Posts tagged with "Los Angeles":

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P!LA: Beers With Benjamin Ball

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!
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P!LA: Painting Sound, Ben Ball, Vampires, & MMOs, Oh My!

Though I already gave Mike the Poet pride of place, he was far from the only show in town Thursday night at Postopolis! LA. When I walked into the conference room--things had moved inside because the roof bar had been buffeted by a freezing wind all day--I saw a cluttered screenshot from World of Warcraft, something that had my inner-geek (aren't we all?) terribly excited. Indeed, Ben Cerveny of Stamen Design was talking about, among other things, deriving real life planning and tracking systems derived from more mediated sources, like MMOs. The talk was rather technical, and combined with my tardiness, I was kind of lost. Still, the potential is intriguing, especially after poking around Stamen's website. One of the examples Cerveny gave was the potential of cellphone apps. He proposed a program that would project one's preferences onto a wall, usually calibrated to some set of sounds and colors. When one person comes into proximity with another, it would create a cacophony or a melody between the two, depending on their settings. Another was a replacement for the personal library. As books decline in the digital age, Cerveny proposed a projection, ironically or not, the projection of one's digital self. "We're losing out real digital culture," he said. "Book-lined walls are being replaced with blank white ones, maybe a few modernist baubles." Whereas Cerveny and Stamen's work is about as technical as it gets, Steve Roden's is almost ambivalent to its very existence. A trained painter, Roden is seemingly obsessed with transforming one mode of experience, one sense, into another. His first, and probably best, example is how he found a piece of sheet music in his grandmother's attic. "I've never been able to let go of it," Roden said. But Roden does not play the music. Instead, he meticulously broke it down into its component scale--E-G-B-D-F, etc.--and then came up with a numbering scheme. That then gets plugged into a paint-by-numbers system that developed dozens of paintings. "I don't know how to read or play music," Roden emphasized. And yet, another major project was his installation for Alvaro Siza's Serpentine Pavilion in 2005. Roden, with the help of lay assistants working at the pavilion, mapped the structure in a rainbow of five colors, then transformed it into a painting, which, when he looked at it, resembled the scheme on a Tyco xylophone. He decided to turn the painting into a "player piano strip" that led to a recording played over an hour in the space. He played a minute of the composition. It had a haunting beauty for someone who seemed as though he could care less about what he was doing. Perhaps that was the genius of his art. Someone who cared very much, perhaps too much, was Gary Dauphin. An LA resident, Dauphin apologized for giving a presentation largely about New York, namely his home-hood of Fort Greene. As a gentrifier myself, Gary's talk about the cultural vampirism of gentrification really hit home. Dauphin argued that gentrifiers, specifically in Fort Greene but also beyond, are not always (white) outsiders, but generally ethnic (black/Latino) educated returners who make way for their new friends and thus feel guilty for it. The same goes for vampires, at least in the popular culture of Buffy/True Blood/Twilight/Blacula. More often than not, the story is about the "good vampire," the vampire who is trying to get beyond his vampirism, drinking synthetic blood or animal blood and not that of humans. When I asked if there was a solution to either problem, the answer was no. Finally, Benjamin Ball of Ball-Nogues Studio. I shared a beer with Ben afterwards--more on that later--but his talk was mostly on what he's done and everyone knows--Maximillian's Schell, P.S. 1, Venice--and what's yet to come--a teepee in Woodstock, a bird installation at Johns Hopkins Children's Hospital.

Postopolis, Here We Come

     Postopolis! LA is onto the second day of its second year now, and from the looks of the streaming video, things are off to a great start. But the fun doesn't really start until tomorrow. Why? Because that's when we arrive! I've been invited to join the media panel Sunday, along with my beautiful Cali colleague Alissa Walker. Not exactly sure what we'll be talking about--*gulp*--but it's something along the lines of print-web integration/the future of media/doomsday/etc. After all, I was invited on Twitter. Speaking of which, if you want to follow along, you can certainly do it there--I'll do my damnest to figure out how to Tweet from my phone, which has so far been a resounding failure. And be sure to tune back in here for daily, if not hourly, dispatches; the full schedule is here. And you better be on-hand Saturday, when the panel airs at 6:20 p.m. PACIFIC time. (That's 9:20 p.m. for all you New Yorkers, because we all know you've all got nothing better to do on a Saturday night.) Don't have too much fun without me, and I'll try to do the same.
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LA Park Re-Revamped

