Posts tagged with "Los Angeles":

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The many lives of Detroit’s Berlin Wall

In 1941, the city of Detroit finished construction on a six-foot-tall, half-mile-long wall near 8 Mile Road that would keep an African American neighborhood physically segregated from an adjacent white neighborhood to “preserve property values.” This was redlining in concrete form. Almost 80 years later, “Detroit’s Berlin Wall” still stands, but when the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles asked SHAN Wallace to photograph the area for its exhibition W|ALLS: DEFEND, DIVIDE, AND THE DIVINEˆ, she discovered that the structure had taken on unexpected meanings in the interim. For elderly residents in their 90s, the wall remained an ugly embodiment of the housing loan practices of the 20th century. For those in their 50s, the wall represented a demarcation between “the cool black kids” who lived on one side and the “not so cool black kids” who dwelled on the other. “The wall was like a right of passage,” Wallace explained, relating what residents had told her about their experiences. “If you could walk the wall, you were cool, you could go meet your friend on the other side.” For children growing up in the neighborhood today, the wall has become a place to meet, a pragmatic landmark best known for its murals and proximity to a grassy park. “It was interesting to see how these different manifestations and interactions with the wall happened based on generations,” said Wallace. The Annenberg exhibition, which runs through December 2019, explores the history and varied meanings of walls throughout the world, including Hadrian’s Wall, The Great Wall of China, and the current best-known incarnation of intolerance, the U.S./Mexico border wall. Yet Wallace’s accompanying video and still photographs of the Detroit Wall, and those who live with it, are perhaps one of the most affecting surprises within the show. On an intimate level, her work demonstrates that barriers, no matter how indomitable they seem, can never contain the scope of human imagination.
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Soft Schindler at L.A.'s MAK Center seeks the ephemeral in the obdurate

“One of my dreams,” Pauline Schindler wrote to her mother in 1916, “is to have, someday, a little joy of a bungalow, on the edge of the woods and mountains near a crowded city, which shall be open just as some people’s hearts are open, to friends of all classes and types.” Six years after this letter was written, Pauline and husband Rudolph Schindler designed and built a place to live on the edge of the woods and mountains in the center of Los Angeles, but the hard-edged, modernist building that became the Schindler House has little of the features that come to mind when one envisions “a little joy of a bungalow.” That is, at least, the impression one gets when walking through the hollowed building several decades later, following its acquisition and renovation by the Friends of the Schindler House (FOSH) in 1980, with the intention of repurposing it as an event and exhibition space. The year used as a point of reference for the renovation was 1922, predating the bohemian life that once took place within that made the house a home.
Many of the items on display in Soft Schindler, an exhibition currently running in the space and throughout the grounds, capture much of the essence erased by renovation by treating ephemerality itself as a medium. Curated by local design critic Mimi Zeiger, Soft Schindler exhibits the work of artists and architects as they creatively interpret the “century of fluid, alternating domesticities” since the Schindler House was first built, while also redefining modernism as softer than they had originally been described. The most thought-provoking pieces in the exhibition, however, are both time-based or site-specific. One installation which brilliantly embodies these two qualities is The Garden of Earthly Delights, a series of curtains by Colombian architecture firm AGENdA Agencia de Arquitectura that nearly fill the entirety of Rudolph Schindler’s original studio while establishing soft volumes of their own. The curtains are dyed using coffee and tobacco—two consumables which were once the “silent witnesses to discussions, encounters, and disagreements” within the home, and the piece's layout takes the gridlines of the home’s floor plan and renders them translucent and permeable. Visitors are invited to walk through the spaces created within The Garden of Earthly Delights to recall the “social dynamics of the Schindler’s table” during its early years. New York-based firm Leong Leong initiated a four-month “culinary experiment” with their outdoor installation Fermentation 01. Three marble-block vessels designed by the firm were placed in the Chace Patio, each one filled with a unique recipe by local fermentation experts Jessica Wang and Ai Fujimoto. The vessels will ferment the recipes, using the home and the Southern California climate as a sort of outdoor kitchen, and become the centerpiece of a tasting event near the end of the exhibition’s run. Like The Garden of Earthly Delights, Fermentation 01 reestablishes the home as a place of evanescent pleasures. Though not as site-specific to the Schindler House as others in the exhibition, Jorge Otero-Pailos’s Répétiteur 3 and Répétiteur 4 is a remarkably inventive take on the prompt outlined by Zeiger. The artist peeled the “dust and other residue” left on the walls of choreographer Merce Cunningham’s rehearsal studio in New York and placed them in two lightboxes occupying either side of Pauline Schindler’s original studio. The result is an uncanny reflection of the endless hours of practice that took place in Cunningham’s studio through a method unachievable with archival photography and correspondence. Had the Schindler House not been so thoroughly renovated, it would have been a real treat if Otero-Pailos presented its own decades of residue in the same format. Soft Schindler reminds its viewers to not only think of the Schindler House as “a little joy of a bungalow,” as it truly was once, but also to seek out the diaphanous between the hard lines of modernity as we know it. The show will be on display through February 16, 2020.
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Stock-a-studio fashions a modular gym for Materials & Applications

