Wednesday, November 23, 2022

On the Schedule: December, 2022

This December please join me for at MOCA for "Staying Cool," a look at what architects and engineers Kulapat Yantrasast, Frederick Fisher, Lance Collins and Simone Paz are doing to lighten art's footprint in Art for Earth's Sake... come to talks with me about LA's multifamily housing at book events for Common Ground... join a workshop about "air," featuring artist Laurie Lipton and the team at NAHR at Helms Design Center... and hear from architect Moshe Safdie as I talk to him about his life at the Skirball Museum. Read on for details.

 

Common Ground: The Conversations


Now Common Ground: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles is out, I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to talk about the buildings, the people that live in them and the issues around housing that I explore in the book. Please join me at the following events, open to all:  

On December 1 at 6pm I'll talk about the book with friends at GGA architecture firm in Pasadena.

On December 7 at 12pm I'll join Adrian Scott Fine for an online conversation hosted by the L.A. Conservancy; and then December 7 at 3pm, I'll talk about the book on Zoom with Cole Akers and friends of the Glass House.

I should add that I’m learning that readers take away different things from the book, whether it’s a case for community centered housing or a celebration of historic bungalow courts or simply a validation of apartment living, in a region that demeans it. But the book is also intended to raise questions about some of the design decisions surrounding contemporary multifamily housing. Take for example, the apartment buildings now appearing on our arterials. Home should offer peace and respite. How can you achieve that in buildings that face multi-lane thoroughfares? I'll talk about the surprising takeaways from the secret gardens of LA’s housing heritage (like El Cabrillo, above, by Arthur and Nina Zwebell, photo credit: Art Gray) when I meet the architects at GGA on Dec 1. Hope to see you there.

 

Tilt Up: A fundraiser to support the Kings Road House 

In 1922, R.M. Schindler and his wife Pauline, and Clyde Chace, an engineer, and his wife Marian took up residence in what was probably the world's most radical duplex: the King's Road House in West Hollywood. Made of tilt-up concrete slabs (with tips on this new construction system from Irving Gill), the building consisted of an S-shaped sequence of single, undefined rooms (one for each resident to use at will) wrapped round two grassy courts, with light penetrating from slender vertical windows, and expansive sliding wood-framed glass screens. There were sleeping baskets atop the structure, capping a building that was highly experimental structurally, socially and even in terms of bedroom planning! 100 years later this marvelous house, now a cultural center run by MAK, the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, is suffering the ravages of age -- and needs a costly overhaul. So on Sunday, December 4, at  4:30 - 6:30 pm, the Friends of the Schindler House (FOSH) will host a fundraiser.

Enticements include drinks and appetizers under a tent on the grounds; access to purchase one-of-a-kind commemorative "classic napkin sketch" mementos created by the architect, design, and art community and a limited edition deck of 12 photo images of the Schindler House through the lens of six celebrated contemporary photographers.

Click here for details.

 

AIR: Commons, Chaotic Fluid, Inspiration

Last year the Nature, Art and Habitat Residency (NAHR) invited people working at the intersection of art and the environment to contemplate soil. For the 2023 Residency, the topic is air, specifically “AIR: Commons, Chaotic Fluid, Inspiration.”

On Thursday, December 8th from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, come to the design center at Helms Bakery District for an evening conversation about the role of air as a connector, and help imagine future scenarios about how and what we will be breathing. Questions on the agenda include:

    How can human relationships with air help to stop or slow the climate crisis?
    What is our awareness of the ecology of air?
    How does air connect us and highlight issues of global justice?

NAHR's co-chairs Deborah Weintraub and Richard Molina and I will moderate the dialogue, following a keynote to be delivered by Laurie Lipton, remarkable artist of epic, dystopic visions of domestic and urban life today rendered in intense pencil drawings. Her latest opus is entitled, appropriately enough, Smoke.

Click here for details.


Art for Earth's Sake

Staying Cool: Designers Green Art Buildings

Museums and private collections can generate a high energy footprint, from the construction of new buildings to the climate-controlled storage. Add to that the emissions and waste generated by the production, installation and demolition of temporary exhibitions and art fairs. So what are architects and designers doing to lighten this impact? Does the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA itself offer clues–through its genesis as an adaptively reused, rather than new, building? What can we learn from “living buildings,” and how to keep museums cool as they use more and more computer technologies to tell their stories? 

Get answers on Sunday, Dec 11, starting at 3pm, when I talk with architects Kulapat Yantrasast of WHY Architecture, designer of permanent and temporary art spaces including David Kordansky Gallery, the Academy Museum, and the installation for Frieze LA; Frederick Fisher, whose firm has designed art spaces from MoMA P.S.1 to the expansion of the Los Angeles Natural History Museum; and Lance Collins, director at Partner Energy, provider of energy efficient engineering for buildings including the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, along with expertise in Environmental, Social, Governance and Resilience (ESGR). They will be joined on stage by Simone Paz, MOCA’s Associate Director of Sustainability.

Click here for details.

 

If Walls Could Speak: My Life in Architecture

Moshe Safdie in Conversation 

In 1967, Moshe Safdie stunned the architecture world when he designed Habitat, a landmark demonstration project for the 1967 Montreal World Exposition. The extraordinary superstructure was made of 365 prefab concrete modules containing 158 apartments of varying sizes that opened onto personal open spaces and garden terraces, typically found in single-family homes. 

Habitat pioneered a vision for high density urban housing, and Safdie went onto to forge a career spanning five decades, and including L.A.'s very own Skirball Cultural Center. 

On Sunday, December 11, starting at 6:00 pm, I will talk with Safdie about his new memoir, If Walls Could Speak, which "takes readers behind the veil of an essential yet mysterious profession to explain how an architect thinks and works—from the spark of imagination through the design process, the model-making, the politics, the engineering, and the materials." 

Safdie is a warm and lively conversationalist so I look forward to speaking with him, and hope you will join us.

Click here for details.


