Thursday, February 4, 2021

Don't Miss This: February 2021

Read on for the latest on projects I'm involved with: Modernism Week; Wasted and a visit to Homeboy Electronics Recyling, a 3D Printed Building and the Harnessing Plants Initiative; FORT: LA Trail drops; a talk with Lorcan O'Herlihy at Helms Bakery District; the launch of Season 2 of Rodeo Drive: The Podcast; and a talk about the 2021 Otis Report on the Creative Economy.


 Thursday, February 25, 10 am

In 2007, Otis College of Art and Design released its first Report on the Creative Economy. The past president Samuel Hoi reasoned that the numbers of people involved in the arts and design, entertainment and architecture were so big and so integral to the life and economy of the Southland and the state of California that they warranted tracking and assessment.

As it turns out the report has become somewhat of a mirror of changing times, monitoring what sectors of the industry are up and down and, more recently, tackling the socio-economic dimensions of the creative industries: the gig economy and access to housing, for example, and, last year, race and diversity in the design professions.

On Thursday, February 25, at 10am, the school will release the 2021 Otis Report on the Creative Economy. Obviously, it will reflect the huge challenges of 2020; the pandemic caused the loss of many jobs in the arts, even as heated up some sectors; and challenged designers and artists to adapt creatively to new ways of working and living.

The event will feature presentations from Charles Hirschhorn, president; Representative Karen Bass (37th District); Adam Fowler, Director of Research, Beacon Economics; and Julie Baker, Executive Director, Californians for the Arts/California Arts Advocates.

At 11am I will moderate a discussion entitled The Recovery of the Creative Economy: From the Nation to the Neighborhood.

Speakers are: Ben Allen, California State Senator, 26th District; Julie Baker, Executive Director, Californians for the Arts/California Arts Advocates; Gustavo Herrera, Executive Director, Arts for LA; Jason Foster, President and COO, Destination Crenshaw. 

Follow-up: This event is now passed. The panel discussed proved quite lively. You can witness the entire event, here.



Thursday, February 18, 6:30 pm

Lorcan O’Herlihy spent his childhood wandering the great cities of the world. His father Dan O’Herlihy was an actor and took his family on overseas shoots. From time spent hanging out in urban centers like Rome and London, Lorcan developed a deep appreciation for social space.

He and his team at Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects (LOHA) have since made a mark with housing, workplaces and cultural buildings that put human connectivity at their center, while emphasizing bold design (as in Formosa 1140 and its accompanying pocket park, above). 

This past Thursday, February 18, Lorcan and I talkd about LOHA’s latest monograph Architecture Is a Social Act, published by Frame. They will discuss his peripatetic childhood and how it shaped his worldview, and how he navigates tight budgets and stakeholder needs to integrate common space. 

Lorcan will also update us on a fascinating new project of his at 410 Rossmore Avenue. He and development company Domus will add five new floors of co-living space to a 90-year-old apartment building in Hancock Park.

When: Thursday, February 18th from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. Register here. To purchase a signed copy of the book, please visit Arcana: Books on the Arts.

This even is now passed. But you can view it here. The passcode is: EqR5ff@q


Through February 28, 2021

In a normal year, thousands of people would be descending on Palm Springs this month for the annual midcentury design lovefest known as Modernism Week. Needless to say, it has been upended by the pandemic. 

In-person events will take place in April, assuming restrictions have been lifted. But if you need a fix right now you can take couch surf the "greatest desert resort town in the entire world" on tours with the irrepressible tour guide of retro, Charles Phoenix; and with Bert, who in a usual year, would be driving one of the Palm Springs tour buses.  through February.

These are just two of an impressive collection of 20 videos created by the Modernism Week staff and board (which I recently joined). 

The Modernism Week Online Experience takes on topics as wide ranging as the connection between nudism and Modernism; the future planning of Palm Springs; and the work and life of Paul R Williams, discussed by photographer Janna Ireland and Alan Hess (seen, sitting in a socially distanced fireside chat, below). 

They also look beyond the Coachella Valley, to Modern New Canaan and the Midwest, and back into the history of Hollywood musicals and their fabulous costumes. You can hear the epic story behind the creation of the Farnsworth House, in a conversation between Mark Davis and Broken Glass author Alex Beam. 

For those who want to accessorize their lives with a tangible piece of Modern style, there's an online auction. Sales will go to fund student scholarships and other MW programs.  

Modernism Week Online Experience is on sale now.  Programs will stream until February 28, 2021. 

Best of Modernism Auction is taking bids through February 15, 2021.

Modernism Week takes place April 8 to 18.  



Wasted: Neat Solutions to the Dirty Problem of Waste continues through February on KCRW's Greater LA, with episodes on e-waste, or electronic waste; 3D printed buildings and construction and demolition waste; iFixit and the Right to Repair; and the Harnessing Plants Initiative.

