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.
Posts tagged with "Los Angeles":
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.)
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.
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!
Last night was the opening party for No Soul For Sale a (very) temporary show (it closes Saturday night) at the old Dia space on West 22nd Street organized by X Initiative. The crowning achievement--literally--is a lounge designed by LA-based architect Jeffery Inaba and his eponymous firm. An amusing if uncertain follow-up to Dan Graham's former installation, the new piece, entitled Pool Noodle Roof, is meant to provide both comfort and unease. Composed of 15,000 individual pieces of pool noodle foam tubes, each X-shaped (get it?) seat took five hours to make. With 150 seats scattered about the roof, well, you do the math. Part of the time involved in construction was getting the patterns just right, as the chairs spell out a secret message, "bububluooopppp," which Inaba explained is the sound of something either sinking or rising, a commentary on the uncertain state of art and design (markets) and the world in general. But more than anything else, the chairs made for a nice respite from the downright sweltering conditions inside the building. Sadly the capacity crowd was crammed into the Dan Flavin-lit stairwell because strict fire marshall's would only allow 150 people up at a time. Still, it was well worth it, seeing as this is apparently the show of the moment. (Is Jerry Saltz ever wrong?) For the remaining four nights of the exhibition, there will be live events on the roof, so don't think you've missed the party yet. Do hurry, though, before the whole brilliant (colored) thing sinks for good. Or is it rising to heaven, seeing as how Inaba plans on donating the chairs to local communities groups. Assuming, of course, they can stand the relentless abuse of the art world.
What do we love more than Dim Sum? Not much... But how about design and biking and Dim Sum? This Saturday LA arts incubator De Lab (Design East of La Brea) put together this genius combination, with a bike tour that left from LA's Highland Park neighborhood and wound up in Chinatown. Highlights along the way included cool architecture studio Fung + Blatt, a scenic ride through historic Lincoln Heights; a tour of LOC's ingenious Chun King Loft; and a look at Chinatown's Fifth Floor Gallery, with its hot new furniture collection designed by local architects. Who knew Chinatown was so cool? The road ended at dim sum specialist Ocean Seafood, where the hungry bikers went to town on dumplings galore. A great photo tour of the trip is available here.
What happens when an ice cream-obsessed design writer meets two ice cream slinging architects? She makes a video! Our dear friend, colleague, and (now) hero Alissa Walker (aka Gelatobaby) recently swung by the COOLHAUS truck, where she chats with the two proprietors about the inspiration, construction, and popular explosion of their architecturally delicious desserts. One Cinnamoneo, please! (To find out where the truck'll be, follow COOLHAUS on Twitter.)
As promised, here's Sara's inaugural Eavesdrop ALERT. Have at it. CA Boom, which grandly bills itself as “North America’s Only Multi-Discipline Non-traditional Design Show,” will be exhibiting for the sixth time over the last weekend in June at a larger venue this year in Beverly Hills. That very same weekend, Dwell Magazine will return to the Los Angeles Convention Center with its own heavily branded trade show, Dwell on Design, billed less grandly as “The West Coast’s Largest Modern Design Event.” An embarrassment of riches or a conundrum for vendors who can’t be in two places at the same time? We’re going with the latter. Dwell supporters are crying foul, insisting that they reserved the date first, and charging that CA Boom changed its schedule with malice aforethought to dilute Dwell on Design’s impact. Maybe. Probably. Still, it’s hard to score the competitors. Dwell has AIA/LA and The Los Angeles Times in its camp, while CA Boom has Met Home and Wired. We predict they’ll exhibit and party and award to a draw. And then mostly party.
On Saturday, before we headed over to the Standard for my star turn on the media panel, Sam Lubell and I first swung by the Flat, home to celebrated LA restaurant Blue Velvet. We were there for an event hosted by colleague and co-panelist Alyssa Walker, part of her de Lab (design east of LaBrea) series. SCI-arc professor and hunk Alexis Rochas had installed easily the coolest green roof we've ever seen on top of the condo, and two dozen or so people had shown up for a tour, followed by a most-interesting lunch. The Flat, you see, is an old Holiday Inn motor hotel on the border of Westlake and downtown that was converted three years ago into luxury apartments. (I guess this is what passes for historic preservation in LA.) Well, shortly after the residences and attached restaurant opened, the folks at Blue Velvet asked Rochas to design a green roof for them, not only to retain stormwater runoff but also to supply the most local produce imaginable, at least for Downtown LA. With a group of his students, Rochas devised SynthE. The team took about 950 laser-cut panels, no two alike, bent them into the desired forms, welded them all together, and created what looks like Logan's Run if it were set on the Inner Mongolian steppe. Rochas explained that the form serves two purposes, directing the flow of water into the planted bands as well as subtly outlining the mechanical systems hidden beneath. Because the building was built before the 1967 code took effect, the weight tolerances of the roof were incredibly thin, and only 20 pounds per square foot could be added. This necessitated not only the use of the lightweight aluminum, but also a special soil, which only weighs, with water, around 15 pounds per square foot. Still, Rochas said the system absorbed 80 percent to 90 percent of all precipitation and had no trouble sustaining the plants that are product, or rather produce, of the roof. "As an architect, you design the structure and its shape, but also this time, its program and its use," Rochas explained. "The architect becomes a gardener, the gardener a planner." Indeed, the entire roof, but for a patch of grass intended for lounging by residents, is planted with various fruits, vegetables, and other edibles for Blue Velvet. Working 90-day crop cycles, the team grows all manner of tomatoes, herbs, greens, berries, wheat grass, even some monster cabbage. "It's a true, organic experiment, seeing what will grow and succeed," Rochas said. "And you can't get more local." Plus, it makes a decent slide.
