Going to the AIA/LA Design Awards is a totally different experience when you’ve been on the jury, as I was this year. For one, you get to see the entire spectrum of the awards program, the behind-the-scenes production and the staging of what seemed like a thousand projects flashing before you in a darkened room. Not only do you have the heavy responsibility of judging all of these, but also you then have to champion and defend the ones that really speak to you. There was a lot of debate and discussion—and even some yelling and throwing of chairs involved. And probably way too much caffeine. The best part about being on the jury was to finally see and meet the people behind all the winning entries, whether unbuilt Next LA projects, where propositions about cities and buildings moved the bar a few notches higher, or the built projects that make people think twice about what architecture is and can be, was gratifying beyond simple description. Of course, in the back of my mind, were all those projects that didn’t make the cut, some of my personal favorites. Overall, what I came away with was an excitement about the state of architecture right now. While it might seem obvious, the awards remind you that there are so many different ways of thinking about and doing this, so many ways of shaping environments that impact people on multiple levels. From the awards ceremony at the Aratani Theater in Little Tokyo, the crowd shuttled and walked—I think Alissa Walker, winner of the Design Advocate Award, did in fact walk—to the dinner reception at the A+D Museum’s new digs in the adjacent Arts District. If I had to measure the awards in decibels, the loudest cheers and applause definitely went to Sarah Lorenzen, Chair at Cal Poly Pomona, who won the Educator Award. “I guess it’s good to be a teacher,” joked AIA/LA president Ted Hyman of ZGF Architects, who presented the Presidential Awards. One of the best moments of the night had to have been Steven Ehrlich’s heartfelt and genuine speech after he was presented with the Gold Medal. He spoke to the core of the discipline and profession. “At every step in my practice I’ve been blessed with the most talented and congenial collaborators and courageous clients that anyone could wish for,” said Ehrlich. His speech was all about “we.” And truly, that’s what design is all about.
Posts tagged with "Alissa Walker":
The accolades keep pouring in for former West Hollywood Urban Designer John Chase. Frances Anderton is busy writing the obituary for us (and her blog for KCRW's Design and Architecture is full of Chase memories). Here's a lovely tribute from Marissa Gluck and Josh Williams at Curbed LA. And one from AN contributor Alissa Walker. And below is a moving piece from AN contributor Tibby Rothman: In Memory of John Chase, Formidable Friend, Daring Dresser, Urban Enthusiast LA planner James Rojas just posted this: “LA has lost its greatest urban planner. John Chase has passed away.” But John Leighton Chase was also a writer. And, he was better than the rest of us at it. I remember reading his stuff for the first time, and knowing very clearly that I’d never be that good. His writing, like John, had energy, enthusiasm, passion, humor, empathy, and honesty. And, like his legendary choice of outfits—which will never be equaled—was so damn colorful. Less is a bore, for sure. John had been a newspaper man who gave it up to make a living and turned back without bitterness or sadness to do the most generous thing: He dropped a hand for the rest of us, and drew upon that tremendous heart of his to fuel our writing dreams. John’s title at the City of West Hollywood was Urban Designer, a position amongst the many other official titles he held and was lauded for. But for writers focused on architecture, planning and design he had a different job description: “Confidante.” No matter how busy he was, or what hearing he had coming up, he was always available. He pushed me back to the vulnerable world of fiction. You could tell all your writers’ secrets to John, and he with you, and when you share writers secrets you share everything. John loved Venice, he had lived here—and one of the things that initiated our friendship was I loved Venice too. But, the first time I actually saw John in Venice was the last time I spent time with him alone. We went to lunch at Hal’s. Let the record show, he was actually understated in terms of dress. A disappointment to me, I might add. It was July 30, a Friday, but we took our time with it. And afterwards, I asked him if he had five extra minutes, I wanted to turn him on to Hamilton Press. And it was John, and he always had five extra minutes for you so we went. Some people, when you take them down to Hamilton Press’s low key space, don’t get it, they might go straight to a piece by say—Ed Ruscha—omitting all others. Some go straight to the studio to see where the lithographs are printed, they want the inside story. But John gave each glorious print displayed on the wall carefully examination without regard to who the work was by—he just looked at the work. And, then he stood back. “It’s like a secret museum in the middle of the city,” he said, with wonder and