Posts tagged with "Los Angeles":

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Pulp Fiction

He had my wrists now, instead of me having his. He twisted them behind me fast and a knee like a corner stone went into my back. He bent me. I can be bent. I'm not the City Hall.
Leave it to Raymond Chandler to come up with architectural descriptions that pack a wallop.  Excerpts of the taut prose that would define a whole genre of American fiction are brilliantly paired with Catherine Corman's photographs of the L.A. of the 1930s and '40s in her new book, Daylight Noir: Raymond Chandler's Imagined City (Charta, $40). The evocative black-and-white images taken by Corman--who is the daughter of horror-movie maven Roger Corman--linger with great deliberation on architectural details like an arch or a building corner, turning each page into a world of suspense. With a poetic forward by Jonathan Lethem: "If architecture is fate, then it is Marlowe's fate to enumerate the pensive dooms of Los Angeles, the fatal, gorgeous pretenses of glamour and ease..." Altogether, a thoroughly enjoyable way to "read" a building.
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What is your favorite billboard?

With the LA City Council banning multi-story supergraphics, digital billboards and some freeway signs last week (thanks Curbed, as always for the juicy details), we've suddently gotten nostalgic for these building-sized ads. So we thought we'd put together (ok, it was just me) some of our favorite mega-billboards from recent times, including the most ridiculous, of course. We encourage you to post your own favorite billboards here. C'mon people, let's find some good ones! Here are some of our faves (oh, and check out our next issue to read about how the billboard ban will affect architects):

The Future Is Video

When CAD rose up in the '80s and began replacing hand-drawing as the preferred means of rendering architecture-to-be, practitioners began decrying the death of the field. Obviously that was not the case, but in our increasingly digitized age/culture/lives, where sexy renderings predominate (to the cost of real architectural discourse, some might say, and probably rightly) on blogs and, uh, architectural websites and beyond, videos are becoming an increasingly important component of the process of placemaking. Or at least competitionwinning, as the above video by SPF:architects shows. When we first turned it up on Curbed today, we were taken aback by the lengths (some might call it desperation, but in these hard times, who can blame them) the firm had gone to to convince the judges of the worthiness of their entry in a competition to design Calgary's new Cantos project, billed as the only "national music centre" in Canada. Turns out, though, all entrants had to produce a video, including Diller Scofidio+Renfro, allied works architecture, Atelier Jean Nouvel, and the lone Canadian firm, Montreal's Saucier + Perotte. Since the LA-based SPF's is naturally Hollywood flashy, how do the other four stack up? Hey! We recognize that cut-out. Rip off! Playing the buildings? Where have we seen that before? For a Pritzker Prize-winner, this sure is chintzy. Dig the tunes.

The Rumble in Aspen

Frank Gehry sat down with Tom Pritzker earlier this month at the Aspen Ideas Festival, of which a video was just posted on the Internet, and re-posted above for your viewing pleasure. How we found out about this was through the all-things-Ratner-Gehry-and-Times-related Atlantic Yards Report. Never one not to parse everything related to the above three--and our hats off to him for doing so--Norman Oder discovered the one contentious conversation of the otherwise lovely affair, when Gehry called no less eminent urban thinker Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces "a pompous man" for daring to question (admittedly repeatedly and somewhat annoyingly) Gehry's placemaking skills. Yowza. To be fair, this story has been percolating around the blogs since it happened, we just missed it until Norman brought it to our attention. In fact, The Atlantic's James Fallows' original post on the matter bears attention, as that's what got things started--and boy did it ever, as the man's sure got a way with words:
Then the questions from the audience began. The second or third was from a fairly insistent character whose premise was that great "iconic" buildings nonetheless fell short as fully attractive and effective "public places," where people were drawn to congregate and spend time. He said he was challenging Gehry to do even more to make his buildings attractive by this measure too. [For those watching the video, this all starts around the 54:00 mark] [...] But the questioner asked one more time, and Gehry did something I found simply incredible and unforgettable. "You are a pompous man," he said -- and waved his hand in a dismissive gesture, much as Louis XIV might have used to wave away some offending underling. He was unmistakably shooing or waving the questioner away from the microphone, as an inferior -- again, in a gesture hardly ever seen in post-feudal times.
Double yowza! Even more amazing, though, is Gehry's response to Fallows four days later. (How come he doesn't return our calls?):
Dear Mr. Fallows - Fair enough - your impression. I have a few lame excuses. One is that I'm eighty and I get freaked out with petty annoyances more than I ever did when I was younger. Two, I didn't really want to be there - I got caught in it by friends. And three - I do get questions like that and this guy seemed intent on getting himself a pulpit. I think I gave him an opportunity to be specific about his critique. Turns out that he followed Tommy Pritzker [the moderator of Gehry's session] around the next day and badgered him about the same issues. His arguments, according to Tommy, didn't hold much water. I think what annoyed me most was that he was marketing himself at everyone's expense. I apologize for offending you. Thanks for telling me. Best Regards, Frank Gehry
Yowza yowza yowza! The guy puts Woody to shame. And ever since, the drama has been playing itself out on Fallow's blog, the PPS's, Curbed LA, and now, we're happy to say, here. It also begs the question that, if Kent's right, maybe we're all better off without Gehry designing huge swaths of Brooklyn and LA after all. Correction: That was Tom Pritzker, not James Fallows talking to Gehry. Fallows was in the audience. Thanks to Chris Hawthorne for the catch. We've updated our post.
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Whither BP?