 


Thursday, November 3, 2022

On the Schedule: November 2022

This November please join me for at MOCA Art for Earth's Sake x 2 -- a look at art in which the medium is the message, and then the "dirty topic" of environmental injustice, captured by Los Angeles artists... come to talks about LA's multifamily housing at book events for Common Ground... an Art World 101 in smARTtalks at Helms Design Center, with Shana Nys Dambrot, Miles Regis, Ronnie Pirovino, Heidi Johnson, and Daniel Nomad... a tasty talk about The Menu with Evan Kleiman and Sang Yoon, hosted by KCRW...and a peon to the eternal modernist ethos with Michael Boyd and Michael Webb at Helms Design Center. Read on for details.

 

Art for Earth's Sake x 2

Dirty Topic: Environmental Justice in L.A. Art

On Sunday, November 20, Art for Earth's Sake considers environmental justice. Many Angelenos live in neighborhoods devastated by the environmental blights of polluted air (from refineries, manufacturing, shipping, freeway and air traffic) and toxic waste at brownfield sites. Some LA artists have found ways to bear witness to this environmental (in)justice. 

 Jennifer Swann, a reporter whose stories include coverage of an art biennale at Salton Sea, will lead a conversation between Eric Avila, scholar of the Chicano painters who captured Boyle Heights when it was destroyed by freeways, joins Kim Abeles, whose work address the invisible killer -- smog -- and Maru Garcia, maker of artworks about the lead-contaminated soil at the Exide battery plant in Southeast LA (her artwork Membrane Tensions, 2021, is shown above).  

How much can these testaments to inequity also serve as calls to action? Find out, at the Geffen at MOCA at 12pm, 11/20. 

That's followed right after by The G•Spot, a traveling festival organized with fashion designer Rio Uribe, and celebrating LA-based LGBTQ and BIPOC artists. Uribe will lead a panel entitled, Qué Onda: The New Wave of Chicanx Artists and Creators with Rafa Esparza, Willy Chavarria, Lupe Rosales, and Selena Ruiz. And while at the Geffen, check out Judith F. Baca: World Wall, nine panels from Baca's famed, utopian, collaborative, portable mural World Wall: A Vision of the Future Without Fear, begun in 1987.

Click here for details.

The Medium is the Message 

On Saturday, November 5, head down to the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA where we continue the series Art for Earth's Sake (that I've co-organized). Moderator Jason EC Wright, artists Lily Kwong and Julia Christensen, NRDC's director of art partnerships Elizabeth Corr, and bio-sonifier Modern Biology will consider art in which the Medium is the Message: Clean Artmaking from Earth to Outer Space. 

Forget toxic paints and glazes, fixatives and glues. Think installations made of plant materials that comment on our relationship with flora and fauna (Kwong, above); or a self-regenerating space ship conceptualized to raise awareness about e-waste and the upgrade economy (Christensen;) and, to conclude, a sound experience drawn from the plant life on display. But is this didactic art also good art? And how effective is its message? 

The convo kicks off at 3pm in the outdoor plaza but you should make an afternoon of it, and catch the unmissable Judith F. Baca: World. Wall and Garrett Bradley: American Rhapsody while you are at the museum. And then catch Henry Taylor: B Side at MOCA Grand Avenue, opening on the 6th!

Click here for details.

 

Common Ground: The Conversations

Now Common Ground: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles is out, I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to talk about the buildings, the people that live in them and the issues around housing that I explore in the book. Please join me at the following events, open to all:  

-- On November 1, at 12 noon, I'll join Jon Haeber and the California Preservation Foundation for an online conversation. Later on November 1 I will head to the welcoming community bookstore Village Well in Culver City to sit down with councilman Alex Fisch, currently running for reelection and a passionate advocate for housing for all.

-- On November 6 I will meet online with Sian Winship and friends at the Society of Architecture Historians

-- On November 10 I'll be at Santa Monica Museum with Tara Barauskas, Executive Director of the nonprofit Community Corporation of Santa Monica. We will focus on Santa Monica and its rich legacy of multifamily housing role as well as the innovative affordable housing by Community Corp (such as The Arroyo, designed by KEA, shown in photo above by Eric Staudenmaier). We will also screen this film about Community Corp at 40, that I co-produced.

-- On November 12 at 2:30pm I'll sit down with John Ripley and Juan Dela Cruz at Pasadena Heritage (John and Juan shared their invaluable knowledge about bungalow courts with me for the book), and then on November 12 at 5:00pm I will join architect Michael Folonis and photographer Art Gray and members of AIA/LA for a tour and book talk at Millennium Santa Monica. MSM is the new multifamily building whose side facade appears on the cover of the book and demonstrates how it is possible to create a very large and dense apartment building without double loaded corridors and with plenty of personal and shared outdoor spaces! 

On December 1 at 6pm I'll talk about the book with friends at GGA architecture firm in Pasadena.

On December 7 at 1pm I'll join Adrian Scott Fine for an online conversation hosted by the L.A. Conservancy; and then December 7 at 3pm, I'll talk about the book on Zoom with Cole Akers and friends of the Glass House.

 

smARTtalks 2022

Since cofounding Crewest Studio more than two decades ago, Scott "Sourdough" Power, Man One and their team have developed programs, podcasts, events and grants programs aimed at elevating artists and helping them thrive commercially. Now Power has co-created a series of talks to educate artists at every stage of their careers about the art world -- how to navigate it, how to think about the issues confronting it. The ticketed series takes place at Helms Design Center, starting September 24.

smARTtalk 2 takes place Saturday, November 12, with a terrific line up of industry insiders and critics who will take on two juicy topics: 

--The Power of Story in Selling Art: How Narrative Can Help Artists Drive Sales in a Social Media Landscape with speakers: Shana Nys Dambrot (above) and Miles Regis 

--Has Digital Art Finally Earned Respect? How Web3, NFTs, AR, VR, AI and The Metaverse Are Impacting The Art World with speakers: Ronnie Pirovino, Heidi Johnson, and Daniel Nomad 

Click here for details. 