Over the last century, the fitness club building typology has evolved from the introverted warehouse to an exhibitionist storefront, encouraging passersby to imagine themselves carrying out the newly-aestheticized forms of exercise on display. When invited to create an installation within a storefront gallery in the shadow of L.A.’s Dodger Stadium on Sunset Boulevard, one of three spaces in the city owned by Materials & Applications, the Michigan-based stock-a-studio developed a flashy gym that takes the concept of showing off one’s performance to a new level. The installation, evocatively titled [ a kit of these some parts ] x budget gym ], is a dense accumulation of shims, foam padding, tape, sandbags, vacuum-formed panels, pulleys, and ratchet straps framed by a neon green structural steel system. What at first seems sculptural is made apparently interactive, first by witnessing a few brave visitors curious enough to push and pull its loose elements, then by a sign near the door stating “the gym is available for public use by appointment.” Between now and January of next year, “the project will serve as a meeting point for exercise-based activities, such as weight-lifting, trainer-led workouts and as a hydration station and meet up point for hiking and biking groups,” according to stock-a-studio. While its assembly may recall the convoluted, “efficient” office gym in Woody Allen’s film Bananas (1971), the installation is far less prescriptive, inviting its users to appropriate its network of platforms and counterweights as they see fit. The installation is equally a study of finance, adaptation, and “the excessive production of sheer stuff.” Funded by the Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant, the materials for the project were either off-the-shelf or transported to the site by exploiting ambiguities in air travel regulations to come under budget, while demonstrating how an architectural project can be created ”out of loopholes in consumer cycles.” Additionally, the majority of the materials were not altered in the making of the installation, allowing them to be reconfigurable both on-site and at different locations while reducing waste in the long run. After the installation closes in January of next year, its elements will, in fact, be available for event-rental in Los Angeles and Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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Gensler's Michael Volk and Olivier Sommerhalder discuss Facades+ LA and the trends reshaping their city

