In a case being watched closely by architects, German designer Gerhard Becker last week pleaded no contest to a charge of involuntary manslaughter for his "disregard for public safety and building codes" in the construction of a Hollywood Hills mansion whose ceiling collapsed in a 2011 fire, killing one fireman. The home had been slated to host Germany's "Next Top Model" television series. Becker faced up to four years in jail, but the plea—facilitated by the judge's worries that some of the blame should go to the building inspector—means he will face only six months in prison. "There are serious issues of proof for responsibility of the loss of life,” said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry, according to the LA Times. While local firefighters are rightfully angry with Becker, local architects are upset that Becker has been referred to as an architect at all. Becker is not licensed in California. "It underscores the importance of hiring architects as opposed to 'designers'," said Will Wright, Director of Government and Public Affairs at AIA/LA.
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On Saturday I moderated one of two AIA/LA-sponsored panels about bio-inspired design at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. The first panel looked at the general influence of nature on design, from the Mars Rover to the San Diego Zoo, and ours zeroed in on architecture's envelopes and skins, with insights about breaking away from the static, heavy, and largely-unresponsive architecture of today by architect Tom Wiscombe, Arup engineer Russell Fortmeyer, and evolutionary biologist Shauna Price. Speaking of bio-inspired design, before the panel I got an early look at the new gardens at the Natural History Museum, designed by Mia Lehrer + Associates. The gardens, which are scheduled to open in time for the museum's centennial this June, are designed to finally bring the institution's exhibits outside of their built home, with diverse elements that are laid out as a microcosm of LA's ecosystems. That includes plant species that draw all types of animals and insects, jagged rock formations, and even a recreation of the local water system, with a pond that flows into a stream, and eventually becomes an arroyo. The design creatively mixes natural and urban materials like a chain link vine arbor and rebar rose supports. There's even an on-site natural laboratory, so scientists can work in open daylight instead of in a sequestered chamber.We'll be looking at the gardens more closely in the coming weeks when they officially open, along with the glassy new entry to the museum by CO Architects, which is coming this summer.
[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.
It appears that AIA/LA is serious about opening a new architecture center, a storefront, multi-use space similar to that of the Center for Architecture in New York (above). According to a now expired post on Idealist.org, they’re looking for (and rumored to have already hired) a new fulltime “Campaign Director” for an $8 to 15 million capital campaign to “support the acquisition and renovation of an existing building for the new Center for Architecture and Urban Design Los Angeles,” and “create an endowment to maintain this new property.” According to the post the center will be “a highly collaborative organization that builds strong relationships with other organizations to carry out its mission.” The center is rumored to contain not just AIA offices and exhibition and event spaces, but perhaps spaces for the A+D Architecture and Design Museum and the Urban Land Institute's Los Angeles chapter.
Without a doubt the big winner at Wednesday's AIA/LA Design Awards, held in the shadow of Cesar Pelli's almost-done Red Building at the Pacific Design Center, was Neil Denari. In an unprecedented display of dominance his firm's No Mass House took home Best in Show for unbuilt work (Next LA Awards), his firm's HL23 Residential Tower in New York took home Best in Show for built work (Design Awards) and then Denari won the AIA/LA Gold Medal. Now that's a good night. (By the way, we thought Best In Show was reserved for dog shows, but that's besides the point...) In accepting the medal Denari, who was born in Texas, talked about being inspired not only by the light and sunshine of California, but also by its darkness, a tension that's palpable in his work. To check out more of the design awards winners check out the AIA/LA's new app on iTunes. And to check out the new Red Building you'll have to wait until it's finished early next year.
New York isn't the only city celebrating Archtober. In Los Angeles, October has officially been "Architecture Month" since Mayor Villaraigosa declared it so back in 2007. The AIA/LA hopes the month-long festivities will help to "educate the public about architecture and architects, celebrate the profession and encourage the dialogue between those interested in the built environment." Some of the highlights include: October 3, Big City Forum panel: Edgar Orlaineta, Solar Do Nothing, a panel about modern design including AN West Coast Editor Sam Lubell. October 4, AIA|LA & The Department of City Planning: Working Together to Build Better Communities. October 7, DESIGNING HEALTHIER LIFESTYLES: an AIA|LA design symposium about improving the health impacts of the built environment. October 9, Preserving Lautner's Legacy: The Spectrum of Stewardship. October 9, CicLAvia, 10am - 3pm October 10, Curse and Vision: The Future of Westwood Village. October 19, The AIA|LA Urban Design Committee... THE URBAN TRANSFORMATION OF LOS ANGELES - Part Two. October 22, Unfrozen Music 2011: Architects in Concert, hosted by AN's Sam Lubell. October 23,AIA Los Angeles Fall 2011 Home Tour, featuring East Side homes. October 26, 2011 Design Awards Party.