The Menu

On Tuesday, November 15, I'll join Evan Kleiman, beloved host of KCRW's Good Food, and chef and restaurateur Sang Yoon for a tasty conversation about restaurant design, following a screening of the outrageously brilliant forthcoming new movie The Menu. Think of a ritualized foodie experience on the level of Vespertine, add madness and murder, and you get the picture.

Click here for details. 

 

Millennium Modern

Designer and composer Michael Boyd lives by Le Corbusier’s mantra: “To be modern is not a fashion, it is a state." Now he has created an opus to celebrate that state: the lavishly illustrated compendium of essentialist design, MILLENNIUM MODERN Living in Design. On Wednesday, November 16, I'll sit down with him and his friend and editor Michael Webb to discuss modernism as design philosophy and mode of being an in age of distraction. That's at 6:30pm at Helms Design Center.

Click here for details.

 


 


 


 

 


Sunday, October 16, 2022

On the Schedule: October 2022

October is busy, busy, busy, with the release of my book Common Ground: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles... and an audio tour with Steve Chiotakis of three of the buildings in Common Ground, aired on KCRW.

Also launching this month: Community Corp at 40, a short film I co-produced about the Santa Monica-based affordable housing developer with a big impact...

...MOCA's new series Art for Earth's Sake (that I helped organize) opens 10/2 with Bonnie Brennan, President of Christie's Americas, being beamed in as a hologram (to save on travel!)... then on 10/22 hear from Charlotte Kent, Glenn Kaino and Nancy Baker Cahill on digital art and its energy impact IRL.

And my friends at FORT:LA (Friends of Residential Treasures) hold a Candy House fundraiser, with a performance by grand dame of punk Taquila Mockingbird, also on 10/22.

Then there are design fests at Palm Springs fall Modernism Week, opening 10/14, the AIA/LA Design Awards on 10/28, and starting 10/28, the Monterey Design Conference, co-emcee'ed by yours truly.

 

MOCA: Art for Earth's Sake

Sunday, October 2/Sunday, October 22; 5:00pm


Artists are increasingly exploring the climate crisis in their work. But what about the art world’s contribution to the climate crisis, from its boundless international travel to the growth of energy-intensive art forms and installations? Does tech have some answers?

MOCA considers the creative ways in which the art world is addressing its own environmental footprint in Art for Earth’s Sake, a series of public talks in the fall that I have helped organize, with Livia Mandoul. Invited artists, academics, activists, industry insiders and journalists will explore topics ranging from greening art facilities and art fairs to reckoning with environmental justice and considering whether holograms of art and artists might be the way to keep art local. Finally, the program will consider the impact of making the industry more sustainable on artistic expression itself.

The series kicks off on Sunday, October 2nd, at MOCA Grand Avenue, with "The Art World Meets the Crisis."Michael Wang, Deborah Scacco, Russell Fortmeyer, will set the stage with a conversation about artistic reflections on climate change along with the operational realities of transporting, displaying and making art. They will be joined by Bonnie Brennan, the New York-based President of Christie's Americas, beamed in as a hologram by David Nussbaum and Proto  -- demonstrating a tech solution to keeping a global industry local.

Then, on Saturday, October 22, also at MOCA Grand Avenue, artists Glenn Kaino ("A Forest for the Trees," above); Nancy Baker Cahill and moderator Charlotte Kent will meditate on Art on Screens and its Energy Impact IRL. Can the art world have its carbon cake and eat it? Is the Ethereum Merge a game-changer? Kaino and Cahill, two artists testing the potential of web3, will talk with Charlotte Kent, arts writer “with a particular interest in digital culture and the absurd,” about using tech creatively to solve the problems created by tech. 

This conversation is part of Grand Ave Arts All Access, an afternoon of free fun hosted by MOCA and neighboring institutions on Grand Avenue. In addition to the 5pm convo, at MOCA you can join an interactive workshop inspired by Cromosaturación (1965/2012) by Carlos Cruz-Diez, catch DJ sets from Sylmar Soundsystem b2b Langosta, Sanam, and Maral, a live performance by Soltera, and go gift-shopping at the store’s annual sidewalk sale.

Click here for more details.

 

Book launch: Common Ground: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles


Think of "home" in Los Angeles and what comes to mind? Very likely the single family home in a large yard. But that is not the full picture. The region has also been a laboratory for marvelous experiments in multifamily living and over the past year I've been working on a book about some of them. 

Now Common Ground: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles is done and will be published October 11 by Angel City Press. We will have a book party at Helms Bakery District on Saturday, October 1, at 2pm.

Common Ground is my valentine to an under-appreciated type of housing in Los Angeles: connected, mostly rental, centered on shared open space. In sum, a way of living that is a variant on the exalted SoCal single family home, and that can be lovely when stable, equitable and well-designed. It has been modeled in some marvelous complexes past and present -- from the bungalow courts and luxe apartment-hotels of the 1910s; through period-revival and modernist courtyard complexes, New Deal-era garden apartments; to contemporary, "affordable" and market rate housing complexes; and on to co-living and the return to low-rise backyard complexes.

Frank Gehry, architect of the apartment building I have lived in for many years that got me thinking about the design, history and politics of multifamily housing in LA, calls the book "part architectural memoir, part call to arms," and Russell Brown, founder of FORT: LA, found it "an engrossing urban journey peppered with fascinating human stories that presents a vision of Los Angeles that is unexpected and revelatory." It is full of fabulous photographs of great buildings and stories of the talents that made them and the people that live in them.

Party

Please join me on Saturday, October 1, at the book party. Click here to register, and if you can't make it, there are plenty more book events coming up in November. 

Buy the book

Or, order a copy online here, and note that Angel City Press is offering a 30% discount on all its books through October, to celebrate its 30th birthday. Promo code: 30for30. That's for Common Ground or any other ACP books including Googie Modern: Architectural Drawings of Armet Davis Newlove, co-authored by Alan Hess; Regarding Paul R. Williams, the book of photographs of Williams' buildings by Janna Ireland; and Thomas Mann's Los Angeles. Or you can buy the book on Amazon.com. If you you like the book, I'd be so grateful if you'd write a little review for that site.

