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


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.”


Thursday, March 3, 2022

On The Schedule, March 2022

This month, I talk with Steve Chiotakis on this broadcast of KCRW's Greater LA about the Sixth Street Viaduct, which I visited with architect Michael Maltzan. It is nearing completion and looking like it will be a more than worthy replacement for the former iconic bridge, especially for cyclists....

I'll give a public talk at USC's Roski Graduate Gallery in the Arts District on Tuesday March 22, about Radical Retrofitting as a means to reduce the waste in design and architecture without losing the thrill of the new. I hope you will join me and host April Greiman.

We say goodbye to the terrific deCoding Asian Urbanism exhibition at Helms Bakery District with a talk with Farooq Ameen, Kulapat Yantrasast and Astrid Haryati. The evening opens with Olga Severina, of PosterTerritory, discussing the crisis in Ukraine and how designers are pleading for peace, both at Helms Bakery District. 

Also, catch Episode 1 of Season 3 of Rodeo Drive: The Podcast, helmed by Pari Ehsan and Jason E.C. Wright, with a writing assist from yours truly. They explore today's convergence of art and fashion, effectively modeled by guest Jeffrey Deitch, the art dealer/curator, in a Dior suit designed with artist Kenny Scharf.

And, in case you missed it, check out my conversation with architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, on this past DnA. Kéré, above, in front of his installation at Coachella Music Festival in 2019, is the winner of this year's Pritzker Prize. He is the creator of gentle, lovely spaces and places rich in color, craft and community, inspired by the protective baobab trees of his native Burkina Faso. Kéré is the first architect from the continent of Africa to garner the prestigious prize. Long overdue and very well-deserved.


The Sixth Street Viaduct is reborn, and may become a new icon for LA

The old Sixth Street Viaduct, built in 1932, was a beloved landmark that suffered from “concrete cancer” and was torn down in 2016. The city of Los Angeles launched a competition to find a design that would replace an icon with a new icon.

The architect Michael Maltzan and engineers HNTB won the commission with a design intended to be architecturally spectacular, and provide amenities not usually associated with large bridges, like bike lanes and parks, for the communities at each end. Now the replacement bridge, seen above from Whittier Boulevard, is coming into focus and it promises to be a graceful and dramatic structure, with ten pairs of arches that feel as if they are leaping to infinity. 

Perhaps the most surprising element is a spiraling ramp that will enable cyclists to pedal from the bike lane by the river up to their lanes on the bridge. The climb is not for the faint of heart. “You have to put in a bit of an effort to earn the climb, absolutely,” says Maltzan, a keen cyclist himself. “If you're going to be king of the mountain, you have to do a little bit of work.” Catch the full story on this episode of Greater LA.


"Radical Retrofits:" USC Roski Talk

Tuesday, Mar 22, 7pm

Please join me on March 22 for a talk about "radical retrofits" that I'll give at the USC Roski Graduate Gallery, at the invitation of the inimitable designer and USC professor April Greiman. It takes off from conversations I had with students while researching the KCRW radio series Wasted. They expressed a pessimism at putting more stuff into the world, saying we have enough already and should cleverly reuse what we already have.

This approach was validated when a jury gave the prestigious Pritzker Prize for 2021 to Lacaton and Vassal, the French firm that adapts existing buildings in highly innovative ways, instead of building ground-up structures in place of old ones. “Demolition is violence,” they say.  Now preservationists, sustainability advocates and innovative designers may be finding common ground.

On Tuesday I will talk about this emerging worldview and will show examples of repurposing old buildings and products, from making structural changes to creative painting as at St. Elmo Village, above.

Get all the details here


Rodeo Drive: The Podcast, Season 3

Launches March 16

"We've seen some artist fashion collaborations that are dead on arrival. But then we've seen others that are just fantastic and inspiring." So says Jeffrey Deitch, art dealer and curator, as he sported a Dior suit designed in collaboration with the artist Kenny Scharf at the recent Frieze art fair. Hear Deitch in conversation with Pari Ehsan on Episode 1 of Season 3 of Rodeo Drive: The Podcast, a series I've been helping write.