E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world and contributor to toxic mountains of plastics, metals and minerals. 

In this episode we meet the folks at Homeboy Electronics Recycling, a for-profit branch of Homeboy Industries. There, formerly incarcerated or gang-involved young people get to "de-manufacture," refurbish and reuse laptops, desktops, audio-video equipment, printers, fax machines and more.

The concept is to give people a second chance while giving "electronics and these precious metals a second chance, instead of discarding these items, and these people from our society and thinking, we never have to think about it again." 

That's according to HER's Lulu Kornspan, who shares the story of this social enterprise, along with her colleagues Brian Fox, Xuong "X" Cam and "D-Man" expert Jerry Garcia, above. In his spare time Fox also co-runs an art collective Media Pollution, making art out of e-waste. Check out their artworks, like this one, below.

On this episode, we visited a backyard structure that had been 3D printed by a company named Mighty Buildings. The company believes that by "printing" only the material they use, they can reduce about efforts to reduce construction and demolition waste, which currently makes up around 30 percent of the landfill.

Richard Ludt, an interior demolition specialist, points out that it is typically not the structure but rather the particleboard and laminated wood fixtures and fittings that are the hazardous elements in a building. So a Mighty Buildings only helps fix the waste problem if the materials are non-toxic, and recyclable at the end of their life.

Find out what a 3D printed shell is made of, and how Mighty Buildings are tackling toxic materials along with waste, in this episode.

IFixit and the Right to Repair airs February 16; Harnessing Plants Initiative airs February 23.


Launches February 17

Russell Brown is Southland native who has long admired the region’s distinctive residential architecture. But he found it a challenge to locate and visit those buildings, requiring "navigating a motley collection of websites for scraps of information about the architects, history, or locations of the most important structures." 

So he established Friends Of Residential Treasures: LA (FORT: LA), a nonprofit group of architecture historians and enthusiasts, and has created a website displaying architectural trails. His goal is to inspire fellow Angelenos and tourists to "venture beyond their own 'urban village' to experience other parts of the city."

FORT: LA asked me to contribute a trail so I chose five very fine multifamily housing complexes in Los Angeles. This trail launches on February 17. It offers a preview of ideas I'll be exploring a forthcoming book, Common Ground: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles, to be published by Angel City Press.

I believe the owner-occupied, single family home has been mythologized and idealized in a region where the plurality of people rent and/or live in multi-unit buildings. Developers and designers have served the need for connected housing for over century. Out of often expedient construction has come a legacy of innovative multifamily housing that delivers some of the charms of the single family home -- the inside-outside living experience -- along with a sense of human connection that enhances life in a sprawling and, for some, isolating region.

These buildings date back to the bungalow courts of over 100 years ago and can be found today in multistory complexes with gardens on the roof and shared amenities.

The five I chose for this trail are: 

--Horatio West Court, Santa Monica, designed by Irving Gill                                                            --Strathmore Apartments, Westwood Village, designed by Richard Neutra                                            --Village Green, Baldwin Hills, designed by                                                                                                    --Formosa 1140, West Hollywood, designed by Lorcan O'Herlihy (see talk below)                        --Gardenhouse, Beverly Hills, designed by MAD Architects (in picture, above)



From Runway to Screen: Reimagining the Fashion Show

Retail was already in flux and then came the pandemic and social upheaval. So where does that leave Rodeo Drive? That's been a through line to Rodeo Drive: The Podcast, a series hosted by fashion doyen Bronwyn Cosgrave, written by yours truly, that looks at how three blocks in Beverly went from bridle path to iconic destination for luxury goods.

The founding of Giorgio Beverly Hills; the arrival of the inimitable Bijan; Michael Chow's game-changing design for Giorgio Armani; Jay Leno and the Concours d'Elegance; LA-inspired lines for Moncler and the rethinking of the red carpet... these were some of the stories in Season 1, featuring insiders Rose Apodaca, Nicolas Bijan, Joan Juliet Buck, Ruth E. Carter, Michael Chow, Simon Doonan, Pari Eshan, Robert Hayman, Stephen Jones OBE, Jay Leno, Faye McLeod, Dame Zandra Rhodes, Cameron Silver and Sergio Zambon.

Now comes Season 2, and it kicked off this month with a fascinating look at the rise and fall and reinvention of the fashion show, along with the emergence of the fashion film. These elaborate videos like the one created by director Matteo Garrone to showcase Dior's Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2021 Collection, designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri. 

"I think a good Fashion Film is something between a sentence of a poem and a poem," says Solve Sundsbo, a photographer who specializes in moving imagery of fashion. Catch this and past episodes here.