Audio tour of the buildings

I took KCRW's Steve Chiotakis on a tour of three of the buildings featured in the book: Lincoln Place, Rose Apartments and the "3rd Street Compound." Catch his reactions and commentary from residents, property owners and the architect Angela Brooks, of Brooks + Scarpa (Rose Apartments.)

Click here to listen to the episode on KCRW's Greater LA.


FORT:LA Candy House Fundraiser

Saturday, October 22, 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
 

Appreciating architecture can be an earnest business, except when Russell Brown gets involved. Last year, the independent film-maker (whose latest, Loren & Rose, is a captivating conversation piece starring Jacqueline Bisset) and a group of friends founded Friends of Residential Treasures: Los Angeles, a nonprofit devoted to raising awareness of L.A. homes, through self-guided trails created by invited tourguides. Brown avoids the obvious, seeking a wide breadth of "treasures," such as lesser-known homes by Edla Muir and James Homer Garrott while reviving interest in the late Frank Israel. The trails are packaged with witty titles, catchy design and humor. 

FORT:LA has already garnered an award from the LA Conservancy and now will host a fundraiser to keep going. The Candy House Fundraiser takes place Saturday evening, October 22, at a fab Los Feliz Spanish-Colonial revival house (address delivered on ticket purchase), complete with performance by punk-jazz priestess Taquila Mockingbird, and an auction whose goodies include a signed copy of Common Ground, by yours truly, or better yet, a private tour by me of the "sweetest samples of Multifamily Housing in LA."

Click here for info and tickets.


Community Corp: 40 Years of Building Community

"Everything We Stand for in Just 13 Minutes"

While researching Common Ground, which includes a chapter on the masterfully designed affordable housing of the last few decades, I got to learn a lot about Community Corporation of Santa Monica, a nonprofit developer that got its start forty years ago amidst a battle over rising rents and housing instability in the Ocean Park neighborhood of Santa Monica. 

Under great leadership, the corporation set out to maintain, adapt and build new housing, and tapped some of LA's emerging architectural talent to do so -- including Ralph Mechur, Marc Appleton, Frederick Fisher & Partners, Koning Eizenberg, Brooks + Scarpa, Patrick Tighe, Stephen Kanner, Don Empakaris and many more. They modeled buildings centered on shared open space -- for passive energy savings and social reasons -- with distinctive design that offset their often challenging sites. Along the way they've forged a cohesive sense of belonging for the residents of the buildings.

On invitation from the current executive director Tara Barauskas, I got to tell their stories, along with the history and mission of Community Corp, in this video I made for Community Corp, in collaboration with videographer Hans Fjellestad, to mark the developer's 40th anniversary. Enjoy!

 

Also on the schedule this month...

Modernism Week, October 13 - 16. The ever-popular high desert Modernism shindig celebrates its fall preview -- now large enough to count almost as a Modernism week in itself.

AIA/LA Design Awards -- the party to celebrate its annual design awards winners and presidential honorees takes place on October 27, at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Congrats to Gabrielle Bullock, Shin Shin, Lance Collins and all the other honorees.

Monterey Design Conference, October 28 - 30. I'm honored to co-emcee this year's Monterey Design Conference, the annual archi-gathering at the beloved Asilomar, the complex of sixteen Arts & Crafts-infused “refuge by the sea,” designed by Julia Morgan. I'll be helping introduce luminaries including Leslie Lokko, Deborah Berke, Bijoy Jain and L.A.'s very own Lorcan O'Herlihy.

Friday, September 23, 2022

On The Schedule, September 2022

The fall heats up, as Helms Design Center offers an art world 101 at smART Talks with Scott Power and Crewest ... Joseph Giovannini talks with me at Helms Design Center about Architecture Unbound, his opus on the twentieth century avantgarde... and Anthony Fontenot and guests Barbara Bestor and Yours Truly consider the "social landscape" created by the great Gregory Ain at book talk at Hennessey + Ingalls, hosted by the L.A. Forum AUD. The Forum also considers personal space after the Pandemic at Welcome Back, at Helms.. meanwhile the Welcome Blankets conceived by designer and social entrepreneur Jayna Zweiman complete their run. Read on for details...

 

Architecture Unbound: Book Talk with author Joseph Giovannini

Thursday, September 29, 6:30pm, at Helms Design Center


In 1989, when I was a young associate editor at the Architectural Review magazine in London, I was sent on a press trip to Vienna, Austria, to see designs by an emerging firm named Coop Himmel(b)lau. Wolf Prix and partner Helmut Swiczinsky had just shaken up the city with an off-kilter, visually chaotic structure made of paneled glass and folding and jutting steel that appeared to crash through the rooftop offices of a law firm on historic Falkestrasse. 

There was possibly noone on that trip who was more excited by this "deconstruction" of a stolid building than a critic named Joseph Giovannini, my seat-mate on the press bus and enduring friend. Giovannini, who is perhaps known best to Los Angeles architecture afficionados for his scathing critiques of the LACMA expansion designed by Peter Zumthor, went on to become a huge devotee, practitioner and chronicler of deconstructivism and its players.

Now he has released an opus, Architecture Unbound, situating Coop Himmel(b)lau and other “disruptors” such as Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, and the late Zaha Hadid, within a history of twentieth-century avant-garde movements, encompassing physics and math; computing, music and painting; politics, psychology and social upheaval.

On the evening of September 29, at 6:30pm, I will talk with Joseph about about Architecture Unbound at Helms Design Center. Please join us for a reception and conversation. 

Click here for details. 


smARTtalks 2022: Empowering Artists with Expert Discussions

Helms Design Center; Saturday, September 24, 10am

Since cofounding Crewest Studio more than two decades ago, Scott "Sourdough" Power, Man One and their team have developed programs, podcasts, events and grants programs aimed at elevating artists and helping them thrive commercially. Now Power has co-created a series of talks to educate artists at every stage of their careers about the art world -- how to navigate it, how to think about the issues confronting it. It takes place at Helms Design Center starting Saturday, September 24. The ticketed series is free.