Ehsan is the Iranian American founder of Pari Dust, an influential, digital platform in which she artfully poses in settings that bring together art and fashion. Jason E.C. Wright is the founder of Burntsienna Research Society, and has long experience in retail. They are, respectively, the new host and field correspondent for this series about the luxury thoroughfare, featuring stories about the entrepreneurs who transformed the onetime bridle path in semi-rural Beverly Hills into the three-block capital of luxury, along with profiles of the makers and shakers behind high fashion brands.

The kickoff episode of this third season is about art, fashion and Beverly Hills. Ehsan and Wright join the VIPs at Frieze art fair, including Hunter Drohojowska-Philp and Eric Buterbaugh, and then Ehsan sits down with Jeffrey Deitch, art dealer and curator and discusses art-fashion collaborations. Next comes sport and fashion, sustainability in high fashion, why sneakers are big on Rodeo Drive, and shopping in the metaverse.


deCoding Asian Urbanism: A Discussion

Thursday, March 3, 6:30pm

deCoding Asian Urbanism is a timely book and exhibition about the unprecedented, meteoric growth of Asian cities, and the “urban acupuncture” projects that are making them more liveable. This Thursday, March 3, Helms invites you for a reception and conversation about the issues raised by DAU. What happens to cultural identity in the face of such extreme change and what can designers do to recreate a sense of place? Does the extreme density of Asian cities represent the future for all growing cities?

I will talk about all this with Farooq Ameen, Bangladesh-born architect, planner and creator of DAU; Astrid Haryati, Indonesian-born architect, planner and past deputy on public policy for Indonesia’s Minister of Trade; and Kulapat Yantrasast, Thailand-born architect and thought-leader in the fields of architecture, art, and sustainable design.

While there, visitors can tour the DAU exhibition. Ameen, designer Caglar Gokbulut, filmmaker Miriam Kuhlman, Swinerton construction and other talents have transformed a showroom at the design center at Helms Bakery District into a maze of tight spaces, containing vivid photographs, visualizations of stunning population growth data, kaleidoscopic films of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Hong Kong and Tokyo by Kuhlmann, as well as moments of respite from the chaos in depictions of ancient culture and in new developments aimed at reconnecting residents to cultural touchpoints and to nature.

Get the details here

Olga Severina, Ukraine and a Call to Designers

Thursday, March 3, 6pm

Olga Severina
is a graphic designer and founder of PosterTerritory, which creates global poster competitions around a theme, exemplified last year in her wonderful Biophilia exhibition at Helms Bakery District. Severina was raised in Ukraine and has work and family in Russia. Now she sees her country being crushed, fraternal ties tragically frayed and a global geopolitical crisis in the making. 

So she is supporting a new poster campaign, making the visual case for peace (poster by Agnieszka Srokosz, above.) On Thursday, March 3, Severina will speak at Helms; she will reflect on her native country and offer thoughts on how artists and designers might make their voices heard. Catch my conversation with her, before deCoding Asian Urbanism: A Discussion (see above.)


Friday, January 28, 2022

On The Schedule, February 2022

Decoding Asian Urbanism

Helms Design Center, January 30 - March 12   

How do you display the intensity of life in a crowded Asian city to Angelenos, used to uncrowded streets, spacious homes and solitary car commutes? Take a small room, make it smaller and fill it with throbbing sounds and images of jostling crowds and buildings. To powerful effect. That is what Farooq Ameen and the City Design Studio team have done to bring alive the themes of "DeCoding Asian Urbanism," or DAU, a book authored by Ameen, the Malaysian architect Ken Yeang and historian Kenneth Frampton about -- in Frampton’s words -- the “gargantuan ever-expanding Asian conurbations such as Tokyo, Mumbai, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur etc. which at 15 million plus can no longer be regarded as cities in any traditional sense.” 

