The city of Pasadena, California is commemorating a residence once occupied by President Barack Obama while he was attending Occidental College in the nearby city of Eagle Rock. The apartment residence, located at 253 Glenarm Street, is being adorned with a special plaque honoring the president’s stay, which lasted from 1980 to 1981. Obama spent two years attending Occidental College before transferring to Columbia University in New York City for the 1981-1982 school year. The Dingbat-style, six-unit apartment structure was built in 1967 and measures approximately 4,418 square feet in size, according to property data obtained via Redfin. The two-story structure features an exterior gallery along the western edge of the ground floor as well as punched openings populated by sliding windows along that facade. The structure is marked by a double-height entry portal along the street-facing facade. The building will become eligible for the National Register of Historic Places next year, 50 years after its construction. Efforts to recognize the residence began during Obama’s first administration and required research assistance from Pasadena city and library employees who scoured old telephone books to find the appropriate address. On the topic of Occidental College, LAist quotes Obama as saying “It’s a wonderful, small liberal arts college. The professors were diverse and inspiring. I ended up making some lifelong friendships there, and those first two years really helped me grow up.” At an event celebrating the plaque installation, Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek told KPCC, “There is tremendous interest that there is sort of a living link between Pasadena and the President of the United States.”
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Freeways were never meant to be environmental saviors. However, Michael Maltzan Architecture (MMA), working with Arup Los Angeles, has other ideas. In a proposal that advocates for the green possibilities of freeways, MMA has outlined how the Arroyo Seco Bridge in Pasadena can serve the neighborhood in more ways than one. "What if we ask more of the Arroyo Bridge without compromising the integrity of the existing infrastructural efficiency? What if the bridge became an experiential and aesthetic asset for residents and visitors? What if we demand that the bridge do more?" MMA asked. The two firms suggest draping the tunnel in vegetation and topping it with photovoltaic cells. Part of State Route 134 of the Ventura Freeway, the bridge accommodates ten lanes of traffic and, in MMA's words, "is at odds with its context, polluting the surrounding neighborhoods with noise and vehicle emissions and simultaneously eroding the Arroyo landscape between the San Gabriel Mountains to the north and the Los Angeles River to the south." Storm water captured from the bridge canopy would irrigate the plants. The vegetation would also soak up the carbon emissions from traveling vehicles. Other design features would include: acoustically-insulated walls that would hamper noise pollution (transparent panels would preserve views to the Colorado Bridge to the south and the Rose Bowl to the north) and "porous concrete ‘lungs’" that would make use of photocatalytic concrete will improve air quality by removing pollutants—just in case the plants can't do their job. Envisioning an “environmental machine,” MMA said they aim to design a "solution that celebrates the experience of driving over the Arroyo Seco while sustainably integrating the freeway into its immediate context." MMA also hopes that their proposal inspires others to see the potential that freeways, or any major roadways for that matter, have for developing relationships between transportation agencies, local municipalities, and state agencies. "As an approach to infrastructure, these types of enhancements are not specific to the 134, but are expandable to other freeways," the firm said. This article was first mentioned in the Los Angeles Times.
