The architecture school at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco was only founded in 1986 and did not have its own campus until 1997. But the school—housed in a light filled old bus shed in the city's Potrero Hill Design District—is quickly carving out a unique role for itself as a center of architectural creativity and pedagogy. The College, with its dynamic president and acting director of architecture David Gissen, seems to be trying to work forward from its Arts and Crafts traditions (the CCA itself was founded in 1907 in Oakland) but link up with the vibrant and young tech industries and attitude that proliferate in this south of Market area. A sign of this new spirit is a small but fascinating exhibit, An Olfactory Archive: 1738-1969, curated by Gissen and new faculty member Irene Cheng and designed by Brian Price and Matt Hutchinson. The exhibit, Cheng claims, is "an in-depth, sensory exploration of one mode of experimental history: olfactory reconstruction." It features the work of several architects, designers and "perfumers" who focus on reconstructing historical scents. It includes Jorge Otero-Pailos, who reconstructs in the show of the odors of the Glass House, and Aaron Betsky and Herzog and DeMeuron's fragrance, "Rotterdam-Olfactory Object from 2004." The impetus for the show is the work done by Alain Corbin and Dell Upton, who both have highlighted the importance of odor as a historical force, from early nineteenth-century fears of miasmatic contagion to more recent concerns about air quality and pollution. In addition to the exhibit CCA will host Test Sites: Experiments in the History of Space, a symposium devoted to exploring other alternative historical practices such as reconstructions, counterfactual histories, new media, critical conservation, and even destruction. It will feature Lucia Allais, Keller Easterling, Amy Balkin, Amy Balkin, Nicholas de Monchaux, Jorge Otero-Pailos, and Mark Wasiuta. The symposium will take place CCA's Timken Auditoirium on Saturday, October 12 from 10am to 5pm. The exhibit runs through October 13.
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We at Eavesdrop don’t like to toot our own horn, but sometimes we can’t help ourselves. So we have to point out the scene for the late July opening of Never Built Los Angeles, co-curated by our very own Sam Lubell. The event looked more like a Hollywood club opening than an exhibition opening, with a line that snaked around the corner and angry would-be partygoers trying to convince the bouncer (a.k.a. the fire marshal) to let them in. We especially love the description by AN contributor Guy Horton, here writing for KCRW’s blog: “The line of black clothing wrapped around the corner and kept going, reaching all the way down to a stretch of houses where local residents nervously peeked out to see what was going on. Cars were pulling all sorts of questionable maneuvers on Wilshire and adjacent streets as distracted, anxious architects hustled for parking. People were walking in from blocks away as if drawn from some invisible force. At any moment I was expecting police helicopters to appear overhead. That would have made my night complete.”
Peter Zumthor’s design for a new central building at LACMA has some experts concerned with its environmental effects. Critics including John Harris, chief curator of the National History Museum’s Page Museum, worry that the project could disrupt the La Brea tar pits, the same ecological features that inspired the building’s blob-like shape. At a meeting last month the county Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 to request a presentation from the Page Museum fleshing out the curator’s concerns. That presentation has not yet been scheduled, according to the Page Museum’s press office. If Harris’s hunch proves correct, the LACMA redesign would join a long list of local architectural-environmental disasters, stretching back decades, to the earliest days of European settlement. For instance, Los Angeles Aqueduct had drained Owens Lake by 1924, and in 1941 began diverting water from Mono Lake. Only last month did the city of Los Angeles and other parties including conservationists reached a tentative settlement that would repair some of the damage done to Mono Lake. So without further ado, below is our list of some of the most significant environmental catastrophes (and near-catastrophes) in LA history. We hope LACMA's issues will be addressed, and that it won't be added to this list: Beginning in the early twentieth century, Los Angeles’s 14,000 acres of wetlands were filled in to make way for tony residential developments like Marina del Rey, dedicated in 1965. An earlier suburban enclave, Surfridge (part of Playa del Rey, developed in 1921 by Dickinson & Gillespie Co.), wiped out 300 acres of sand dunes that were home to the El Segundo Blue Butterfly, an endangered species. When LAX was built in the early 1960s, the airport took over Surfridge and razed the homes there—but not to restore the dunes. Instead, airport authorities bought the neighborhood to appease residents complaining of noise pollution and fenced it off without touching the dunes. Restoration would take another three decades to initiate and is ongoing today. On March 24, 1985, a methane gas leak caused a massive explosion in a Ross Dress-For-Less Department store in the Wilshire-Fairfax District of Los Angeles. Though the cause of the explosion remains the subject of debate, two Stanford professors argued in a 1992 paper that it was a product of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique that is once again being debated in the city. In any case, the disaster prompted Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-CA) ban on tunneling under Wilshire Boulevard, which in turn rerouted the subway’s Red Line. In recent years, Playa Vista, a giant development located just south of Marina del Rey, has been the site of a high-profile contest between architecture and ecology. The original plan for Playa Vista, initiated by Howard Hughes’ heirs after his death, would have destroyed 94 percent of the Ballona wetlands’ remaining acreage. After the plan was approved, the Friends of Ballona Wetlands filed a lawsuit. Following a period of inaction, the development was sold to Maguire Thomas Partners in 1990. The new developers agreed to rededicate a portion of the land to conservation and pay millions for restoration. Rounding out the list is the infamous Belmont Learning Center, now known as the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center. The high school, the nation’s most expensive at over $400 million, was built on top of the Los Angeles City Oil Field. Concerns over methane gas below the site resulted in an almost 20-year delay in the building process. The revision of state and local policy regarding school construction, and the installation of a $17 million gas-mitigation system, allowed construction to go forward, with a completely new architectural plan. Operating the system costs the school, which finally opened in 2008, between $250,000 and $500,000 annually.