Power and and a stellar line-up of speakers will take on topics including The Creative Economy, Trends in Public Art, Race and the Arts, Exploitation in the Arts; Web3 and NFTs, Trauma and the Arts and more. It hits the ground running on Saturday with three conversations -- about coming back from the Pandemic, about how to market an Art Toy and about "The Long Overdue and Beautiful Rise of BIPOC Artists in the Primary Art Market: A Sincere and Permanent Correction or Cynical Opportunism by Art Dealers?" --  with speakers April Banks, Badir McCleary, Sarah Mantilla Griffin, and Man One.

The talks take place monthly in the fall, at the Helms Design Center. Click here for details.

 

Notes from Another Los Angeles: Gregory Ain and the Construction of a Social Landscape

Book Talk with Anthony Fontenot, Hennessey and Ingalls; September 22; 5:30 pm

One of the most radical architects in twentieth century Los Angeles was Gregory Ain. Anthony Fontenot, professor at Woodbury University, explains just why in his new book, Notes from Another Los Angeles: Gregory Ain and the Construction of a Social Landscape.  

As Fontenot writes, Ain (1908–1988) "collaborated with some of the most important figures of midcentury design, including Rudolph Schindler, Richard Neutra, and Charles and Ray Eames, and yet remains relatively unknown. Perhaps one reason for this anonymity is that although he designed private homes for wealthy liberals, Ain was more interested in finding ways to produce high-quality, low-cost houses in well-designed neighborhood settings for working-class families. Fontenot explores the innovative, cooperative housing projects "that synthesized Ain’s architectural and political ideals." In an event hosted by L.A. Forum at Hennessey + Ingalls at One Santa Fe, Fontenot will discuss Ain's work and life with architect Barbara Bestor and me. It takes place on Thursday, September 22, at 5:30 pm. 

Click here for details.


Welcome Back: L.A. Forum presents a Balloon Installation and Community Dialogue about Space in a post-Pandemic World

Helms Design Center, Sunday, September 18, 2:00 - 4:00 pm

-- What do you define as a safe space, physical or mental?
-- What spaces did you wish to have more access to or were grateful for?
-- How did your spatial routine change?

These are just some of the questions posed to members a couple of months back by the L.A. Forum AUD. The goal was to stimulate reflection on space and how our perceptions and expectations were changed by the pandemic, which, says the Forum, caused personal space to "increase for some and decrease for others, with access to and options for different safe physical and mental spaces being sadly granted on the basis of income and privilege."                                     

People wrote their answers on balloons. "The balcony became my stage and the neighbors my (captive) audience," wrote one participant. "Alone in the empty city. So vast, so quiet, for me alone," said another. For my own part, I was lucky enough to spend many hours under the gentle canopy of our apartment building's old Brazilian Pepper tree (above). 

On Sunday, September 18, those balloons will be blown up and displayed at Helms Design Center; and I'll help lead a conversation about the findings. This is a chance to come together and reflect on the longterm impact of a two-year experiment in living in space, in ways "unfamiliar and mostly unprecedented."

The event starts at 2pm at Helms Design Center at 8745 Washington Boulevard. Click here for more details, and hope to see you there.

"2022, we are ‘normal’ again but I hold space for the new ‘me’ I found."

 

Welcome Blanket

Helms Design Center, through September 24th; Viewing Hours on Saturdays from 12:00 to 4:00 PM

In 2017 Jayna Zweiman, a Harvard-trained architecture grad, joined forces with some activist knitters and created the Pussyhat. This ostensibly cute, pink, yarn beanie became an overnight emblem of female rage and empowerment at the 2017 Women's Marches following the 2016 election. 

Many people might have stopped there. But Zweiman does not think small. Pussyhat was but one of her global-scale crowd-sourcing concepts which combine "architecture, art, craft, and new media to focus on experiences that overlap physical, virtual, and conceptual spaces." Now you can see the fruits of another project, Welcome Blanket, in which she has tapped volunteers across the country to knit, crochet or quilt blankets, for donation to refugees arriving in the USA. This too was prompted by the previous administration. Zweiman, who draws inspiration from her own family's refugee experience, fleeing Eastern Europe, describes Welcome Blanket as "a reconceptualization of the 2000-mile length of the proposed border wall as 2000-mile length of yarn."

Some of the Welcome Blankets are on exhibit, for the first time in Los Angeles at Helms Bakery District. Next they go to Skirball Cultural Center and LAX airport. 

Click here for details and viewing hours.

 

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Hot off the press: Common Ground

Common Ground: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles

Think of "home" in Los Angeles and what comes to mind? Very likely the single family home in a large yard. But that is not the full picture. The region has also been a laboratory for marvelous experiments in multifamily living and over the past year I've been working on a book about some of them. 

Now Common Ground: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles is done and will be published October 11 by Angel City Press. We will have a book party at Helms Bakery District on Saturday, October 1, at 2pm.

Common Ground is my valentine to an under-appreciated type of housing in Los Angeles: connected, mostly rental, centered on shared open space. In sum, a way of living that is a variant on the exalted SoCal single family home, and that can be lovely when stable, equitable and well-designed. It has been modeled in some marvelous complexes past and present -- from the bungalow courts and luxe apartment-hotels of the 1910s; through period-revival and modernist courtyard complexes, New Deal-era garden apartments; to contemporary, "affordable" and market rate housing complexes; and on to co-living and the return to low-rise backyard complexes.

Common Ground features buildings by the Heineman brothers, the Zwebells, R.M. Schindler, Richard Neutra, John Lautner, Ralph Vaughn, Paul Williams, Koning Eizenberg, Brooks + Scarpa, Michael Maltzan, Michael Folonis, Ma Yansong, Lorcan O’Herlihy, Shin Shin, Elizabeth Timme, Design, Bitches, and many more. It also shines a light on creative complexes like St. Elmo Village and L.A. Eco-Village, created by visionary individuals.