When BP opened their eco-friendly Helios House gas station on Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles a couple of years ago, it was touted as the future of such facilities, and a coup for a brand whose image was all about conservation. The station, designed by Office dA and Johnston Mark Lee, featured a metal-clad, geometric design, low-flow toilets, solar panels and a floor made of recycled glass, among other features. (it didn't, however, offer alternative fuels..) But it appears that BP may not have had such high regard for their endeavor. A recent drive-by revealed that the station, still unchanged, was no longer a BP but an Arco. Yes, Arco, the Wal Mart of gas. One of the helpful guides at the station explained that BP actually owns Arco, and that the change of label was “an internal business decision,” whatever that means. Looks like green marketing just took one on the chin.
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L. Ron Hubbard Would Be Proud

Yesterday while brunching in Hollywood we happened upon the biggest sign we've ever seen. Of course this being LA, it belongs to none other than the Church of Scientology. On July 3 their big blue building at the corner of Franklin and L.Ron Hubbard Way (yes that's the name of the street) was officially fitted with a brand new sign that's 84 feet long, 16 feet tall, and weighs 5.2 tons. It's about three times the size of the former, well-known sign on the site. What's more the marker, which reads "SCIENTOLOGY" in big white letters,  is fitted with LED lights so the letters glow at night (unlike the famous Hollywood sign nearby, by the way). The sign, apparently, is part of a nationwide ad campaign to get the word out about the religion. That's all we're gonna say about that. Yep. We will not use this space to poke fun of Tom Cruise or John Travolta or anyone else. We swear.
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Fire On The Mountain

It's not every day that a scary fire burns within a few miles of a major cultural institution. Well in LA it sort of is, but that's beside the point. A recent drive on the 405 Freeway revealed to us what all the news reports are saying: There is a biggish blaze burning just one hill over from the Getty Center on LA's west side. The smoke is thick and brown, and on first look bulged out at the top, not unlike a mushroom cloud. Yikes. Helicopters are running regular passes over the thing, which is spreading in thin lines along the mountains facing the Getty, moving southward down the Sepulveda Pass. But fortunately it appears that firefighters have it under control (in California terms a 10-acre fire is only a mini conflagration), despite a forced evacuation of the Getty and nearby Mount St. Mary's College. Stay tuned... We hope we don't have to see if all that marble and granite will hold up to a good ol' California disaster. And for now, the biggest concern of drivers on the 405 is the threat of imminent traffic. Now that's scary.
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FOGA Cut by How Much?

We knew that Gehry Partners had trimmed its staff recently due to the recession. But according to a story in Architectural Record, the cuts are much worse than we thought. Tony Illia writes that the company has reduced its staff from 250 a year ago to 112 now. That's more than a 50 percent chop! Many of the cuts are due to the losses of projects like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and the delay of projects like Grand Avenue in Los Angeles. Still the firm is still set to move into roomier new digs in El Segundo (pictured above)  later this year. Should be.. spacious. Still the story says the firm is working on new projects like a Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi,  the Beekman tower in Lower Manhattan, and the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington.
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Saturday Night Live (At Dwell)