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From November 14 to 15, Facades+ LA will bring regional, national, and international leaders of the AEC industry to Southern California for the fifth year in a row. Hosted by The Architect's Newspaper and co-chaired by Gensler's local office, the conference is split between a full-day symposium and a second day of hands-on workshops. Conference keynotes include MVRDV principal Fokke Moerel and Rojkind Arquitectos principal Michel Rojkind. Other participants at the conference symposium and workshops will include Access Industries, Belzberg Architects, Christopher Hawthorne, CO Architects, FreelandBuck, Front, Gensler, Griffin Enright Architects, Grupo Anima Mexico, HGA, John Fidler Preservation Technologies, Morphosis, Neme Design Studio USA, Omgivning, PATTERNS, RDH, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, Walter P Moore, Trammell Crow, Sasaki, Shubin Donaldson Architects, Spectra Company, Studio NYL, WJE, and Zahner. In this interview with The Architect's Newspaper, Gensler principals and conference co-chairs Michael Volk and Olivier Sommerhalder discussed their firm's recent work and the architectural trends reshaping Los Angeles. AN: Gensler is the largest architectural and design practice in the world. How does this breadth of scale impact design at the regional level? Michael Volk & Olivier Sommerhalder: As an integral part of our firm’s philosophy, our 50 global offices practice as though we are one firm, and we have set up our infrastructure to fluidly support this behavior. We bring our global knowledge and a very deep bench to bear on every endeavor, from large scale international work to regional and local projects. Our dimension is such that it allows us to have in-house expertise in many relevant disciplines, including facade experts, and we bring this capability to the table wherever needed, at any time, making us nimble and innovative designers who add value to our client’s projects. What exciting projects is the Los Angeles office up to, and are you demonstrating any concepts tested at your research institute? In our Los Angeles office, as in all our offices, we are extending our thinking on building design to the scale of shaping the future of cities. At the forefront of this is a design that addresses energy, climate, and housing concerns. Like many things in design, we are finding, however, that low tech and simple solutions are most impactful and meaningful in addressing these issues. Projects such as our office building C3 in Culver City and upcoming projects now on the table for mixed-use and residential high rises downtown and in the Hollywood area are returning to simple passive solar and ventilation techniques, as well as significant integration of public and private green space, to reconsider the “First Principles” of their typologies. Living with nature and consuming less energy and water, while at the same time being in closer proximity to intellectual, economic and recreational capital, are among the positive aspects of urban life research shows to be most valuable and sustaining. Los Angeles is in a certain sense maturing as a city. What do you perceive to be the most interesting trends within the region today? Los Angeles is indeed maturing, and at the same time it’s dimension and urban condition make it an ideal city to be a testing ground for new urban innovations. Housing, density, and mobility are the leading topics, alongside climate change and energy considerations. These topics are often seen hand in hand leading to development in the city. For example, with the expansion of Metro-rail corridors, mixed-use and higher density projects are naturally emerging, bringing with them an integrated, urban lifestyle of live/work/play within a short radius that is somewhat new to Southern California. As another example, long-standing neighborhoods now connected by mixed-use corridors and transportation, are evolving into multi-faceted hubs, rather than the single-use bedroom communities they traditionally have been. This has had the consequence of shrinking the typical radius of commuting and the positive synergistic effect of an organic mix of programs supporting a vibrant daily life, increasing economic and cultural offerings within a denser fabric. Another surprising observation that may seem counter-intuitive considering Southern California’s envied climate: Over the past few years Los Angeles’ built environment seems to have rediscovered the connection to the outdoors. The mainstream has adopted outdoor patios for restaurants, the workplace has begun an extension of the workspace to the outdoors, and new apartment buildings and condominiums have generous balconies and roof terraces. This once-forgotten, but obvious, benefit is having a big impact on the design of buildings, envelopes, and landscapes. Which materials do you believe are changing facade practices in terms of design and performance? The most exciting material, surprisingly, is landscape. Projects like Second Home in Hollywood by Selgascano, and our projects for One Westside, Epic in Hollywood and several mixed-use and residential high-rises we are currently working on in the city are (re) introducing landscape as a major building and space-defining element. The notion of biophilia as a driving conceptual element has emerged internationally in the last years in places like Europe, South East Asia and significantly in Singapore. Now, in Los Angeles, we are beginning to see this design thinking taking place. Landscape as a design element is now becoming foreground - as it can and should in our climate, not just background as it often has been. More conventionally, timber and wood are also emerging on the horizon, not only as a primary structure but also as an envelope. Our project for the Headquarters of the company Alexandria in Pasadena includes a unitized curtainwall made of white oak with a second skin of wooden sunscreens. Further information regarding Facades+ Los Angeles can be found here.
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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan Revival-style Ennis House finally finds a buyer