love, getting the place in thirty seconds as he had with essential rooms in the urban fabric before. Afterwards we walked to that goddamn red Mercedes of his. I had my bike with me, but decided instead to take his offer of a ride into the city. On the way, we talked about a project he was overseeing. He shared with me his hopes for it, and a lunch that he wanted to have with the architects to convey his dream. A wish that incorporated architecture, site, history—and with all of John’s work—an acknowledgement of the often-silent contributions of individuals, whether it was their work that deserved so, their humanity, or just who they were as people. John had the heart to salute other people’s hearts. He always stood up for people. The last thing, the only thing I can do for John now, is pick up those notes—carry them cupped in two hands, as precious as they were and take them to the architect. On Sunday morning, Pat Hamilton one of the partners in Hamilton Press, called me, early, saddened by the news of John’s death. After John had gone, she’d looked up one of his books on Amazon, planning to have him sign it. He had that way. All weekend-long, as people—an extraordinary far flung tribe—talked to me of John’s passing, I kept saying that the only person who should be allowed to grieve his passing was his husband, Jon Cowan. I know that John would be distraught, deeply upset to have left Jon this way. He would never have done that if he’d been given any choice. But I admit that such tough talk was a deep Ed Moses-alpha male lie. I cannot come to terms with John’s death. With his passing. It’s very selfish on my part: none of us can turn to him again. That I had one last secret to tell him, that he would have laughed about, that I had been saving for a special occasion. The likes of John will not pass this way again. He was wholly beautifully John Leighton Chase. I’m so glad that I held my tongue and didn’t tell him to shave off those mutton chops and I took that last ride in the red Mercedes.
Our good friend Alissa Walker reports on Good's blog about a trip this past Saturday led by BLDG BLOG author Geoff Manaugh to California City, a giant unbuilt city in the Mojave Desert, about 2 hours from LA. The trip was part of Obscura Day, described by its founders, Atlas Obscura, as "a day of expeditions, back-room tours, and hidden treasures in your home town. California City is about 80,000 acres of land that was purchased in 1958 by developer Nat Mendelsohn, who hoped to eventually make it the third largest city in California. Unfortunately that never happened. He only managed to corral about 10,000 people. The rest is just a desert carved with an empty grid of dirt streets. Walker points out that the streets, with names like Oldsmobile Drive, still show up on maps. More of the 70 strange places visited on Obscura Day included a visit to Berkeley's spooky Bone Room, a tour of the Integatron sound chamber in Joshua Tree, and a visit to Baltimore's Museum of Dentistry.
Our friends at Curbed LA reported that Downtown LA's legendary funicular Angel's Flight finally re-opened yesterday after a 9 year hiatus (it closed in 2001 after an accident killed a tourist). The Victorian-era Flight, known as the "world's shortest railway," at 315 feet, was built in 1901 and has seen several iterations, the latest of which is being operated by Angels Flight Railway. It received its LA Public Utilities Commission safety approval earlier this month, so we consider it safe enough for our intrepid transit expert Alissa Walker to try it out. Stay tuned for her upcoming essay on the ride. To help you wait it out, check out a couple of our favorite photo compilations, here and here, of the Flight when it was first built. Especially fun to look at the now-defunct Victorians of Bunker Hill, the ornate masonry buildings, the city trolleys, and the great Victorian outfits.
Architecture was heard and not seen at City Listening, the latest installation of de LaB (design east of La Brea), LA's semi-regular design gathering hosted by AN contributors Haily Zaki and Alissa Walker (the writer of this post, but better known to you as "we"). Monday night's event was held at the new Barbara Bestor-designed GOOD Space in Hollywood, where design writers and bloggers crawled out from under their keyboards to show us their faces, and in some cases, their feelings. The evening was packed with AN contributors and readers, including two pieces out of seven read that were originally published in AN! Frances Anderton opened the night with a piece published in AN over two years ago that reflected on her first impressions of LA as a newly-arrived Brit. After making a Chapter 11 joke that made a few LA Times freelancers twitter nervously, Christopher Hawthorne read a piece from the LAT about last year's wildfires (isn't that great, we now have an annual wildfire tradition). We loved Curbed LA editors Josh Williams and Marissa Gluck riffing on the disturbing proliferation of floral wallpaper and velour furnishings as part of their regular feature "That's Rather Hideous" (their excellent Flickr stream with photos by their readers provided background imagery the rest of the evening).