We don't always give props to other design pubs, but after a great weekend at Dwell On Design, how can we not? After the expo, the panels, and the awards, on Saturday night the Dwellistas hosted a wonderful evening at the Geffen Contemporary in Downtown LA that started with LA's first ever mobile restaurant row (Apparently the Kogi taco truck has helped spawn a phenomenon), and then became a night at the movies. There were seven—yes SEVEN—food trucks in all, including Sprinkles Cupcakes, Locali ice pops (well this was mobile, but not exactly a truck), Coolhaus ice cream, Let's Be Frank hot dogs , the Green Truck, Barbie's Q, and Tacos Ariza. Phew... And YUMMY. (especially Green Truck's Grass-fed burgers. Must be some good grass!) Next came the big event: a screening of two great design-related movies. The first was the Greening of Southie, which examines the ridiculous amount of work—and pain—behind Boston’s first residential green building (the Macallen Building, designed by Office Da). The filmmakers, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, spent months on the construction site in South Boston, and were able to not only capture the excitement and challenges of green construction, but question LEED's methodologies (no accounting for miles transporting all these green materials?) as well as the costs of gentrification that such building can bring to working class and poorer neighborhoods. The second movie was Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman, director Erick Bricker's moving, and informative, homage to master photographer Shulman. The film includes  intimate and interviews and impromptu moments with Shulman, great examples of his photos, fun history lessons on Modernism, and talks with many of LA's leading architectural voices. Also visits to the homes he captured, from Case Study House 22 to the Kaufmann House..  It's great, and you'll be seeing more of it, I promise you.
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Not Just Invisible, Earthquake Invisible

Architects have, for obvious reasons, been fascinated with earthquakes for as long as they have been knocking over buildings. Lots of structural systems and building materials have been explored, but what about invisibility? Capitalizing on recent advances in invisible cloak technology, scientists in France and Britain think they can hide buildings from those damning shockwaves coursing through the earth. New Scientist explains the tech thusly:
The new theoretical cloak comprises a number of large, concentric rings made of plastic fixed to the Earth's surface. The stiffness and elasticity of the rings must be precisely controlled to ensure that any surface waves pass smoothly into the material, rather than reflecting or scattering at the material's surface. When waves travel through the cloak they are compressed into tiny fluctuations in pressure and density that travel along the fastest path available. By tuning the cloak's properties, that path can be made to be an arc that directs surface waves away from an area inside the cloak. When the waves exit the cloak, they return to their previous, larger size. [...] When it comes to installing them into buildings, they could be built into the foundations, Guenneau suggests. It should be possible to make concrete structures with the right properties. To protect a building 10 metres across, each ring would have to be about 1 to 10 metres in diameter and 10 centimetres thick. The concentric ring design can also be scaled down, and could offer a way to control vibration in cars or other machinery, he adds.
Now if only we could perfect fire-proof buildings. (Via Twitter, where BLDG BLOG also pointed us to what looks like a failed attempt at an earthquake-proof building--those tubes certainly look like what's described above. Which leads us to wonder if the old jibe that "Made in China" is a sign of inferior quality no longer stands.)
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America, Headed Down the Toilet

Demand Management, a new show by L.A.-based artist Olga Koumoundouros opens at the REDCAT gallery in Los Angeles today. Curated by Clara Kim and Ryan Inouye, the show serves as a social commentary on class and the grossly unbalanced wealth distribution in America. The work is an amalgamation of items representing basic daily human needs—such as a refrigerator, toilet and mattress—which the artist uses to create an architectural pie chart portraying the 1% of the U.S. population that holds 34% of its wealth. Set in a circular room, the sculpture is a dynamic work in which violence and beauty converge. “Referencing cyclical movement, productivity, Möbius strips and tunnel forms, Koumoundouros explores concepts of standardization, industry and commerce in relation to human scale and expression, forcefully considering questions of mobility and power, participation and citizenship,” said the gallery. The show will be on view until August 23rd.
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Korean Rainbow

Thanks to our friends at Curbed LA, we learn that LACMA has wrapped its Ahmanson Building in a rainbow of fabrics for its upcoming show, "Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from South Korea (June 28-Sept. 20). It's the first major museum exhibition in the U.S. featuring South Korean contemporary art. The installation above , called Welcome, 2009, was designed by Choi Jeong-Hwa. Yes, it seems like a good time to be Korean in LA. What with Korean investors putting up cash for two of the city's newest skyscrapers; with Koreatown expanding into Little Tokyo and elsewhere; and of course with the season ripe for Korean Angelenos favorite sport, golf, the future looks bright indeed!