Materials & Applications (M&A), a Los Angeles–based nonprofit dedicated to building a public culture of experimental architecture, recently took over a vacant lot in L.A.’s Echo Park to install the products of a year-long competition for its latest initiative, “TURF: A Mini-Golf Project.” The open-to-the-public mini-golf installation features contributions from a wide slew of young, creative practices, all focused on designing compelling golf holes. They are the result of a lengthy competition, selection, and fabrication process aimed at citing contemporary L.A.’s partisan development battles within the complicated terrain of a mini-golf course.
M&A executive director Jia Gu explained the premise behind its work: “In a way we are trying to bridge two worlds that don’t intersect very often—public audiences and experimental architecture. We use the term “to build a public culture” quite literally—we are about producing built projects that can contribute to expanding and provoking public conversations around architecture. To a certain extent, M&A’s history has always been to resist the “gallerification” of architecture by producing projects that exist outdoors, in open air, and in the public—whether this space is publicly or privately owned.”
Typically, M&A’s installations take place in the courtyard of its Spanish-revival bungalow court, but for TURF, M&A partnered with local developer Hillcrest Company to bring a soon-to-be-developed, but vacant, parcel of land into public use. Gu explained further, “On our end, we’re constantly thinking about how to bring value to interim-use spaces that are owned by developers but are not yet under development. There is a lot of opportunity in this city for these types of empty lots to be returned back to the public for a short interim use, allowing spontaneous and surprising moments of leisure, play and collective inactivity.”