The Ennis House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan Revival masterpiece tucked into the hills of Los Feliz, has traded hands more than one can count. After being placed on the market for $23 million last June, the home has once again found an owner in an unnamed buyer for $18 million. Though it went for roughly 22 percent below the initial asking price, the sale reflects a number of records beat: it is both the most expensive property to be sold in the neighborhood and the priciest Wright-designed home in history by more than $11 million (the second most expensive being the Storer House, which sold for $6.8 million in the Hollywood Hills). The 6,200-square-foot home sold for such a high price thanks in part to the completion of a $17 million renovation over six years, initiated by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy following the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and severe water damage that incurred in 2005, which required the replacement and repair of nearly 3,000 of the home's 27,000 concrete blocks as well as the creation of a new structural frame. The home’s role in over 80 movies and television shows including Mulholland Drive, The Rocketeer, Rush Hour, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Beverly Hills Cop II, and, of course, Blade Runner, likely contributed to its inflated price tag as well. It is unclear whether the buyer will open the house to the public for tours, as it has been in the past, or if it will function as the buyer’s private residence. The home, after all, does contain a wealth of features fit for a millionaire, including a motor court, a screening room with a wet bar, a koi pond, and sweeping views of Los Angeles accessible via a number of balconies and platforms.
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Old Hollywood Mansion transformed into bridge housing emergency shelter

Less than five weeks after the completion of the Gardner Street Women’s Bridge Housing Center, a mid-century library converted into a 30-bed emergency homeless shelter, it was announced that another in the bridge housing program is now open for business. A palatial, century-old mansion on a busy stretch of Hollywood Boulevard has been subdivided into a 42-bed facility designed to serve up to 40 families. The building, known as the Wallis House, is adorned with Corinthian columns set against a series of light pink facades. Formerly a single-family home, it's now being managed by Aviva Family and Children’s Services, a nonprofit group that has provided services and housing for Hollywood’s homeless community for over 100 years. Aviva’s primary goal is to serve 18- to 24-year-old women who have nearly fallen into homelessness or are in the process of transitioning out of homelessness with the aid of related public services. Los Angeles City Councilmember Davis Ryu expressed that “young single mothers face high barriers to making ends meet and are at a far greater risk of harm when living on the street." He said they need housing and services to meet their specific needs. Work on the renovation began on February 28 with the aid of a $2.3 million from the city’s Homeless Emergency Assistance Program (HEAP). A Bridge Home, the nonprofit behind Wallis House and other bridge housing developments throughout Los Angeles County, has placed several bridge housing centers in Hollywood since the area is home to the greatest number of homeless residents aged 18-24 in the country.
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Rios Clementi Hale utilizes rolled steel and industrial detailing to activate historic ROW facades

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Bringing new life to the historic Los Angeles Terminal Market, Rios Clementi Hale (RCH) designed ROW DTLA to reinterpret the industrial nature of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s major produce hub. Reimagining the site where goods were once unloaded from railroad cars and delivered across Southern California, the team designed new storefront systems for ROW that embraced the site’s historic character through industrial materials and raw utilitarian details.

  • Facade Manufacturer StileLine U.S. Aluminum Corp. Sign Excellence CA Signs Signmakers Christopher Simmons Flux Vitro
  • Architect Rios Clementi Hale Studios House & Robertson Architects
  • Facade Installer BreakThru Glass Universal Ironworks Harris Glass Liberty Glass & Metal
  • Location Los Angeles, CA
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • Products StileLine Storefront Flush Front Storefront Vitro Solarban 70

Building upon the existing concrete storefronts throughout ROW’s 30-acre campus, the project transformed the long warehouse-style structures by using steel facade systems and street art. Each building featured different storefront and facade designs. RCH’s approach uses modern storefront systems that would support new pedestrian retail activity, but also feel at home within the historic industrial facades. The team utilized a palette of cut metals and neutral tones alongside artists’ murals, and storefront systems by facade manufacturers StileLine and U.S. Aluminum Corp.