What better way to see LA than the way she was intended, by car. My colleague Sam Lubell was kind enough to chauffeur me around the city from time to time--when he wasn't, the buses were surprisingly nice, far more so than in New York, I must admit. While Sam drove, I did my best to take a few pictures. UPDATE: Here are some more pictures from the bus ride to Union Station, where I caught another bus to the airport. Also, I was wrong about the above building. That's a parking garage. See the comment section below for more.
Unlike Thursday night, when inclement weather forced us inside, the party raged--or, well, spoke, Tweeted, and blogged--on the roof of the Standard on Friday night, which is as it should be at the start of the weekend, even if the party was almost over. When I arrived on the roof, the sun had just about set and Matthew Coolidge, the director of the super cool LA-based Center for Land Use Interpretation, was giving a presentation on his group's work, which includes tours and exhibitions of the crazier places in the built environment. He touched briefly on a recent project about parking and another about LA waste treatment before launching into the real show, and CLUI's current work, on the "oilscape," particularly in and around Houston. "There's nothing like it anywhere," Coolidge, who's seen his fair share of the planet, said. At the behest of the University of Houston, CLUI was asked to put together an exhibition on this unique infrastructure that has both built up and slowly destroyed Houston and the nation at large. Coolidge presented pictures of such alien terrains as the massive Strategic Petroleum reserve, the polluted and ignored Houston bayou, and long-abandoned oil fields. (My colleague Aaron Seward wrote about the exhibit a few months back.) The capper was a 15-minute video the group shot of the Houston Ship Channel, a 50-mile stretch of waterway that is nothing but oil refineries and related facilities, a place with the greatest refining capacity in the world. Shot from an altitude of 1,000 feet by a helicopter traveling 70 miles per hour and equipped with an HD camera, the surreal landscape put forward--it nearly outstrips the rest of the world in refining capacity combined--is almost hard to describe, from carbon black pits to plots of storage bins as far as the eye can see. (Oh, were it only on YouTube to share with you all.) Seen from this angle, CLUI's approach becomes clear. As Coolidge puts it, "Our sort of institutional method is we look at the ground and say, 'Oh, what's that?'" If only we truly knew the answer. Appropriately enough, the next speaker explored what happens when the oil stops flowing, so to speak. LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne had recently returned from Dubai, and he had a startling report to provide, describing what recently transpired in the small emirate as "Ponzi scheme urbanism, or Bernie Madoff planning." As is well known, Dubai sprang up after its oil ran out and the state tried to diversify into finance and media fields. Hawthorne, however, counters that all the place really did was "serve as a vessel for liquidity." What's left, now, is a bunch of half-built vessels--hundreds of them, really, almost all abandoned despite the extant cranes, creating an eerily silent landscape stuck between construction and collapse. Hawthorne showed dozens of projects, including the ubiquitous (it looms in back of almost every shot) Burj Dubai, the "cruise ship-modern" Burj Al-Arab, and, his favorite, the Mall of the Emirates, which came to renown for its indoor skiing. "It's a full-on black diamond experience, but I find the outside far more interesting than the inside," he said. Hawthorne posited this as a perfect example of Dubai's penchant for copying wholesale: "What really struck me was this is a city that really learned from Las Vegas and themed environments. But unlike where no one would go to Las Vegas and believe they were in Paris--with its 2/3s buildings and replicas--in Dubai, they blow everything up to full scale, like, say, the Eiffel Tower, but then they blow it up again, and build the entire neighborhood, so you really begin to think you're there." If Dubai has been struggling of late, Fallen Fruit was only looking up. Begun nearly a decade ago by three artists, two of whom were on hand to present the group's work, it started as a one-off project to map fruit bearing trees in various LA neighborhoods--an attempt to help feed the hungry--that also attempted to redefine cartography and the landscape. But the more involved they got in mapping, the more new dimensions the project began to take on. It moved online, where people were encouraged to create and submit their own food maps. It moved to the streets, where foraging trips were set up, one of which was posted on YouTube without Fallen Fruit's knowledge. When the videos were flooded with hateful comments, it actually became another piece of art, where the video was shown with the offensive comments overlaid on the video. Examples: "Dipshit liberals./Always looking for a handout./That fruit will sustain more rats/than you left-wing nut jobs." "Are black people allowed at these events?" "Are straight people allowed at these events." "It's clear the people seeing this didn't want to be seeing it," Austin Young said of Fallen Fruit's work, which is why