On a recent Sunday in Pasadena, a half-dozen visitors strolled barefoot across the finished wooden floors of an art gallery, some wearing swimming trunks, others in bikinis or cut-offs, beach towels draped casually across their shoulders as they viewed the work on display. The occasion for this unlikely scene was a steam session hosted by sculptor Michael Parker at the Armory Center for the Arts, part of the exhibition After Victor Papanek: The Future Is Not What It Used to Be. The exhibition, curated by Jeff Cain, explores the legacy of Papanek, a designer and founding dean at Cal Arts, and his impact on art and design culture. Projects from nine practitioners and studios are featured, most of which are based in Los Angeles. Parker’s contribution to the show, Steam Egg II, is a mirror-clad enclosure made up of 115 unique facets carved from foam insulation. The egg rests just a few feet off the ground on three steel legs, which visitors crawl between as they enter the enclosure from a narrow aperture below. Inside, a circular bench accommodates about eight people at a maximum, but felt comfortably occupied with five visitors, who inevitably shared introductions and impressions. “We don’t have that many body experiences as adults,” Parker said a few days prior to the sauna session. Most physical interactions that we experience are athletic, sexual, or more mundane, like a handshake or a high five. Steam Egg provokes gallery visitors to commit to an experience, he said, to move through a circle of sweaty shins, and to enter into an unknown space and social encounter. A water-filled stainless steel bowl rested on an electric hot plate next to the Egg and piped steam through a length of copper pipe. Nearby, in a pair of green swimming trunks, Parker served as the “herb-j,” infusing the steaming water with eucalyptus, varieties of sage, seaweed, and other scents upon request. An ambient soundtrack composed by the Los Angeles duo Lucky Dragons emanated from a portable waterproof speaker inside the sauna. At his studio in the Arts District near Downtown Los Angeles, Parker, who teaches sculpture at California State University, Long Beach, discussed how the work came about. After completing his graduate studies at USC’s Roski School of Fine Art in 2009, he received a travel grant, which took him to a Shaker colony in Maine, an experimental township in India, and the sauna culture of Berlin. His experiences and research focused on ideas of utopias, enclaves, and maternal figures in spirituality. “I kind of thought of this as a weird architectural documentary,” Parker said of the project that emerged from the travels. In 2011 he completed the first iteration of Steam Egg in his studio—an assemblage of cast off pieces of foam insulation discarded from the construction site of a refrigerated warehouse across the street. He started hosting steam session in his studio that winter, and became interested in how curating variables, like soundtrack, herbs infused in the steam, and lighting, impact the experience. “It’s like a mash-up of things,” he said of the conceptual and formal decisions that inspired the egg, including associations of freedom and transcendence that hot air balloons historically embodied, and the Los Angeles Pacific Balloon Route, which once carried trolley passengers from Downtown Los Angeles to beaches in Santa Monica and Venice. Steam Egg challenges not only a visitor’s expectations about their engagement with a work of sculpture in the context of the gallery, but also the fire marshal’s expectations. “I knew that I couldn’t build something that had a ceiling, because I would have to pipe-in a sprinkler head. And it would turn into this totally annoying thing,” said Parker, with a nod to the building codes that govern art installations. “I thought that if I made this thing a round form, somehow nobody would recognize it as a room,” he said. “And it’s worked!” The safety inspectors, who recently asked him to remove a storage space in his studio due to a perceived fire sprinkler obstruction, now respond enthusiastically to the egg during their routine inspections of the space. What might have otherwise elicited a citation for a code violation, now engages a more interested and engaged reaction to the mirrored object. “They’re just like, ‘Whoa, what’s the disco ball?’” Parker said. “And that’s cool!” Following the show at the Armory, Parker plans to install the work in roughly three-week durations in outdoor residential spaces, including driveways and yards of friends around Los Angeles. “I want it to experience smaller spaces, and other personal spaces, and other private spaces,” he said of the work which opens up a physical engagement with our sense of intimacy, sensation, and the spaces around us. “And so to create this experience where you have to commit,” he said. “You just have to go for it.” After Victor Papanek: The Future Is Not What It Used To Be is on view through September 6, 2015 at The Armory Center for the Arts, 145 North Raymond Avenue, Pasadena. Steam Egg is available for steam sauna sessions between 1 pm and 4 pm on 1st and 3rd Sundays: July 19, August 2, August 16, and September 6. Visit the exhibition website or contact the Armory for details and to make reservations.
Word has it that Art Center, which seems to already own all of Downtown Pasadena, has just bought the area’s massive Jacobs Engineering Building. Also on the move, USC Dean Qingyun Ma has relocated his firm’s offices to none other than Downtown LA’s Bradbury Building. How’s that for pressure? And we’ve learned of the initiation beverage of our favorite architecture-related women’s drinking and discussion group: Denise Scotch Brown. What group would Venturi inspire? We shudder to think... Something about Vermouth?