In the Produce Buildings, the team specified aluminum storefronts with a wide-flange header and sill. To create strong indoor-outdoor connections in the office lobbies, the team designed a custom steel angle divided light system that is visually thin to allow visibility through it. For building two, RCH worked with House & Robertson Architects and StileLine to create steel storefronts with custom concrete sills. The approach is echoed in building three, where the custom sills are placed alongside refurbished original steel windows and aluminum storefront windows with a one-inch IGU. This also where Flush Front Storefront was used and Solarban 70 glass, specified for its transparent, color-neutral aesthetic and solar control. RCH creative director Sebastian Salvadó explained the restoration and facade systems used throughout the spaces, saying that, “For the Produce Building’s retail facades, we used crisp aluminum frames combined with steel wide flanges to add a level of detail along the more intimately scaled shopping street. In the industrial warehouse-style buildings, we used a rolled steel frame system. The tough, institutional quality, with its exposed screws and ability to span tall heights, worked well with the massive concrete warehouse buildings and their tall, first floor spaces.” The existing produce market, where L.A.’s bodegas have long sourced their fruits and vegetables, was left largely unchanged. At the southwest corner of the site, a cascading rooftop park was added to a new 10-story, 4,000-space parking garage. The greenery along its walls was designed to be emblematic of the landscape approach, which encourages nature to gradually encroach on the old industrial site. Together, ROW DTLA incorporate 100 years of Los Angeles history into a 21st-century commercial district that links Downtown L.A. to the burgeoning arts district. RCH creative director Sebastian Salvadó will present the ROW DTLA at Facades+ LA on November 14 as part of the "Adaptive Reuse and Context" panel.
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MILLIØNS explores the future of hempcrete in the United States

Last May, Zeina Koreitem and John May of the experimental Los Angeles architectural practice MILLIØNS conducted a weeklong workshop for Space Saloon, a “community in residence” design-build festival in Morongo Valley, California. While the small-scale structure they oversaw in the desert landscape was novel in form, spatial sequencing, and coloration, its most stunning aspect was perhaps the fact that it was primarily built with hempcrete, a material virtually nonexistent in the American construction industry. Currently, both the production and application of concrete is woefully unsustainable. As the world’s most common building material, the production of the ancient compound requires a tenth of the world’s industrial water production and produces 2.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. Once a concrete building is completed, its exterior envelopes absorbs and retains the sun’s heat, contributing to rising temperatures in urban areas (known as the heat island effect). If the biggest global cities, including those in India and China, continue to rely on concrete to meet the demands of their increasing populations, an additional 470 additional gigatons of carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere by 2050, according to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. All of that's before even taking into account the material's deadly human cost of production. First developed in France in the 1980s, hempcrete appears to be a miracle material in contrast to its traditional cousin, beginning with how it's produced. Not only do the hemp fields from which it originates absorb airborne carbon while they grow, but the crops continue to absorb greenhouse gases after they are harvested and transformed into building materials—287 pounds of airborne carbon dioxide are estimated to be captured by one cubic meter (35 cubic feet) of hempcrete, while a half-ton is emitted into the atmosphere by each ton of cement, according to the European Cement Association. Hempcrete is also up to eight times lighter than concrete, meaning it takes significantly less energy to transport, minimizing its carbon footprint even further. When the inner woody core of hemp plants, known as hemp hurds, is mixed with lime or clay as a binding agent, the fibrous consistency of hempcrete has demonstrated better ventilation, fire resistance, and temperature regulation properties than its predecessor. Although the material doesn't offer the same load-bearing capabilities of traditional concrete, developers throughout Europe have made great efforts to test its limits and have so far produced buildings as high as ten stories (which could, of course, be improved with increased research and application). Despite all of the apparent benefits of hempcrete, the North American construction industry is only beginning to take note. Following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp's cultivation under certain conditions, there are only about 50 homes throughout the U.S. built at least partially with hemp, while the practice has become relatively common in Canada and Europe. As marijuana production becomes a more regulated industry, and hopefully the production of hempcrete and other hemp materials could become the building blocks of America’s future as the material becomes less stigmatized.
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One of the last Ricardo Legorreta-designed homes listed for $77.5 million