As stated by Frank Gehry, architect of the apartment building I have lived in for many years that got me thinking about the design, history and politics of multifamily housing in LA, the book is "part architectural memoir, part call to arms," that "will get people looking at and thinking about multi-family architecture in a new way." Russell Brown, founder of FORT: LA, calls it "an engrossing urban journey peppered with fascinating human stories that presents a vision of Los Angeles that is unexpected and revelatory." It is full of fabulous photographs of great buildings and the people that live in them, laid out gracefully by J. Eric Lynxwiler and the team at Angel City Press.

Featured photographers include Leonard Nadel, Julius Shulman, Art Gray, Tim Street-Porter, Benny Chan, Paul Vu, Eric Staudenmaier, Jceal Parker, Cynthia Alexandra and Caitlin Atkinson.

The book contains surprises (like an unbuilt apartment tower by John Lautner and a brutalist high-rise in Westwood Village by Victor Gruen). It considers how thoughtful designers get rid of the double-loaded corridor and introduce light from multiple aspects in apartment buildings. It reflects on the "court system," and why it has been so enduring in the Southland; and it reveals that the best multifamily buildings in Los Angeles are invariably secret "worlds within worlds."

Pre-order a copy here, and please join me on Saturday, October 1, at the book party. Click here to register. Watch this space for book events coming up -- at Santa Monica Museum, Pasadena Heritage, Monterey Design Conference, Modernism Week, the Glass House, and more.


 








Wednesday, May 25, 2022

On the Schedule, May/June 2022

 

Cars, Art and Fashion
Rodeo Drive: The Podcast 


Rodeo Drive: The Podcast, that I help script, features stories about the makers and shakers behind the the three-block capital of high fashion. Needless to say, cars are part of that universe, as explored in Episode 6, dropping June 8, in advance of the Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance, on Father’s Day. Listeners will hear about AutoVault, the hidden collection of extraordinary cars stored and restored by Scot Prescott, three stories underneath Rodeo Drive. Prescott (shown, above, with his pet dogs) tours intrepid Field Correspondent Jason E.C. Wright around his padded garage and recounts his journey from New Hampshir where he dreamed of becoming "king of car-washing" to custom car detailing.  Every car has a story, he says, like the 1934 Rolls-Royce stored there by a woman whose family has owned the car for generations. “The family assigns people to take care of the car, because this car is a family member. And she has been assigned to take care of this car. She lives in California, so the car lives here.”
 
 
Also on the show, Pari Ehsan, above, talks to Lindsay Brewer, who is racing in Indy Pro 2000 and has a social media following of more than three million. She opens up about how to beat the boys on the track, and be a serious driver while maintaining a glamorous brand that is essential for building sponsorship. She also previews her new line of unisex, 80s skiwear-inspired clothing.  “I race and I enjoy that,” Brewer tells host “But I also can have the full face of makeup and do my hair and look glamorous, because that's what I like to do, too, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.”
 
 
Rodeo Drive: The Podcast, Episode 5, dropping May 25, considers high fashion and its cultural imprint. Host Pari Ehsan talks with Antwaun Sargent (above), curator and author of The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion, and director at Gagosian. They discuss the dissolving of boundaries between art and fashion today, about diversity and inclusion and how to do it authentically, and about the amazing Virgil Abloh show that Sargent collaborated on with the late great artistic director of Louis Vuitton's menswear collection. Meanwhile, design researcher and art book bibliophile Jason E.C. Wright checks out the boutiques on Rodeo Drive that have morphed into mini-museums. 

 

Through June 18

The Harmonious World of James Hubbell


You may know the Sea Ranch Chapel and the Firebird stained glass panel at Findhorn. What about his bedroom for his four sons, above? These are just three of Hubbell's astonishing creations inspired by the materials and forms of Mother Nature, now on show in L.A. for the first time. The exhibition closes on June 18. Catch it before it goes. On June 11 at 3pm, the Society of Architectural Historians (Socal Chapter) hosts a guided tour, led by Jim's son Drew Hubbell. Get the scoop on growing up in a place that feels like Middle Earth. Tix available, here. Address: 8745 Washington Boulevard Culver City.  


AIA/SF Housing+ Symposium
 
June 16/17, 9AM
 
 
For more on housing, I’ll join a panel of creative thinkers on June 16, for Day 1 of a 2-day, online symposium about Future Typologies for a Livable and Equitable San Francisco, hosted by AIA/SF. I’ll join a lineup of experts, MC'ed by Pedram Farashbandi, Principal at David Baker Architects (see their Edwina Benner Plaza above) and we will discuss both the policy and culture around housing in California. Expect to hear about the fixation on the single-family house and why and how to shake it. Sign up here.

 
All that Glitters is Gold
June 9

 
Since meeting at the University of Florida, Angie Brooks and Larry Scarpa have spent a life together creating bold buildings that advance the art, technology and social impact of architecture — while always sprinkling on a little bit of the fairy dust, like the glitter stucco at their newly opened Venice Community Housing, above. Now they’ve garnered one of the highest national honors for their work: the AIA's 2022 Gold Medal. We’re marking the occasion with a reception and a little light conversation at Helms Bakery District on June 9, at 6:30pm. Having grown up in a family restaurant, Larry knows how to throw a party. Join us by RSVP-ing, here
 
Sly Satisfaction of Sogetsu Ikebana
June 11

 
On Saturday, June 11, at 2pm, at the design center at Helms Bakery District, architect Ravi Gunewardena will talk about the history and practice of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, whose LA branch he now directs. A birthday gift of five lessons birthed a passion for this floral art form that attracted him for its spatial qualities and the "sly satisfaction of immediately realizing a work which would then be dismantled." Ravi will give a demo alongside his latest installation, which meshes a freeform metal structure (made of detritus from a Helms showroom) with vases of cut flowers. Open and free to all. While at Ravi’s workshop (or the Brooks Scarpa party), make sure to check out In Harmony With Nature, an exhibition of work by James Hubbell also at Helms. Address: 8745 Washington Boulevard Culver City. More details here.