Curbed LA reports that designs for the 12-acre, Rios Clementi Hale-designed downtown Civic Park, connecting City Hall with the LA Music Center, have been updated (drawing above). The new designs, they find, will overhaul and lengthen the park's fountain, remove a series of trellises, enlarge the park's community terrace, and remove the "viewing bridge" at the foot of City Hall. The park (whose first phase will cost $56 million) also replaces curving geometries with longer, straighter thoroughfares. The plan is still set to go ahead despite the fact that the adjacent Grand Avenue Project is on hold. Despite liking certain elements, like a clearer set of "grand stairs," the LA Times' Christopher Hawthorne said the plan was too "conceptually weak to stand on its own." He added, "there is nothing evident in the latest version -- no urban gesture, no aesthetic spark -- that holds the proposal together as a compelling whole, or that might inspire the public or potential funders to embrace it with genuine enthusiasm." We're just happy to have another park downtown. After all, what major city doesn't have a great downtown green space?
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Ray Kappe Remembers Marvin Rand

We ran a rememberance of Marvin Rand yesterday by Larry Scarpa of Pugh+Scarpa. Here's another from Ray Kappe, the founding director of Sci-Arc:
Marvin Rand was a good friend and an exceptional architectural photographer. I have fond memories of that slight, energetic man with the large camera photographing one of my earliest houses in Sherman Oaks, in 1956. We grew up in Los Angeles architecture together--I developing my practice, and he photographing some of the most important buildings in Los Angeles--from documenting the Watts Towers, Greene and Greene, the architecture of early modernist Irving Gill, the Case Study houses and other works of Craig Ellwood, to many of the young architects of today. Marvin enjoyed working with younger architects, especially in recent years. He switched to digital photography and used the latest techniques. I am sure that is what kept him young at heart. He was also generous with some of us older members of the profession later in life, photographing work that he thought was important, and without charge. He honored me by photographing my 50 Year Retrospective exhibit at the A+D Museum in 2003-2004, and contributed two large major photographs, 5’ x 8’, which hung from the ceiling. Those of us who were fortunate to know and work with Marvin, as well as the architectural profession at large, have lost a generous spirit, and a talented friend and advocate. He will be sorely missed.
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Postopolis! Comes to LA

You remember Postopolis! don't you? The reality show-worthy architecture blog-a-thon that sequestered five bloggers for five days at the Storefront for Art and Architecture two years ago? Well, hold onto your laptops, kids, because Postopolis! is back and promises to be bigger, better, bloggier and more exclamation-pointy than ever before...because it's coming to LA, baby! Geoff Manaugh announced the lineup today and it's a doozy; six bloggers hailing from Sydney to San Fran (and including Manaugh himself, who we know is still an Angeleno at heart): —David Basulto from Plataforma Arquitectura and ArchDaily (Santiago, Chile) —Jace Clayton from Mudd Up! (New York City, USA) —Régine Debatty from we make money not art (Paris, France) —Bryan Finoki from Subtopia (San Francisco, USA) —Dan Hill from City of Sound (Sydney, Australia) —Geoff Manaugh from BLDGBLOG (San Francisco, USA) Postopolis! will still be sponsored by the Storefront (who had temporary digs here last year) and the lovely folks at ForYourArt as part of the LA Art Weekend. From March 31 to April 4 at a TBD location, the bloggers will post at a feverish, around-the-clock pace. Students from local architecture schools will be hired to monitor feeding tubes, administer 20 oz. Monster energy drinks on the hour and empty their bedpans as needed. In addition to the ancillary interviews, presentations, lectures, panel discussions, and slideshows that we saw last Postopolis!, Manaugh promises: "This time it will be all that plus more art, film, and music, a larger international scope, hopefully several Spanish-language events and lectures, hopefully at least one minor earthquake." We'll try our best to deliver on that last one.
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Another Planner Down

Just weeks after LA City Planning Commission President Jane Usher resigned, Southern California is down another major planner: The LA Times has reported that LA County's chief planner Bruce McClendon (pictured) was just fired by County Chief Executive Officer William T. Fujioka. McClendon told the Times that he believed the firing was likely in retaliation for becoming a whistle-blower against the Board of Supervisors. He said he had told Fujioka that supervisors' aides often tried influencing hearing officers' decisions on whether to permit development plans. "It was illegal, and they can go to jail for doing it," McClendon told the Times. McClendon arrived in LA two years ago from Orange County, Fla., where he was a planner. He is a past president of the American Planning Association. He is the author of five books on planning and in Los Angeles worked to update the county's master planning document, which had been basically unchanged for 35 years. In our third California issue ever, we sat down with the commish a few months after he took the job. While we're happy McClendon took a stand on an important issue, we're also sorry to see a capable planner let go.
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Your Chance To Fix LA's Transit Mess!!!!