Now DAU has been turned into a show at the design center at Helms Bakery District, presented by the A+D Museum. Ameen, designer Caglar Gokbulut, filmmaker Miriam Kuhlmann, Swinerton construction and other talents have transformed a showroom into a maze of tight spaces, each displaying vivid photographs and some amazing kaleidoscopic films, by Kuhlmann, aimed at capturing the energy and density of the new Asian insta-cities. 

Visitors can find respite from the intentional cacophony in a calming, scented room expressing the repose still found in nature, as well as inspiration for ways to cope with such meteoric growth in singular projects described as "urban acupuncture" by Ameen, by designers including Ken Yeang, Charles Correa and Steven Holl, that endeavor to inject greenways, open space and a sense of human connection in an often alienating environment.

These megalopolises seem on one hand to be very distant from the L.A. experience; consider that the city of Los Angeles has a density of around 8500 people per square mile while Delhi, India, packs in almost 30,000 people per square mile. But there is much to learn from their manic expansion as L.A. grapples with its own struggles over growth. Besides, many of the cities on display are our neighbors on the Pacific Rim and we are inextricably bound to each other, as Kuhlmann reminds us in her striking image of a container ship gliding across our shared ocean (above). 

On March 3, at 6pm, Helms invites you for a reception and conversation about the issues raised by DAU. I will lead a dialogue with Farooq Ameen, creator of DAU; Astrid Haryati, architect, planner and former deputy on public policy for Indonesia’s Minister of Trade; and Kulapat Yantrasast, Thailand-born architect and thought-leader in the fields of architecture, art, and sustainable design.  

Decoding Asian Urbanism is the first outing for A+D Museum since it closed its space in the Arts District in June, 2020. It is at the Helms design center at 8745 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232.

Get details here.


Stories Untold: Black Modernists in Southern California

Symposium at Modernism Week, Palm Springs, February 21, 1:30 - 5 pm

Paul Revere Williams
has rightly received a renaissance of interest in his work. But what about the lesser-known Black architects who worked for him or were inspired by, or succeeded, him? Find out at Modernism Week, the annual smorgasbord of midcentury design talks and tours that will run for ten days from Feb 17- Feb 27, 2022 in Palm Springs. 

A highlight this year is a symposium entitled Stories Untold: Black Modernists in Southern California, taking place Monday afternoon, February 21 (President's Day). Speakers will unpack the stories of architectural talent yet to receive their due. The L.A. TimesTyrone Beason, author of this article about Black Californians in the Coachella Valley, will talk with Jarvis Crawford and Deiter Crawford, leaders of Palm Springs Black History Committee and host of the Caravan Thru African-American History Palm Springs, taking place on the morning of the 21st. They will bring alive the legacy of the Black builders and designers who helped create the glitzy desert resort, even as they were denied entry to many of its hotspots.   

Gail Kennard (daughter of Robert Kennard), Nastassja Lafontant, architectural and landscape designer, and architect Roland Wiley will talk with historian Alan Hess about the “Circle of Paul Williams,” contemporaries and successors of Williams including Ralph Vaughn (Chase Knolls, Lincoln Place), Roy Sealey (Belmont Shores Clubhouse), Robert Kennard and Arthur Silvers (Mafundi Building), Norma Sklarek (Pacific Design Center), James Garrott (John W. Bean Residence, shown above) and many more. 

The symposium will conclude in the optimistic present with architect Drake Dillard, of Perkins + Will, who will present his firm’s project Destination Crenshaw, the “unapologetically black” linear art park currently under construction alongside the new light rail in the Crenshaw District. 

I helped organize this symposium in my role as boardmember at Modernism Week (in consultation with the Palm Springs Black History Committee and members of SoCalNOMA), and hope very much that it will be an interactive experience where attendees can share stories "untold" about the Black imprint on modernism in the Southland.

Get information and tickets here.