they have soldiered on, despite numerous court challenges. The group emphasizes only picking fruit on public property or overhanging it, and some of their latest efforts include encouraging people to plant on their property line, which has been a major success. Legally speaking, the practice is neither illegal nor legal--there are no laws governing at all, Young said. As for his partner, Matias Viengener, "When we started this all those years ago, I never imagined I'd still be picking fruit." Their latest project is Neighborhood Infusion, which take the particular fruit of a given neighborhood and infuse it with vodka so as to better understand the area's native character. They have tastings scheduled around LA for the coming weeks. Like Fallen Fruit, Ken Ehrlich is an artist and writer trying to connect LA's nascent arts community with the wider city. One major project was a competition for a proposed park near City Hall. After reading an article in the Times about a land swap with Caltrans--the state exchanged the then-HQ for a city-owned parking lot across the street, upon which a Morphosis-designed building would later rise--that would make way for a new city park, Ehrilich and some friends held a competition for the park, setting no parameters and getting proposals to match. The team presented the designs to the City Council with some success, only to later be both shocked and chagrined to hear that the new Police headquarters was being built on the plot instead of a park. "For whatever reason, we actually never saw this coming," Ehrlich joked. Another more successful project was based around the informal trash economies of Curitiba, Brazil. Ehrlich and friends built their own recycling cart from scavenged materials, which was then used to scavenge more materials that would later comprise an exhibition on the culture the objects represent, though not necessarily in their intended form. Two down, one to go.
After Mike the Poet finished his set Thursday night, I found Benjamin Ball of Ball-Nogues Studio still in the crowd. He had been the second to last presenter, mostly talking about the firm's work, and he was now taking compliments from admirers and shooting the breeze with friends. I, never not working, asked about the teepee in Woodstock he'd mentioned, though Ben was more interested in chatting me up about the paper, Venice, and my bowtie. Soon enough, a group of us found ourselves in the lobby, but the drinks being overpriced, we hit the street. The five of us--Ben, three of his artist friends, and myself--deliberated on one of LA's countless quiet street corners. The establishment across the street, Library Bar, was deemed "too USC" and abandoned. Where to go? A loud, hipstery joint, Bar 107 was settled on some blocks away. This being LA, everyone split up, with two headed for a car, another to her bike, and Ben and I on foot. As we make our we across town, I begin to interrogate Ben, especially about his adopted home, a place, during my brief stay, I find to be incredibly fascinating. Not very far into the conversation, we pass through Pershing Square, a park in downtown LA redesigned in the '90s by Ricardo Legorreta and Laurie Olin, a place Ben is not exactly fond of. "God," he says, as we cross the street and enter the park, "they need to bulldoze this shit. It's a perfect example of how stale thinking was in the 90s." Still, this hasn't hindered the development of downtown, a movement Ben is very much a strong believer in, having moved his and partner Gaston Nogues' studio into a loft building in the area. "The rent is still dirt cheap," Ben said. "You can get a place for less than a dollar a square foot, which the developers are happy to do because they know you'll pave the wave." When I pointed out that the streets were dead and devoid of many necessary amenities, he conceded that this was true, but as with all gentrification, bound to change--if you build it, they will come. When we arrived at 107 it was seemingly swamped with teenagers, so we opted for the adjacent Pete's Bar & Cafe, a neighborhood institution that seems like it's been there forever, with its lush interior and old black-and-white prints of the downtown of yesteryear, even if it opened less than a decade ago. I stepped out to find an ATM, something that took 20 minutes of wandering around desolate downtown blocks--like I was saying about those amenities--that, despite the postindustrial charms of the area, had me longing for a New York City bodega. By the time I returned, we had been joined by Ben's artist friend Beverly, who had arrived on her bike. Like Ball-Nogues, Beverly uses the computer to create much of her art, and the two got into a long conversation about the various design and rendering programs out there. As we shared Pete's delicious cheese fries, I sat back to revel in the excitement these two shared. My eyes glazed over due to jet lag, but it was mistaken for disinterest. Trying to bring the discussion back around, Ben expressed his frustration that all the SCI-Arc kids who only conceive of computers as a means to an end--usually some overly slick building--and not just another tool to realize a clever building. "It's why, in the end, we try and build everything by hand, to do all the fabrication ourselves," Ben insisted. "Architecture always has been, and always will be, a craft." Salut!