Anaheim's Crystal Cathedral, designed by Philip Johnson in 1980, and containing more than 10,000 panes of mirrored glass, is one of Orange County's rare architectural treasures. Today the Roman Catholic Diocese, which purchased the church last year, announced that Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale will be leading its $29 million renovation. The exterior of the building will be essentially unchanged outside of cleaning and replacing damaged glass, but the interior will be heavily remodeled to upgrade access, sight lines, finishes, and environmental comfort. The renovation will also add significant new elements to adapt to the church's new Catholic focus (it had once been an evangelical church), including a new altar, a baptismal font, and new cathedral doors. "It's an open palette inside," said Diocese spokesperson Ryan Lilyengren, who likened the iconic exterior to a shell. The 34-acre campus, which includes seven buildings (including structures by Richard Meier and Richard Neutra), will also be master planned to support a larger array of events and, as Rios Clementi Hale principal Mark Rios put it, "unite the campus and make a place that welcomes the community." Twenty four teams applied for the renovation, a list that was pared down to four before this final decision. One of the nation's first "megachurches," the 2,750-seat church will host masses every day, according to Lilyengren. The church will close to the public at the end of October (services will be held in the interim in Neutra's adjacent arboretum), and renovation should be complete by 2015 or 2016.
LAX finally opened its shiny new Tom Bradley terminal, designed by Fentress Architects, to quite a hullabaloo in July. The throngs who showed up for “Appreciation Days” got to enjoy shopping, music, and even free LAX keychains and knickknacks. But one of the most prominent elements was missing: the public art. Major pieces by Ball-Nogues, Pae White, and Mark Bradford were all delayed for what one participant called “a lack of sophistication on LAX’s part” in shepherding such work through. In other words, the officials didn’t get how to pull this kind of thing off. Well never fear, despite the bumps, contract disputes, and many miscues, the installations will begin opening in late September and continue through the end of the year. Better late than never.
In recent years several proposals have been floated for freeway cap parks in Los Angeles with barely any traction. Until now. On Friday LA City Council voted to have various city departments (including planning and engineering) partner with nonprofit Friends of Park 101 to raise funds for a park that would bridge the 101 Freeway, connecting Downtown's Civic Center with Olvera Street and Union Station. Possible grants could come from local, state, and federal sources. It's still a long way from happening, but this is a big deal. Friends of the Hollywood Central Park have created a function on their web site where users can design their own cap park, but if Park 101 gets some of these funds we could be building a park downtown for real.
Last week Los Angeles councilman, Jose Huizar, announced the formation of a 21-member task force to help re-imagine Pershing Square, the beleaguered central park in the middle of downtown. The group includes local residents, design and architecture experts, business people, and government officials. Huizar said he hoped they could bring "a wide-range of ideas and perspectives to the discussion." They'll also have to develop an agenda and a timeline, and figure out how to fund the project. One possible funding source could be seed money from downtown developments' community benefits funds, according to Huizar's planning director, Tanner Blackman. To help get the discussion going (and shed light on the square's possibilities) Gensler shared its ideas for the square, developed over the last year has as part of its year-long company-wide "Town Square" research and design project. The ambitious goal: to "reconsider the role of public open space in cities." Their studies weighed a dizzying amount of data informing a possible redesign. Who knew there could be so many uses and designs for a park? And who knew that the current iteration could be so out of sync with what's around it. (Well actually, we did know that...) "It's a starting point," said Gensler principal Li Wen. "We'd love to test this model with the park's stakeholders," added associate Brian Glodney. That could be a while off, and there's no telling who will be selected to lead the eventual redesign. But regardless of what direction the square takes one thing is for sure: Gensler has a head start on the competition.