Soil: The Critical Zone

Soil is the nurturer of all living things but now 75% of the earth’s source of fertility is now depleted, by industrial farming, manufacturing and urban growth. So soil is the focus in 2022 for NAHR, or the Nature, Art and Habitat Residency, located in the still soil-rich hills of the Taleggio region in the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy. 

NAHR, founded by L.A.-based architect Ilaria Mazzoleni, is inviting people with ideas for academic or artistic meditations on soil to apply for residencies, taking place in June. California-based applicants are eligible for support from Helms Bakery District, which will sponsor one Fellow with the costs of arts production, travel, and per diem expenses. That recipient will present their work in the fall of 2022 at Helms Bakery District.

Click here for details.



To Build or Not to Build

The architecture and construction industry creates a colossal carbon footprint. Is the solution more “green” buildings or to not build at all? Get some answers in this article I wrote for Sierra magazine, inspired by the work of last year's Pritzker Prize winners Lacaton & Vassal


Monday, January 24, 2022

On The Schedule, January, 2022

Buildings in Print

A talk with John Hill, presented by AIA/LA and LACMA, January 25, 5:00 - 6:30 pm

If history is written by the victors, is architecture shaped by the writers?

 In his new book Buildings in Print: 100 Influential and Inspiring Illustrated Architecture Books (Prestel, 2021), John Hill surveys 100 seminal architecture manifestos, monographs, exhibitions, theories and histories that in his view shaped 20th century, primarily modernist, architecture. It opens with Le Corbusier’s 1923 Vers Une Architecture (Towards a New Architecture) and ends with Reinier de Graaf’s 2017 Four Walls and a Roof. But how relevant are architecture books generally, and these books specifically in a time of digital and social revolution, in which the old verities of globalizing modernism and Eurocentric architecture education are in question? 

I will talk with Hill Tuesday, at an online event co-presented by the AIA/LA Interior Architecture Committee and LACMA. He will explain the making of the book, highlight some of the publications he selected, and make the case for why these books matter and why writing about architecture is integral to the process of shaping it. 

Get info here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

On The Schedule: December, 2021

Despite unceasing coronavirus confusion, events continue apace at Helms Bakery District, with the opening of Not Now, But Right Now!, an exhibition of building designs by members of SoCalNOMA. Saturday is also the final chance to see tomorrow's cityscape as envisioned by today's top students in AIA/LA's 2x8 Assemblies Exhibition. Then comes a workshop about a dirty but vital topic -- SOIL! -- hosted by NAHR (Nature, Art and Habitat Residency)

Also, this month Sierra magazine, the publication of the Sierra Club, published my article To Build or Not To Build. It poses the question: Will the construction industry lessen its carbon footprint through "green" building or by not building at all? It was inspired by this year's Pritzker winners, Lacaton & Vassal

Plus, my friends at AWAF (Association for Women in Architecture Foundation) and at Modernism Week are holding their annual auctions, and you will want to bid... Read on for specifics.

Closing day: Saturday, December 4, 11am -- 3pm

2×8:Assemblies Exhibition

19 exemplary student projects from 19 architecture and design programs throughout California are on show at Helms Design Center in an installation that is a testament to the maxim "necessity is the mother of invention." Pink and orange plastic containers, stacked, curved, and facing alternate directions, make a bold, and highly affordable backdrop for the project boards.

2×8 is an annual non-profit program that functions as a student exhibition, scholarship fund, and design competition. It was formed with the intention of introducing student work to the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry. 

Last day for free public viewing: Saturday, December 4. Click here for information. 


December 4

Get gifts online at the Modernism Week and AWA+D Auctions

AWAF Auction and AWA+D Mixer

The architecture profession was largely off limits to women and people of color (see SoCalNOMA below) for many years. Back in 1922, when the four female architectural students at Washington University in St. Louis (Mae Steinmesch, Helen Milius, Angela Burdeau and Jane Pelton) were denied entry into the men’s architectural fraternity, they banded together and founded their own society, La Confrerie Alongine. It has continued today, under the slightly less melodious name of Association for Women in Architecture Foundation. They have created an online auction -- items include the Bauer Pottery Dome Pot, above, jewelry by LA architect Ena Dubnoff and other great gets -- to raise funds for their activities supporting women architects today. Their sister organization, AWA+D will host the Event Mixer this Saturday evening.