Joel Silver, the producer behind blockbusters including The Matrix, Lethal Weapon, and Die Hard, has been living large with his family in a 26,000-square-foot-home in Brentwood, a tony neighborhood on the Westside of Los Angeles. As the director is currently seeking a smaller home elsewhere in the L.A. area, he recently listed the home with Judy Feder of Hilton & Hyland and Kurt Rappaport of Westside Estate Agency for $77.5 million. Named Casa de Plata (Spanish for “House of Silver”), the home was built in 2003 and is one of the last buildings designed by Ricardo Legorreta, the late Mexican architect responsible for Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles and the San Antonio Public Library. Like the majority of Legorreta’s other work, the design of Casa de Plata is inspired by the colorful, minimalist homes of mid-century architect Luis Barragán, while adding a bit of whimsy and surrealism of his own, including glass brick walls and ziggurat-like ceilings. The home also includes a substantial circular atrium with a retractable skylight, a 30-foot-tall family room with hydraulic doors, and a home theater with tiered seating for 20 people. Many of the materials throughout the home were imported from Mexico, including the dramatic limestone flooring in the entryway. The five-acre property includes an English maze garden, a sunken basketball court, a swimming pool, and an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven. If the property sells for the listed price, Casa de Plata would nearly double the Brentwood price record of $40 million set in 2014 and would become one of the most expensive properties sold west of the 405 freeway. Silver has invested in other architecturally-significant properties, including the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Storer House in the Hollywood Hills, which the director sold in 2002 for $2.9 Million.
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Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects plans top-heavy tower in L.A.'s Hancock Park

In the quiet Los Angeles neighborhood of Hancock Park, local firm Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) have revealed initial plans for an 11-story, 34,000-square-foot apartment building to be developed by Metros Capital near the corner of Rossmore Avenue and Clinton Street. In order to fit 14 units on the tight, irregularly-shaped 7,000-square-foot lot, the architects had to come up with a top-heavy design scheme that would not draw excessive attention to itself within its low-slung context, which consists of several preserved, Art Deco-style apartment buildings designed in the 1930s and ‘40s. The result is a design with a series of incrementally shifting floor plates that play a few visual tricks from the street. “Passing by the tower becomes an elusive spectacle,” wrote LOHA in a statement, “seemingly narrower at the bottom if you’re facing one way and skinnier at the top if you’re facing the other.” Additionally, the building’s ground floor is set far back from the street to avoid interrupting the pedestrian-friendly character of the neighborhood, while the communal spaces are entirely located on the rooftop. The shifting section of the building was prompted by “the elongated S-curve of Rossmore Avenue, as well as the marque-like facades of nearby multi-story apartment buildings.” LOHA hopes that the building will exemplify a preferable alternative to the more common apartment building typology found in Los Angeles, of “massive floor plates that maximize the ground plane and create a sort of squat density, where buildings are tightly glued to the sidewalk." The project is scheduled to break ground early next year and be completed sometime in 2021.
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Barbara Bestor’s SCI-Arc commencement speech evokes L.A.'s unique architecture history

Despite its youth, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) has educated a surprising number of figures that have come to define the field. One such figure is local architect Barbara Bestor, who graduated from the school with a master’s degree in 1992 and has since designed several prestigious projects in and around Los Angeles, including the Silverlake Conservatory for Music, and the Beats by Dre campus in Culver City, and also oversaw the renovation of the Silvertop Residence, a hillside home first built in 1956 by local legend John Lautner. As the commencement speaker for SCI-Arc’s 2019 graduation ceremony, Bestor elaborated on the storied history of the city and how it directly influenced her career. “I think that, like the city of Los Angeles,” began Bestor, “our culture of freedom as architects is a uniquely West Coast culture that's actually in touch with our past history.” She then went on to recount how the unique qualities of the city that inspired experimentation among luminaries including Frank Lloyd Wright, Ray Kappe, Deborah Sussman, and Rudolph Schindler, who had a “habit of driving around to job sites with a load of two-by-fours in his station wagon so that he could improvise new ideas in real-time.” Bestor then reminded the audience that the freedom afforded by the relative lack of history Los Angeles can be liberating but also daunting. “It demands that we grapple with big existential questions like ‘what am I doing here,’ ‘what's my artistic voice,’ and ‘will my voice ever be part of the larger architectural conversation around the world?’” Bestor’s way of first navigating the city’s creative landscape was to work on houses, coffee shops, clothing stores, kitchen renovations, and several other small projects. “Even the most pragmatic and mundane programs,” she explained, “contain some freedom for the architect to create extra value, ideas about gender politics, fun experiments, and so on.” Bestor ended her speech by advising her listeners, “whether you’re staying here in L.A., or going off to Mexico City, or Beijing, or Seoul,” to “take that sense of freedom with you… You are all now West Coast Architects... part of this great, living tradition of experimentation and innovation.” It seemed fitting that, following her speech, an honorary M.Arch degree was presented to Frank Gehry, an architect who has called Los Angeles his home since 1947 and found a career by tapping into the experimental spirit of the city recounted by Bestor.
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A study of L.A. strip malls validates a long-ignored building type