Beverly Hills-based Poon Design has transformed a Pasadena home's porch trellis into a modern mathematical marvel. Using a parametric algorithm, architects Anthony Poon and John Kim used translucent acrylic to create a perforated structure composed of water-jet-cut holes. Circles of varying sizes dot the trellis allowing light to softly filter in while still providing ample shade. “The glowing pattern allows sunlight to stream in alongside constantly changing shadows,” said Poon. The wood frame of the 9-foot structure is supported by galvanized metal poles and covers a 550 square-foot deck made from wood and recycled plastic composite lumber planks. Hexagonal cut-outs pepper the deck reaching out towards the future pool, garden, and guest house. A tree will be planted in the largest opening and align with an aperture above for a truly contemporary look.
Layer: A Loose Horizon Pasadena Museum of California Art 490 East Union Street Pasadena, CA Through October 14, 2012 While digital design and fabrication continue to transform architecture, architect/artists Lisa Little and Emily White have decided to challenge these trends. Although digital forms expand the horizons of design and create intricate patterns, these designs often boils down to mere eye candy. This idea sparked White and Little, the founders of the Los Angeles-based architecture practice Layer, to take the computational approach of digitized aesthetics combined with a perceptual method to create both a physically and intellectually engaging space. The result of this can be seen at their exhibit Layer: A Loose Horizon. Beginning on the exterior of the museums facade, visitors see a web-like structure that toys with depth and proportion while also bridging the exterior and interior space of the museums lobby. Upon entering, guests experience a continuous interaction with the exhibit and become enveloped by the surrounding shapes. To understand the artists' process, sketches and early digital iterations of the project are also be on view.
Next time you visit old town Pasadena you may be in for a suprise. When you slink down an alley off of Fair Oaks and Colorado, the next thing you see will be a four-story, 35-foot-tall skyscraper, sitting in the middle of a courtyard. It's an installation by artist Chris Burden (yes, he's the one that did the cool lights and all the matchbox cars at LACMA) called Small Skyscraper (Quasi Legal Skyscraper). Burden collaborated with LA architects Taalman Koch on the open design, which conists of slabs of 2x4s supported by a thin aluminum frame. Burden started envisioning the project back in the 90s, but at that time the idea was for a solid structure made of concrete blocks. This one is lightweight and seems almost like an erector set. Presented by the Armory Center for the Arts, Small Skyscraper will be on display until November.
Jorge Pardo Armory Center for the Arts 145 North Raymond Ave. Pasadena, California Through November 6 MacArthur-winner Jorge Pardo gained his reputation by blurring the boundaries between art, architecture, and design. In his temporary exhibit in the courtyard of the Armory Center, Pardo engages the surroundings, deploying four pepper trees to act as three-dimensional framing devices for groups of translucent hanging globes. What at first seems to be a festive environment becomes a contemplative one, as visitors sit on benches surrounding the base of the trees and take a closer look at the spheres. Each reveals an ethereal universe inside: delicate reflective materials sit protected from the surrounding activity, casting shimmering, changing light onto the world around them.