What do Thom Mayne, Eric Owen Moss, Neil Denari, LA Planning director Gail Goldberg, and Aspet Davidian,  engineering director at the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority have in common? They're all on the jury for The Architect's Newspaper and SCI-Arc's new competition, A NEW INFRASTRUCTURE: Innovative Transit Solutions for Los Angeles. Launching today, the competition takes advantage of LA County's Measure R, which  will provide up to $40 billion for transit-related projects across the city over the next 30 years. It asks  architects, engineers, urban planners, and students to propose new ideas that use design to dramatically rethink the relationships between transit systems, public space and urban redevelopment.  Entries will focus on specific rail extension projects and also take a look at larger-scale, inter-related transit planning challenges. Potential competitors can download the competition outline and registration here. Entries are due March 15, and winners will be announced on March 21.
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The Scarlet Letter

The board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) today made a formal proposal to merge with the financially struggling Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). According to a press release (top portion, above) issued today by LACMA, the goal of the move would be to to "preserve the independence and integrity of both institutions while combining their operations and infrastructure." To save money MOCA has already shut down its Geffen Contemporary for six months, and is said to be pondering the sale of some of its artworks.
According to the release if a merger were to occur MOCA's collections would not only be exhibited at LACMA's Grand Avenue location and at the Geffen, but also at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM), and at LACMA's planned Stewart Resnick Pavilion. LACMA's $68.2 million budget is more than three times that of MOCA's $20 million. According to the L.A. Times, MOCA's trustees met today to discus proposals, including a $30-million bailout offer from Eli Broad. According to Curbed LA, LA City Council President Eric Garcetti and Councilwoman Jan Perry introduced a motion to allocate $2.8 million in Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) funds to the struggling MOCA, provided the museum adheres to its stipulations. Stay tuned....
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DJ Thommy Mayne and the Pritzker-Making Hits

Widely accepted as the greatest public radio station on the planet, KCRW is famous for its groundbreaking music played by DJs who are smarter, cooler and infinitely better dressers than you. But last week was a bitter one for LA as the station's great Nic Harcourt hung up his headphones as music director. For those of you who are already missing Harcourt's esoteric taste (sometimes a bit difficult to take at 9:03am even after a visit to Intelligensia), never fear: Thom Mayne has stepped into the booth. You heard that right: As part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project, Mayne picked five songs that have inspired him throughout his life. Paired with former music director Tom Schnabel, Mayne sported his usual maniacal grin and a gleam in his eye (above) as he took to the turntable, admitting that on some occasions, he allowed music to help him design: "There’s actually times when I was drawing, closing my eyes, when I have a sketch book where I was moving my hand rhythmically and shaping it and literally trying to shape drawings that were coming directly from various types of music." You can hear the whole set at KCRW.com, but go ahead and rev up your iPod now, because here's what he played: 1.) Dr. John - Right Place, Wrong Time 2.) John Lurie (as Marvin Pontiac) - Runnin' Round 3.) Stevie Ray Vaughn - Texas Flood 4.) Laurie Anderson - Big Science 5.) Prince - Musicology We have to admit we love Mayne's taste in music, which left a dirty Texas BBQ flavor with a sprinkle of bad 80's hair in our mouths. And at least now we can forgive Mayne for the shortcomings of the Caltrans Building: It's clearly not his fault, seeing as he designed it while under the influence of what is easily the worst Prince song in existence. With the possible exception of "Diamonds and Pearls."
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LA Live! (ugh)

LA Times critic Christopher Hawthorne yesterday summed up the problems with L.A. Live!, the behemoth development in Downtown LA's South Park district, whose second phase is now opening. Hawthorne decries its "placelessness," its buildings that "have almost nothing to say to or about downtown Los Angeles," and worst of all, its inability to help the rest of the area. "When we trap the energy of an urban crowd inside this sort of self-contained world," he writes, "and when we allow developers and their architects to heighten the differences between that world and the streets around it so dramatically, we help keep the rest of our blocks underused and, as pieces of the city, undernourished." Amen brother. While the development, with its mix of residences, hotels and entertainment venues, should certainly bring activity and money downtown in tough times, it is still a wasted opportunity.
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Noshing In Style

Without further ado, here are the winners of the AIA LA’s 4th Annual Restaurant Design Awards. The awards were announced on October 16, and judges included architects David Montalba and Michael Hogdson, Joachim B. Splichal, founder of the Patina restaurant group, and LA Weekly writer Margot Dougherty. JURY WINNERS: RESTAURANT Blue Velvet designed by Tag Front Katsuya Glendale designed by Starck Network & DesignARC Mozza Osteria designed by Kelly Architects, Inc. CAFÉ/BAR FOOD designed by Fleetwood Fernandez Architecture LAMILL COFFEE designed by Formation Association & Rubbish Interiors   LOUNGE/NIGHTCLUB Elevate Lounge designed by Tag Front PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD WINNERS: RESTAURANT Mozza Osteria designed by Kelly Architects, Inc. (pictured in jury winners section) CAFÉ/BAR Kitchen 24 designed by Spacecraft & Torres Architects LOUNGE/NIGHTCLUB oneworld Lounge at LAX designed by Gensler