Sunset Market Plaza: Meditations on Strip Malls in Los Angeles Edited by Shaina Goel and Use All Five Published by Use All Five List Price: $35.00 If there was ever an official tribunal to determine what Architecture is and what it is not, the strip mall building type might be placed in the latter category without hesitation. Strip malls, sometimes known as mini-malls, can rarely be traced back to an architect, virtually never receive historic protections, and are rarely perceived as anything more than a response to the modern consumer’s demand for convenience. Even their origins struggle to align with any familiar canons of architecture history: when the 1972 oil crisis caused several gas stations to close throughout Los Angeles, their small corner parcels became ideal sites for the inexpensively-constructed building type, which attracted small business owners due to their relatively cheap rental costs. A new self-published book by the Los Angeles-based design firm Use All Five and edited by Shaina Goel intends to elevate the strip-mall into a building type as worthy of study as any other, complete with a historical overview, fine-art photography, and genuine speculations concerning its future against the prevalence of online shopping. Sunset Market Plaza: Meditations on Strip Malls in Los Angeles begins with a plea for clemency from Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour’s 1972 classic Learning from Las Vegas: “Learning from the existing landscape is a way of being revolutionary for an architect. Not the obvious way, which is to tear down Paris and begin again, as Le Corbusier suggested in the 1920s. But another, more tolerant way; that is, to question how we look at things.” Just as the two saw the common person’s tastes made legitimate in Sin City, so too does the team behind Sunset Market Plaza elaborate on its subject without a hint of irony or derision. Its spiral-bound spine and numerous fold-outs, in fact, lend it the essence of a field guide. The first half of the book details several of the “best strip malls in L.A.” and nearby San Gabriel Valley, each distinguished by their site plans rendered in dense green stripes and the businesses they contain. Comparing plans, it becomes clear that the strip mall is an infinitely variable thing: some are more than one story, some are irregularly shaped, some have scores of underground parking and many have surprising relationships to the street(s) in front of them. Reading through their descriptions tells us that many of the businesses have not only survived for decades but have also become some of the most popular destinations in the city for a variety of cuisines and specialty services. Sunset Market Plaza also includes a few proposals for the future (or alternate past) of the strip mall, in response to the highly informed marketing present in the world of online shopping. “What would happen,” its editors ask, “if these strip malls were designed with more explicit intentionality?” The results, as they imagine them, are “made with consolidation in mind.” One proposal imagines a strip mall as a one-stop-shop for self-publishing, with independent shops that, when combined, would become a graphic designer’s paradise, while another, titled “Wedding Chapel Plaza” divides the space into several independent businesses catering to the wedding crowd. It becomes up to the reader to determine whether these spaces function better with all of its spaces united under one industry or, more traditionally, as divided among many independently-spirited businesses. An interview between urban planner Jonathan Crisman and urban developer Sam Bachner, the “key figure in the history of strip malls because of his role in co-founding La Mancha Development Company,” succinctly reveals the thought process behind their unique aesthetics. When asked about his approach towards the architecture and design of strip malls, Bachner claimed that he has always aspired “to incorporate elements which are reflective of the specific community in which they are located… Some places might care more about color schemes, or I might have one place with a bell tower, or maybe I will use a blue tile roof in Koreatown—it’s all about community context.” Near the end of Sunset Market Plaza are Catherine Opie’s panoramic photos of strip malls across Los Angeles, all of which honorably confirm the site-specificity Bachner describes as well as their delicate beauty. “[Strip malls] are about the American dream for me,” writes Opie. “But they’re very fragile. They change almost overnight, and are often forgotten about, just like the freeways.”