Maps often reveal as much about the beliefs and culture of the mapmaker as they do about the locations they depict. Taking this in stride, the collective Mapping Feminist Los Angeles has begun to put together the Angelena Atlas in order to “to share intersectional feminist resources, services, and events for womxn in Los Angeles County.” The organization, which is based out of the Women’s Center for Creative Work, comprises three core members—Leana Scott, Yasmine Batniji, and Brittany Arceneaux—who bring together skills in everything from urban planning and tech development to community organizing and digital art. Mapping Feminist Los Angeles member Leana Scott points out that “cities often have networks of resources...but bringing those to light is quite difficult. And information remains underground or piecemeal and disjointed.” Brittany Arceneaux goes on to say that far too often access to this information is “very much based upon your existing social networks,” which further limits knowledge of these resources to those already in the know. The Angelena Atlas confronts this problem head-on by collecting, collating, and annotating a wide range of resources from reproductive health centers to performance spaces while attempting to promote itself outside of just the networks its members already exist in. The goal is to make a map as widely accessible as possible, certainly no small feat. The Angelena Atlas will feature resources across the entirety of Los Angeles County, so people can find organizations that serve them, collectives to participate in, or spaces to share their work no matter their locale. It will also, as its explicitly intersectional mission suggests, be centered around resources that are, among many other things, anti-racist, anti-ableist, pro-immigrant, and LGBTQ friendly. Additionally, the various points on the Angelena Atlas will be annotated to help people understand the purpose, audience, and accessibility of the various spaces While the collective has presented zines and other preliminary materials at zine and artbook fairs and other events (they have an upcoming fundraiser and awareness-building brunch that will also bring together some organizations on the map), the final form of the Angelena Atlas is still under construction. Part of what they’ll be focusing on is what Batniji calls a “creative representation of data” that will help people highlight “the impact that the resources have on them.” In this way, the Angelena Atlas will be a participatory project, radically horizontal and ever evolving. They also are looking into open source solutions for the online map so that they, and the public, retain ownership of their information. In addition, they plan on making a print version to make sure they truly can create a resource for as many people as possible. Arceneaux says that this approach to mapmaking “goes back to the core values of the project by making sure that everything we're doing and every design decision that we make is really tied back to intersectionality and making sure that these places are friendly and accessible to people of all abilities and experiences.” Arceneaux goes on to point out that many people, especially in the current political environment, are interested in joining conversations and finding community, but may not even realize that there might be “an organization in [their] own backyard.” As Scott puts it, the Angelena Atlas not only has the direct effect of providing useful information but also “fosters a new spatial awareness through data.” It’s all about “recontextualizing Los Angeles.” Arceneaux’s hope is that “by highlighting and visualizing the activity that is happening in our city people will start to look at their communities a little differently.” Thinking about feminist mapping and radical mapping inevitably begs the question of what an intersectional feminist city would look like. However, Batniji says the group is “not interested in creating utopias because that's where things get really sticky.” In the public sphere “there's always going to be contention, there's always going to be issues. A feminist city would be a place for having these conversations. A feminist city would be just a place for possibility to happen.” It would be, as Arceneaux puts it, “a place where everyone feels empowered.”
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Barbara Bestor, a SCI-Arc graduate and founder of Bestor Architecture, has spent decades immersed in Los Angeles' design culture—and it shows. Her firm's work, which ranges from installations (Bestor co-curated Deborah Sussman Loves LA! at Woodbury University's WUHO Gallery) to corporate headquarters, retail and restaurants, and historic adaptations, celebrates the city's bold character while bridging the oft-overlooked gap between the bungalow vernacular and Hollywood huge. Bestor will speak to her experience as an urban mediator—between interior and exterior, low- and high-design, small and large—at next month's Facades+ LA conference. Bestor Architecture has wrestled with the question of scale on an operational level, too, as it recently began to tackle bigger commissions. One of the challenges that comes with growth is establishing a brand identity, explained Bestor, acknowledging the status of "architecture as a consumer project." "It's different from trying to be the slickest, most global" firm. Rather, Bestor Architecture's strengths lie in its characteristic approaches to design problems. One common technique—based on the firms origins "doing high design on a shoestring," said Bestor—is to "create atmospheric environments using two-dimensional themes," including graphics and materials, rather than focusing solely on formal expression. When it comes to development work, meanwhile, "there it's more form," she said. "We're trying to create new forms that aren't necessarily the developer's envelope, without screwing up their lines. The stuff we've done, the developer has to take a little leap of faith—but we wind up with much higher returns." Take, for example, the firm's 2015 Blackbirds, a group of 18 homes in the Echo Park neighborhood. The project answers the call for dense, high-quality housing that retains a connection to nature. Inspired by the disposition of early-20th-century Craftsman cabins, the community collects groups of houses into larger volumes, avoiding the repetitive strain associated with so many suburban tracts. Wrapped in sleek paneled exteriors that nod to board and batten construction, the homes retain a sense of Los Angeles' historic residential fabric without losing sight of contemporary spatial and environmental needs. Hear more from Bestor and meet other movers and shakers in the facades world, including Emilie Hagan, associate director at Atelier Ten, and Woodbury University associate professor and dean Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter, at January's Facades+ LA conference. Learn more and register for symposium and workshop events today at the conference website.