“Dingbat” is a word with many meanings. It’s a synonym for nitwit. In typography, it’s a symbol used in place of a letter. And in Los Angeles, it’s a particular type of multi-family housing, dominant in the 1950s and 1960s and alternately maligned and embraced over the decades. Dingbat 2.0, an upcoming publication from the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design (LA Forum), explores the history and future of dingbat apartments. The subject of a current Kickstarter campaign, Dingbat 2.0 brings together essays on the origins of the Los Angeles dingbat with highlights from the LA Forum’s 2010 Dingbat 2.0 competition, in which participants were asked to reconfigure the dingbat for today’s urban reality. The dingbat is a “really interesting architectural type that can be looked at in a lot of different ways,” said Thurman Grant, co-editor with Joshua G. Stein of Dingbat 2.0. A subset of what John Chase and John Beach called “the stucco box,” the dingbat is unornamented except on its street-facing facade, where applied texture, rear-lit sconces, and pressed-wood script bearing the building’s (often fanciful) name differentiate one structure from the next. In obeisance to postwar cultural norms, dingbat developers built a separate entrance for each apartment, and made room for the automobile in a ground-floor carport. “In one way [the dingbat is] kind of sticky, in that you can apply a lot of things to it,” Grant said. “But it’s also kind of slippery, because you have these apartment buildings that are very clearly dingbats, and others that could be dingbats.” Part of the Dingbat 2.0 project is to better define the dingbat apartment typology. But the dingbat is more than just a historic artifact: it’s also a contemporary problem. The dingbat began as a waystation for upwardly-mobile immigrants from the Midwest. Today’s urban nomads have a different set of needs, which aren’t necessarily addressed by the car-centric stucco box. “That’s what the LA Forum initially identified [in the Dingbat 2.0 competition],” Stein said. “Something’s changed...We want to figure out what would better serve those kinds of populations.” The 2010 competition began a conversation that continues in the Dingbat 2.0 publication, many of whose contributors served on the competition jury. Whether the topic is the dingbat’s historical backstory, the appropriation of the dingbat aesthetic by 1970s avant-garde artists, or a speculative reimagining of small-lot development, Stein sees Dingbat 2.0 as a vehicle to better understanding the Los Angeles of today. “The book becomes a handbook to describe the life of the common Angeleno,” he said. Dingbat 2.0 includes essays by Barbara Bestor, Aaron Betsky, James Black, Dana Cuff, John Kaliski, John Southern, Steven Treffers, and Wim de Wit, plus a photo essay by Judy Fiskin. Click here to contribute to the Dingbat 2.0 Kickstarter campaign.
Posts tagged with "LA Forum for Architecture and Urban Design":
Michael Maltzan is the guest of honor at ForumFest 2013, the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Design's annual fundraising party. The event will take place this Saturday, November 9, from 6 to 10 pm at the Maltzan-designed Inner-City Arts in Downtown Los Angeles. Maltzan studied architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design and Harvard University's Graduate School of Design before working in the offices of Machado Silvetti and Frank Gehry. In 1995 he founded Michael Maltzan Architecture (MMA). MMA's work in LA includes Regen Projects, the Billy Wilder Theater and Cafe at the UCLA Hammer Museum, the Biscuit Company Lofts, Inner City Arts, and several noted projects for Skid Row Housing Trust, including the Rainbow Apartments, the New Carver Apartments, and the upcoming Star Apartments. Saturday's festivities will include installations by participants in the Forum's 2013 Out There Doing It Series, plus music by KCRW DJ Dan Wilcox and a silent auction. For sale at the auction are drawings by Maltzan and other local architects, including Greg Lynn, Tom Wiscombe, Scott Johnson, Doris Sung, Larry Scarpa, Michael Lehrer, Barbara Bestor, and Tim Durfee. Two photographic prints of MMA-designed buildings, by photographer Iwan Baan, will also be featured. For more information or to order tickets, visit the LA Forum website.
The LA Forum for Architecture and Urban Design just announced the winners of its Dingbat 2.0 competition, developing new designs to replace one of the most prevalent types of post-war LA apartment blocks. An exhibition of the winners went on display last Thursday, and will run through July 24 at LA Forum Events @ Woodbury Hollywood, 6518 Hollywood Boulevard. The winning professional scheme was "Microparcelization," by the team of Carmen C. Cham, James Black, and Tyler Gross. The scheme replaces multi-family Dingbats with a new neighborhood made up of diverse, very small single family lots. The winning student team, from the Universidad Nacional del litoral in Argentina, transformed service streets into green spaces and deconstructed Dingbat boxes into diverse and original array of compositions. Incidentally, the third student prize went to Columbia University's Ryan Lovett. We couldn't help but notice that his entry, Substantiating Surface, looked exactly like his entry for the AN/SCI-ARC New Infrastructure competition last year (see bottom two pix after the jump). Hmm.. The idea—self sustaining communities within a tight urban grid—is strikingly similar as well. That's not good..