 
Wasted Wins
 
 
Wasted, the series I co-produced and hosted for KCRW about creative ways in which Californians are designing their way out of humongous piles of waste, has won a 2022 Golden Mike award for "Best Feature News Series Reporting." Of course I’m pleased (and props to my co-creators Caleigh Wells and Sonya Geis) but more importantly, it validates my deepening interest in this topic. The research has spawned various offshoots including, most recently, a conversation at  IIDA LA DesignConnect with Richard Ludt, fascinating interior demolition expert. I was shocked to hear him say that in the business of TI (Tenant Improvement), typically nothing, literally nothing, left by a past occupant is maintained when a new company leases a space, not even 100% perfect carpet tiles. This revelation, how to change TI expectations, and more was captured on Instagram Live, here.  

 
Reaching for the Prize
May 26, 5pm
It's a tough job but several people want to do it: be the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles. On Thursday, May 26, at 5pm, AIA/LA will host a Q&A with candidate Rick Caruso, shopping center magnate and former Department of Water and Power Commissioner. Hear his vision for a great city and his plans to address the challenges of housing, climate, and racial equality. Bring your questions to this Zoom gathering that I'll moderate. Info, here.



Thursday, April 14, 2022

On The Schedule, April 2022

Yearning for a greener metropolis? You are not alone. Meet the designers, artists and thinkers who are figuring out ways to reconnect with nature at Seeding The City: Nature in LA in the 21st Century; and see Sea Ranch Chapel and other extraordinary buildings and decorative arts made In Harmony With Nature: The Architectural Work of James Hubbell, both at Helms Bakery District.  The "rewilding" movement is growing and I'll discuss it with Steve Chiotakis on KCRW's Greater LA. Then I'll talk with James Rojas and John Kamp about their new book, Dream Play Build, about their highly creative way to plan places and spaces. Learn how elected officials tackle land-use at roundtables with some of the mayoral candidates for the City of Angeles that I'll moderate at AIA/LA. And on a lighter note, high fashion goes into the metaverse and the Beverly Wilshire gets a makeover. Hear more stories from Rodeo Drive: The Podcast.


Seeding The City: Nature in LA in the 21st Century

Saturday, April 23; 12 noon - 5pm; at Helms Bakery District 


As Los Angeles builds up, connection to the land gets further out of reach for many people. This rupture was underscored by the pandemic, when access to clean air, open space, plants and pets became an essential tonic. So Helms Bakery District has invited some of LA's most talented and creative designers, artists and landscape architects to share the ways they are greening the city beyond the traditional backyard. Meet them and see their work at Seeding The City: Nature in LA in the 21st Century, a one-day program of talks, interactive workshops and popup installations taking place Saturday, April 23; 12 noon - 5pm, and free and open to all.

You'll learn about rewilding your sidewalk; soil remediation and the magic of mushrooms (with a truffle pasta tasting!); and how, and whether, to put trees on roofs. Visit a ‘forest’ of biophilia posters and stop off at an unusual chess garden. Celebrate LA’s parks and dream up your own perfect Eden. Experience slow fashion and natural dyeing, watch an ikebana installation unfurl before your very eyes, and pedal power your way to a free fruit smoothie on a bike blender.

Seeding The City is anchored by In Harmony With Nature, an exhibition of work by the maverick artist-designer James Hubbell (see below.)

I'll moderate talks about soil, rewilding, greening the roof and filming nature in the auditorium at Helms Design Center, from 12 noon -- 4pm, with these great guests: 

Soil -- Evan Kleiman (KCRW's Good Food), Danielle Stevenson (The Dirty Lab), Ilaria Mazzoleni + Richard Molina (NAHR)

Rewilding -- David Godshall (Terremoto) + Brandy Williams (Garden Butterfly, below)

Gardens on the Roof -- Flora Lee (MAD) + Dean Howell (Gruen Associates)

Filming Nature -- Marianne Gerdes (A Growing Passion) 

You can see installations and join workshops by Andrea Richards and Teena Appeles (We Heart L.A. Parks), Coopportunity Market, Cyrice Griffith (GriffithChessDesigns), Fibershed Collective (Lesley Roberts), FlowertruckLAFran and Danica (Current Shapes), Hung Viet Nguyen (Room & Board – LA Family Housing), , Jason E.C. Wright (Burntsienna Research), John Kamp and James Rojas (Dream Play Build), Michele McRae (LA Neighborhood Land Trust), Olga Severina (PosterTerritory: Biophilia), Ravi Gunewardena, Stephanie Kerley-Schwartz, and Yuliya Sigalova.

Seeding The City has something for every age and level of gardening know-how. No need to sign up, just show up and wander the district. Activations take place on Helms Walk (between Venice and Washington), at the Helms Design Center (8745 Washington Boulevard), Washington Corridor (8723 Washington Corridor) and at Arcana Books on the Arts and the other showrooms at Helms Bakery District.

I should add that I've been helping Angela Anthony at Helms produce this event and am completely inspired by the people finding inventive ways to reconnect with flora and fauna -- whose absence from our lives deadens our souls. I hope very much to see you there.

Thursday, April 21: Talk by James Rojas and John Kamp

James Rojas and John Kamp, utterly original urban thinkers and planners whose new book, Dream Play Build, has just been published, will talk Thursday night (April 21) at Helms. It's part of the Cal Poly LA Metro series and the duo will talk about their book and lay out the foundations of their interactive planning philosophy based on tapping into memories and desires about place, and making ones way to ideal environments with the aid of a kit of colorful blocks and shapes. On Saturday, April 23, at Seeding The City, above, they will demonstrate their approach with an interactive model unfolding on Helms Avenue.


In Harmony With Nature: The Architectural Work of James Hubbell

Public Opening | April 22, 2022 – Earth Day 

Many a child who dreams of designing buildings starts by fabricating them, laying wooden blocks on top of each other, making models out of twigs, arranging pebbles into geometric shapes or building sandcastles and watching in fascination as they are washed away by the eddies of tidal waters. The adult architect becomes distanced from that tactile, visceral connection to structures, through professional practice that separates the designer from the makers, and incentivizes global reach instead of regional voice. They are further deracinated, now, by digital drawing tools which enable the creation of forms that are untethered from place and material, revolving in cyberspace. Few are the designers who are able to hold onto a direct connection to the making of buildings and the earth upon which they sit. 