The auction will run from December 4-8. Click here to bid on the auction and here for information about the mixer.

Best of Modernism

Modernism Week's online auction is back, and as a newly minted board member of the Palm Springs lovefest, I can attest to the fabulousness of the 45 items on sale, curated by Mark Davis, from top tours and stays at historic homes to vintage treasures and more.

It will run from December 4-12. Click and learn about the auction here. Buy and bid on one-of-a-kind finds here.

December 2 -- 17

Not Now, But Right Now!: Exhibition and public discussion

It is generally understood that the built environment improves with creative input from many stakeholders and talent of diverse backgrounds, but the architecture profession still has very low representation from people of color. That is gradually changing, with a big assist from the National Organization of Minority Architecture. 

Now the SoCal branch of NOMA is launching an exhibition and conversation about the contributions of minority architects to the Southland cityscape. It is called “Not Now, But Right Now” and works presented encompass designs of all scales from single family residential, to commercial, and urban planning. The exhibition will include projects from 30+ SoCalNOMA members, projects from student members from local architecture schools,  and “future architects” that have participated in the SoCalNOMA project pipeline summer camp.

The exhibition will be on display from December 2nd through the 17th with the gallery open to the public on Wednesday to Sundays each week. In addition, there are two key events:

Saturday, December 4th, 6pm to 10pm

Opening Reception for the “Not Now, But Right Now” exhibition in conjunction with the Chapter 2021 Year End Celebration. Admission to the Reception/Celebration is free for SoCalNOMA members and is $20 for guests and the general public. All proceeds go towards supporting SoCalNOMA Chapter initiatives including the Project Pipeline Summer Camp, the Leadership Development Program, and the DEI Challenge. 

Click here to RSVP.

Saturday, December 11th, from 2-5pm

The SoCalNOMA Senior Practitioners Committee will  host a conversation with Betty Williams (wife of NOMA founding member Harold Williams) and past NOMA National President, Drake Dillard on the NOMA legacy and the contributions of minority architects to the Southern California community. A panel with participants from the show discussing their works and their experiences in the profession in Southern California will follow. The panel will be moderated by SoCalNOMA President, Lance Collins. The event is free and open to the public.  

Click here for information.


Thursday, December 9, from 6:30 to 9:00 pm

Soil: The Critical Zone 

It's a dirty topic, but a vital one for the survival of all the species: soil, and its role as a foundational ecosystem!

NAHR, aka the Nature, Art and Habitat Residency, was founded by architect Ilaria Mazzoleni and is located in Taleggio Valley, Bergamo, Italy; Santa Ynez, California; and has members in Los Angeles who gather for conversations about the relationship between humans, flora, fauna and how that is interpreted through art and science.
More than 75% of the earth’s living soil is substantially depleted, while the remaining 25% is of inestimable value. Deborah Weintraub, AIA, LEED AP will helm a discussion and imagine future scenarios about this critical zone, together with interlocutors Jose Herrasti, AIA, and Richard Molina, Designer. I will moderate a Q and A with the audience about soil and what is means to attendees.

Click here for the program schedule.

December 16

To Build or Not to Build

The construction industry is gaining awareness of its giant carbon footprint, and generally the response has been to keep on building, but better, deploying energy-saving mechanical systems and "green" materials. But some argue that the less impactful way to go is to not build anew, and to simply creatively reuse existing buildings, of which there are trillions the world over. This approach gained a seal of high cultural approval this year when the Pritzker Prize for architectural excellence was given to the French duo Lacaton & Vassal. I explored the message sent by this choice and the growing chorus of support for this approach in this article for Sierra magazine, entitled To Build or Not to Build.

