildings by Felix Candela in Houston.