Notable among those who do is James Hubbell, the artist, sculptor and architectural designer. From Ilan-Lael, his self-made home, studios and foundation in Julian near San Diego, Hubbell has spent sixty years designing private and public buildings and places, including his marvelous chapel at The Sea Ranch, schools made with the community in Tijuana, and parks that span the cultures of the Pacific Rim. He also designs decorative architectural elements for clients: doors, windows, gates, light fixtures, fountains, staircases, screens, handles, faucets, sinks, furnishings. In close collaboration with craftspeople, he shapes metals, ceramics, wood, glass, stone into what the architecture critic Alan Hess has described as “building forms rooted in natural settings, growing like a rock outcropping, echoing the curvilinear geometries of trees and landscapes… with the colors and delicate ornamentalism of flowers and seashells.”

Hubbell has long been celebrated in San Diego, where he and his wife Ann have been part of a creative community including the architects Ken Kellogg and Wallace Cunningham. He is little known in Los Angeles, and Helms Bakery District is excited to be able to bring his work to public attention with In Harmony With Nature: The Architectural Work of James Hubbell, a new exhibition displaying a sampling of his prodigious and utterly personal output. Don't miss.

Where: Helms Design Center, 8745 Washington Boulevard, Culver City

When: Exhibition runs April 22 – June 18, 2022; Viewing hours: Friday-Sunday, 12 PM – 5 PM 

 

Rewilding: A Growing Movement

Greater LA, KCRW, April 21, 1pm

In recent years, we have ripped up lawns and replaced them with gravel. That may save water and limit the use of nasty chemicals. But it doesn't help if we want to bring back the bees, butterflies and birds that were once the natural companions to the flora in our habitat. Now a growing number of gardeners, landscape designers and indigenous Californians are "rewilding" our open spaces, bringing back the native plantings that support complete biological systems and restore the aromas, textures and colors of the California landscape before colonization and the importation of invasive plant species. 

I discussed this movement with KCRW's Steve Chiotakis, on this episode of his show Greater LA, and you'll hear from some of the activists in the field, including Bob Ramirez, president of the Gabrielino/Tongva Springs Foundation at Kuruvungna Springs in West Los Angeles (above); David Godshall and Jenny Jones of Terremoto landscape architecture; and Brandy Williams, principal of Garden Butterfly, a landscape design company dedicated to "planting pollinators in the inner city."


Roundtables with Los Angeles mayoral candidates

AIA/LA

It's a tough job but someone's gotta do it -- serve as mayor of Los Angeles, that is, the second largest city in the country facing a horrendous crisis of homelessness along with numerous other sticky problems. But a long list of brave souls is willing, in fact eager for this crown. Several of the big challenges touch design and architecture -- housing, climate and equity in the urban environment -- so the AIA/LA is holding a series of roundtables with the candidates, taking place this month and next. In my new capacity as a public member of the board of AIA/LA, I am moderating some of those conversations. Get the details here

And in case you are wondering, the AIA/LA board is taking on some other sticky problems. We recently issued this statement about the invasion of Ukraine, and we are processing a response to the ethical crisis for the profession precipitated by events at SCI-Arc.


Rodeo Drive: The Podcast

From Disco to the Metaverse: Dirk Schönberger Reimagines MCM; Art Streiber Keeps The Dream Alive at Beverly Wilshire


To live in Los Angeles is to find oneself constantly caught between competing siren songs: that of its sublime natural landscape and that of its highly manicured, technologically altered environments. If you want to find the capital of artificiality in Los Angeles look no further than Rodeo Drive, three blocks of luxury boutiques where even the dogs have their fur dyed. But it’s also here that you find traditional values such as extraordinary attention to detail and craft and old-fashioned person-to-person service. 

That’s been the focus of Rodeo Drive: The Podcast, which I’ve been working on this season with executive producer Lyn Winter, hosts/fashion connoisseurs Pari Ehsan and Jason E.C. Wright (seen above) and audio-videographer Hans Fjellestad. Two new episodes have just dropped, one about the German brand MCM, which since its founding in Munich in the 1970s through to its embrace by the hip hop generation, has always puts its logo front and center. That's both in-store and in their new frontier, the metaverse. “We're creating virtual worlds instead of big sets for campaign shoots, and creating partnerships with online platforms where you can dress your avatar in our clothes,” Schönberger tells Ehsan, on Episode 2. “What is really important is to use the metaverse as a space of co-creation,” he adds, saying that today brands need to bring their customers into the design process.

The latest episode is about the grande dame of hospitality, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, once home to Warren Beatty and a play place for numerous luminaries of film and entertainment since opening in the roaring twenties. The imposing Renaissance revival-style pile on Wilshire Boulevard, opposite the entrance to Rodeo Drive, is currently going through a makeover. Its floral wallpapers and sunny colored carpets are being refined into a pallet of soft grays by the London designer David Collins Studio. “Modern luxury is not how it used to be in the 80s and 90s. Now it's the subtle elegance,” says Peter Humig, in an interview with Wright about growing up in a luxury hotel in Switzerland and now running the Beverly Wilshire.

The hotel is also endeavoring to keep the dream of Hollywood glamor alive by offering high-rolling guests a "Dreamer" package providing the ultimate access: a chance to shop with stylist Nicole Pollard Bayme, have their hair coiffed by Léa Journo, meet and eat with top chef Wolfgang Puck and be the subject of their own private celebrity photo shoot, by Dreamer photographer Art Streiber. Ehsan sits down with Schreiber and they talk photography – still verses mobile; composed, professional photography versus the self-made images on Instagram and TikTok. He drops a number of mini-revelations from a lifetime of photographing the known and the unknown, perhaps the most memorable of which is: “Treat celebrities like real people, and treat real people like celebrities.”



 


On the Schedule: December, 2022

This December please join me for at MOCA for " Staying Cool ," a look at what architects and engineers Kulapat Yantrasast, Frederi...