Among findings you will find in the article: 

-- The construction sector produces almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and gobbles up more than 30% of the world’s resources in the form of operational and embodied carbon. 

-- Worldwide, there are 223 trillion-square feet of buildings, with billions more to come.

-- Reuse of buildings can be architecturally inventive. Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal show preservation is not just for beloved old buildings but also for the duds, like grim concrete public housing blocks in France that the pair have elegantly transformed with steel and glass exoskeletons into lighter, brighter, larger apartments.

-- Until now, the preservation, environmental and architecture communities have not marched in lockstep on tying adaptive reuse to carbon savings. Preservationists have tended to fight for iconic buildings, not the generic; and designers and environmentalists have touted new construction, albeit with green bells and whistles. Now the groups are starting to find common ground on holding onto old building stock in the name of fighting climate change.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

On The Schedule: November, 2021

This month I'll be talking at Helms Design Center with two very lively thinkers about the built environment, Liam Young and Li Wen. Please join me.

Thursday, November 4 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm    

Planet City - a Radical Solution to Climate Destruction, with Liam Young

Forget carbon taxes and global commitments to use renewables. Climate change demands bigger solutions, like moving all ten billion people on earth to one giant city, leaving the rest of the world to return to the wild, free from human predation. 

That’s the vision laid out by Liam Young, architect-filmmaker-futurist, in his new film and book, Planet City, showcasing a future world in which flora, fauna and humankind coexist in the Anthropocene, divided between an uber-megalopolis and a “new national park of the world.” 

I'll talk with Young, who teaches world building at SCI-Arc, about his visionary thought experiment, and the questions it poses about the environment and our place in it. Our chat coincides with COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow, at which policymakers will discuss real world solutions to the havoc we are creating. 

Young will be joined on the stage by Benjamin Bratton, founder of the design research program The Terraforming, a "comprehensive project to fundamentally transform Earth's cities, technologies, and ecosystems to ensure that the planet will be capable of supporting Earth-like life." He is Professor of Visual Arts at UC San Diego, and a contributor to the Planet City book.

He will also discuss the otherworldly production design for the film. Its radical costuming was developed in collaboration with Ane Crabtree, the costume designer for The Handmaid’s Tale and a collection of artists including Aneesa Shami, member of Textile Arts LA.

A meet and greet with Young and Bratton will follow the talk. Click here for details. 

Planet City was commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria for the NGV Triennial. Catch his TEDMonterey Talk about the film, here


Thursday, November 18 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm    

Learning from Li Wen after a Career in City-building

When I arrived in Los Angeles in mid-1991 one of the first people I met was Li Wen, architect, demon tennis player and fantastically lively conversationalist with endlessly interesting insights about the built world and life and culture in general. We became fast friends. 

At the time he was on the brink of opening his own boutique design firm with Andrew Liang. He later made the decision to join the corporate firm Gensler, where he became design director and Principal.

Time has moved on and now Wen has taken retirement, which I am sure does not mean he will sit still. But his years at Gensler coincide with a time of great change in Los Angeles, especially in downtown where the design firm's L.A. office is located. Undoubtedly, Li has played a significant role in that. So what can he impart to fellow designers and those interested in city-making, as he moves to his next phase in life?

On Thursday, November 18, I will sit down with Li to reflect on his architectural journey -- and his personal journey, from the hills of Santa Barbara to the Hollywood Hills, via China, Yale, New York, London, and Paris. 

Topics we will address include the urban environment as Los Angeles goes through big changes, his role as mentor and nurturer of a new generation of architectural talent, and what might be in his future.

Li will also share details of a design project he is still involved with: the master plan for the future of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The event is co-hosted by Helms Design Center and AIA/LA will open with a reception. While there, check out 2x8, AIA/LA's exhibition of student work currently on display at the Helms Design Center.

Click here for information. 



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