Finally. Los Angeles' City Council on Wednesday passed a new mural ordinance, legalizing murals on private buildings after a decade of banning them. Of course would-be public artists still have to go through an extensive permitting process, and pay a$60 fee, but if they're persistent they can finally go crazy. That is, as long as their murals don't contain commercial messages. "It’s a big victory and we’re thrilled," said Isabel Rojas-Williams, executive director of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles. The group has been protecting the city's murals and muralists since 1987. "Despite the recent restrictions, the city has remained one of the country's mural capitals." Don't believe us? Behold a selection below of our favorite (finally-sanctioned) murals from around the City of Angels, courtesy of the Mural Conservancy. They range from political to historical to street art / graffiti, to, well...the undefinable.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles County's Board of Supervisors voted to approve Disney's huge new TV and film production facility on the Golden Oak Ranch near Santa Clarita. The project is being master planned by LA-based firm, Johnson Fain, and the 58-acre "Studios at the Ranch" will include more than 500,000 square feet of studios, sound stages, offices, writers and producers "bungalows" and other developments. According to site plans submitted to the county the project's sound stages will be located on its southern side, with offices to the north. It will be completed in seven phases. According to the LA Times, the area, nicknamed "Hollywood North" and "Hollywood's Backlot," is becoming increasingly popular for filming because of its low costs and open, diverse spaces. More than half a dozen local ranches now serve as popular filming locations. More pictures and documents for the newest kid on the block below.
Thanks to the efforts of the Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee, ten homes from Southern California's Case Study House program have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Launched by Arts + Architecture magazine in 1945, the Case Study program emphasized experiment and affordability, and produced some of the most famous houses in U.S. history, including the Eames House (Case Study #8), and Pierre Koenig's Stahl House (Case Study #22). Overall, 35 plans were published, and 25 homes were built. The National Parks Service listed the ten residences on the National Register in late July. (One more home was deemed eligible but its owners objected.) While not completely safe, all will be granted preservation protections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). While the Eames House had already been listed, those added to the list include Case Study #1, 9, 10, 16, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23A, 23C, and 28. The move is especially important because several Case Study homes have been demolished, and others have been altered beyond recognition. “With so few Case Study Houses in existence, and a few owners who do not appreciate the homes’ cultural and architectural significance, we need to stay vigilant,” said Regina O’Brien, chair of the LA Conservancy's Modern Committee, in a statement.
Culver City firm wHY Architecture has been selected to design a new art museum in Los Angeles for Maurice and Paul Marciano, the founders of clothing empire Guess? Inc. The museum will be located inside a marble-clad, four story Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire Boulevard near Lucerne Boulevard. When retrofitted in 2015, the austere building, originally designed by legendary artist Millard Sheets, will contain 90,000 square feet of exhibition space, showing off the Marciano's impressive collection, which will be open for "periodic exhibitions for the public." wHY has also designed L&M Arts and Perry Rubenstein Gallery in LA, an expansion of the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, and the Tyler Museum of Art in Texas. They're also working on a Studio Art Hall at Pomona College outside of LA.
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Concreteworks fabricates a Hauer-inspired concrete screen for a residential West Coast architect.Oakland, California–based design and fabrication studio Concreteworks has crafted custom concrete products—bath fixtures, commercial and residential surfacing, outdoor furniture—for more than 20 years. In the last three years, the company has branched out into “lab projects,” in which the 30-member workshop models and mills concrete into three-dimensional architectural features. It does so without the aid of specifications from the designer. “We solve the design issue and the technical requirements,” creative director Mark Rogero told AN. Interior architect Michelle Wempe of Zumaooh discovered Concreteworks’ advanced capabilities in the company’s showroom and was impressed enough to incorporate the work in a residential project she was working on in Sonoma. Though her original design did not include it, Wempe asked Rogero to develop a custom patterned architectural screen at the terminus of a hallway between a living area and private quarters. “We got a lot of inspiration from Erwin Hauer’s work, and the client contributed some images of a 2D cross that is a symbol of peace in some parts of the world,” Rogero said. Working in Rhino with a Maya plugin, the Concreteworks design team began building a digital model from the client’s 2D image, extrapolating it to resemble the work of Hauer. The 3D form emerged as two identical crosses woven together at a 90-degree-angle, alternating between horizontal and vertical orientations. Digital modeling further revealed that the team’s initial sizing of the components was far too large. Originally 12 inches in length, the cross components were reduced to 9 inches in order to fit within the install location. Concreteworks 3D-printed two of the crosses and used these to make two rubber silicon molds. For the next 28 days, the fabrication team used fiber reinforced, ultra-high performance concrete to cast four crosses per day until all 112 components had been formed. The most advanced concrete mix available was used in order to accurately render the delicate details and gentle curves of the mold. The fabricators cast a hole in the center of each piece and threaded them, like beads, on a tensioned steel rod so the final assembly resembles a spine. “It was for a residence so we don’t anticipate a lot of wear, but it does have some flexibility,” Rogero said. The crosses were stacked vertically from bottom to top, and secured to the base with epoxy. A concealed turnbuckle at the top applies tension to each rod. Though Concreteworks’s lab practice is in its nascency, it has yielded great success for the design studio and its clients. “Normally people come to us for custom products that we already know how to make,” Rogero said. “But now we’re offering a service that can accomplish goals for the design community when they don’t know how to do it themselves.”