Last week the AIA/LA announced its choices for this year's most notable food-friendly architecture mavericks with its annual Restaurant Design Awards. Designs ranged from an up-cycled (in this case, stripped down and revamped Lina Bo Bardi style) pizza parlor in Culver City to a Guggenheim Museum centerpiece to a repurposed church in Maine. "We tried to design a modern twist on a Gothic Methodist church...buttresses, laser cut patterns on the bar and upholstering old pews,” said architect Ryan Wither for Grace Restaurant in Portland, Maine. The restaurant's logo and the bar floor plan emulate an old trefoil window. Poon Design Inc.'s Mendocino Farms and R. Dean Bingham—in conjunction with AIA and Tivi Design—won a People's Choice Awards as did FER Studio and Studio Collective for the Spare Room in Hollywood. Spare Room, a gamer's delight, houses two vintage bowling lanes set within the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. "We worked very closely with the owners to narrow the focus and curate a vision which both looked back to a time where parlor games were seen as a symbol of the bourgeois as well as take cues from the present," explained Studio Collective architect Adam Goldstein. Michael Hsu Office of Architecture's Incenhaurers, GRAFT's Aria Pool at City Center, Earl's Gourmet Grub by FreelandBuck, Lukshon by MASS Architecture and Design, Bestor Architecture's Pitfire Pizza (Culver City site; that's the revamped pizza joint), and The Wright from the Guggenheim Museum by Andre Kikoski Architecture all walked away with Jury Awards.
Yes, it's conference time again in LA. The AIA Los Angeles Design Conference, part of Dwell on Design, kicks-off on Friday with an all day symposium, The Architecture of Transportation, which will discuss ideas to help transform L.A.‘s transportation system into an economically and socially viable network. Participants like policy makers, activists, urban designers and architects, will investigate a wide range of transportation-related ideas, like connecting people to their communities, influencing regional prosperity and helping cities compete globally. Among several panels and case studies will be Creating Perspective: The History of the Future in Transportation, which will include both a survey of transportation design and a look ahead to the future. Moderated by David Abel, publisher of The Planning Report, panelists will examine mass transit, road systems, and current infrastructure. In the afternoon The Regional Level: Connectivity, Prosperity, Vibrancy and Delight will focus on transportation at the regional level, assessing the big picture in regards to ease of getting to the to transit stations, safety, overall design, sidewalk accessibility and its impact on the community. The symposium will take place at the LA Convention Center from 9-5pm. For more information and a complete list of panelists, visit here. On Saturday the conference will feature The Business of Architecture, with seminars designed to help firms boost their positions in the challenging economy.
In response to the lack of, ahem, any money in architecture these days, AIA/LA has announced a new scholarship to help members pay for the chapter's ARE (Architect Registration Exam) seminars. The Saturday seminars usually cost $85 each for members, so if someone wants to take all ten, that's worth $850. Preference goes to unemployed or under-employed architects, and right now there's no limit to how many will be handed out. The chapter is about to award its first six scholarships today, says Matt Krinsky, AIA/LA's Director of Programs and Events. By the way, for those struggling young architects hoping to get inspiration, check out the winners of the AIA's Arch Is competition — Freeland Buck and Marcelo Spina— at LA's A+D Museum tonight.
AIA/LA has just announced the winners of its second annual "Arch Is" competition, open to California designers who have graduated from architecture school in the past five to twelve years. The victors are two of our favorites: FreelandBuck, headed by David Freeland and Brennan Buck, and P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S, led by Georgina Huljich and Marcelo Spina. Both are on the cutting edge of digital fabrication and complex, layered (not to mention curvy) design. See some of their work, below. And stop drooling. And check out a public forum featuring the winners at LA's A+D Museum on March 24 a 7pm.
AIA/LA hosted its annual Design Awards last night at LACMA, an event that while not too full of people (that pesky recession) was full of astoundingly good projects. The AIA made us really happy, awarding AN a Presidential Award (Thanks AIA/LA President Paul Danna) for "Architectural Interpreter". Aw Shucks.. Other notable winners included Firm of the Year Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects and Gold Medal winner Brenda Levin. Since there were a hefty number of Design Award winners, we've decided to pick out a few of our favorites. And so without further ado we present the first ever, completely unofficial, AIA/LA Awards Awards! Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Dallas, Morphosis Laumeier Sculpture Park Museum, St. Louis, Pugh + Scarpa 3631 Holdredge Avenue Building, Culver City, Lynch/Eisinger Pittman Dowell Residence, Michael Maltzan Architecture Czech Embassy, Washington D.C., Your Building Here Performance Capture Studio, San Francisco, Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects with Kanner Architects Palms Residence, Venice, Daly Genik Conga Room, Belzberg Architects 41 Cooper Square, New York, Morphosis Deichmann Center, Beer Sheva, Israel, Vert Architects
The AIA/LA, which just hosted its lavish awards ceremony at the Egyptian Theater last night (more on that soon..) on Monday sent out a call for entries for its new ARCH IS___ Competition, set to pick 2 standout young LA architects or firms, who will win a $500 cash prize, give a lecture at the Pacific Design Center, and be featured on the AIA/LA chapter website. Competitors must have graduated from architecture school in the last 5 to 12 years, so sorry Mssrs. Mayne and Gehry. The jury will include UCLA Architecture Dean Hitoshi Abe, LA Times Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne, curator Brooke Hodge, and architects Scott Johnson and just-awarded AIA/LA Gold Medalist (and outed newlywed) Michael Rotondi. Registration must be completed by December 8, and 20 page digital portfolios must be submitted to the AIA by January 8. The winners will be announced on February 16. Good luck young ones! Any more questions? Email Carlo Caccavale at email@example.com.