Pasadena is celebrating its 125th Anniversary today and will continue partying all month and into the fall. Now a significant city with over 140,000 residents, it was a rural settlement when it decided to become the fourth city to incorporate in Los Angeles County on June 12, 1886. While many know Pasadena for its Rose Bowl, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena Playhouse, and California Institute of Technology, the city is also home to “Bungalow Heaven,” a 16-block Historic Landmark District neighborhood featuring nearly 1,000 Craftsman bungalows. This month features tours of these homes and more. Pasadena was one of the hubs of the American Arts & Crafts movement, which emphasized simplicity of design, hand-made craftsmanship, functionality and natural elements. Typical one-and-a-half story Craftsman bungalows were designed with an open floor plan, wide verandas, broad roofs and polished wood interiors and seamlessly linked the indoors with the out. Perhaps the most famous practitioners of the style were architecture firm Greene & Greene. Established by brothers Charles and Henry Greene, the early 20th century duo designed their bungalow and ultimate bungalow style houses for well-to-do residents. Nine Greene & Greene homes including the Gamble House, the Blacker House, the Freeman Ford House, and the Duncan-Irwin House pepper the city. Special walking tours of these Arts & Crafts homes led by Gamble House docents will take place Saturday, June 18 and Saturday, July 16 at 10am. Admission is $15 and reservations are required. For more information, visit here. In addition, brochures for a self-guided walking tour are available at the Gamble House bookstore. To honor its 125th anniversary as a city, Pasadena began celebrating with a birthday party extravaganza at the Pasadena Museum of History yesterday, followed by concerts, fireworks and more in the summer and fall. For a list of other 125th celebration highlights visit the City of Pasadena website.
Pasadena's Art Center College of Design has always been ambitious about building. But after some pushback, it's toning things down. Most architecture buffs know about the school's iconic black steel hillside campus designed by Craig Ellwood, and its equally ambitious downtown campus designed by Daly Genik, located inside a former Douglas Aircraft wind tunnel. But after its last director, Richard Koshalek, got pushed out largely for his super ambitious $150 million expansion plan, including a $45 million Frank Gehry-designed research center (many thought the school was putting more emphasis on facilities than teaching and students), the school's new expansion plans, confirmed this week, involve renovations and smaller expansions, not big gestures, reports the Pasadena Star News. The college is negotiating to buy a U.S. Post Office-owned building on a 2.4-acre lot at 870 S. Raymond Ave, right next to its downtown campus, and plans to use it as a base for fabrication and design. The plan also includes the expansion of the Ellwood Building, whose winner should be announced in the next couple of months. The overall expansion will cost a much more palatable $45 million, for which the school is now raising funds. And the school has no intention of moving into the city-owned Glenarm Power Plant, on which it holds a 10-year option.
Yesterday we got a sneak peak at the Paul Williams Showcase House in La Canada Flintridge, which 25 (yes 25) designers are working to completely restore and open for tours from April 17 to May 15. The project is part of the Pasadena Showcase of Design, a fundraiser that since its inception in 1965 has seen renovations of significant homes throughout the Pasadena area. The 1927 English Revival manor, with its amazing attention to detail, is an excellent example of Williams' ability to design in a traditional style despite his reputation for contemporary work. The once-musty and fading 7,200 square foot house is being fixed up from top to bottom. Basically, each designer gets a room or two. For example, LA-based David Dalton will be renovating the "Great Room", with its vaulted wood ceiling, leaded windows, and hand carved fireplace, and the "Gentleman's Lounge," inpsired by the Paris apartment of Yves Saint Laurent. "We've had our eye on this house for quite a long time," said Benefit Chair Kathryn Hofgaarden. "It's super important that we preserve its integrity." Stay tuned to see it featured in our House of The Issue when it's all done.
Burdened by more than $3 million in debt, the Pasadena Playhouse closed its doors on Sunday. The nonprofit company intends to “explore viable options of financial reorganization, including bankruptcy, to determine a responsible solution for its ongoing operations,” according to a statement. While the theater’s fate is resolved, the Mission-style building itself, designed by Elmer Grey (who also designed much of CalTech’s campus) in 1925, will be protected, since it’s a California state landmark and owned by the city of Pasadena. But the situation doesn’t bode well for the two-phase project that Frank Gehry had agreed to undertake for the playhouse pro bono. That work included a renovation of its balcony performance space, the Carrie Hamilton Theater, and the creation of a new 300-400 seat theater across the street. This adds to the large number of recently-scuttled or held projects for Gehry Partners. They include: the Grand Avenue project in LA; Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn; the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem; and the King Alfred Center in Hove, England.