Sunday, January 24, 2021

Foam Flush Toilets and a Toy House Without Plastic: "Wasted" finds Neat Solutions to a Dirty Problem

It's a 27 pound toy, 96% of which is plastic. By removing the plastic, I would make the greatest change to the kind of toys we're providing to parents around the world.

The average person throws away around four pounds of trash daily. Except that there is no such place as "away," say experts in waste management. Everything has to go somewhere. There is an end-of-life cost to everything. “Away” can mean storm drains, oceans, the stomachs of marine animals, a giant floating island of trash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and the landfill. 

It used to be easier to tell ourselves waste had gone "away" because recyclables were sent offshore and out of sight and mind, mostly to China. In 2017 that country changed policy and now takes far less of them.  Waste materials are piling up in California landfills, emitting toxins and burping methane.

Now, designers, policymakers and consumers are waking up to the need to change this picture and create products and buildings that can be recycled, repurposed, biodegrade -- or maybe not come into existence at all. 

You can hear from some of them on Wasted: Neat Solutions to the Dirty Problem of Waste, now airing on KCRW's Greater LA.

Wasted grew out of a conversation with KCRW General Manager Jennifer Ferro in 2019. She suggested “trash” as a topic for DnA. Trash became waste and we applied for a grant from the California Arts Council. This was before the pandemic started, before George Floyd lost his life at the hands of a police officer and a reckoning with race convulsed the country. 

By the time we got the grant in 2020, waste seemed a little off topic. But then we looked around and saw how plastic was piling up with the advent of PPE, how packaging was mounting in our homes as we ordered everything in; and how toxins from landfills, e-waste and carbon emissions are contributing to the soup of polluted air that weakens people’s immune systems.

So we dove in and examined creative ways to deal with waste packaging, food, electronics, construction materials, carbon and even human waste. 

Yes, foam flush, or compost, toilets are the no-wastewater solution at City Hall East, a new net zero "Living Building" designed by Frederick Fisher and Partners and Buro Happold engineers. It will open soon to staff at the City of Santa Monica, but some are nervous of the waterless toilets, as we found out in this episode.

The more we went down the waste rabbit hole, however, the more interesting and inspiring it became. 

We met scientists tinkering with plants to capture carbon from the atmosphere; formerly-incarcerated individuals at Homeboy Electronics Recycling trained to recycle computers; the founders of iFixit fighting for their right to repair their own stuff. 

We followed a strawberry on her journey from farm to fork to learn about food waste (airing January 27); and we met an artist named Julia Christensen who is working with JPL scientists on the creation of a conceptual space rocket to fly light years to a planet called Proxima B. The goal is to raise consciousness about e-waste and our incessant need for upgrades. (You can catch Julia and I in conversation, here.)

Finally, we heard from the founders of a group with the ultimate solution to waste: Buy Nothing. You can hear from them in the last episode, airing early March.

But we started with plastics.

When plastics were invented in the early twentieth century, in the form of bakelite, they were seen as a miracle material. Soon they were applied to thousands of products, including hygienic medical products, synthetic fabrics, pop furniture, pop records and endless throwaway goods.

No one thought about where the plastic went when you were done with it. In 1960, less than 400 thousand tons of plastic went to the US landfill. Now more than 35 million tons sit in landfills. Less than 10% of it is recycled. Plastic soils our rivers and oceans; it poisons our fish and ourselves.

Many designers, policy makers and advocates are trying to figure out how to reduce it. Some want it to be biodegradable. Others say the solution is to make plastic more durable, and stop throwing it away. Meanwhile, designers like
Charlie Hodges, a product designer and ArtCenter alumnus, want to get rid of it altogether.

Charlie Hodges makes toy houses out of paperboard and eco-friendly inks.

Hodges created Archamelia, above, a toy house that is intended as a rethink of Barbie’s Dreamhouse.

"It's a 27 pound toy, 96% of which is plastic. By removing the plastic, I would have the most immediate impact to make the greatest change to the kind of toys we're providing to parents around the world."

Hodges did a lifecycle analysis of the plastics in the Dreamhouse and then created a fold-up toy house made of locally sourced board and nontoxic inks. 

Meanwhile, State Senator Ben Allen is pushing for producers to take responsibility for the products they make. He is working to pass
SB54, a bill which would mandate that all single-use plastic be biodegradable by 2032.

Odile Madden, materials scientist at the Getty Conservation Institute, says the problem is not the plastic, but our culture of disposability.

“Plastic is not evil. It's just stuff and it's stuff we invented, and stuff we choose how to use

The problem, in her view, is that plastic is in the wrong place. “It shouldn't be in the ocean, it shouldn't be in our storm drains, it shouldn't be littering our sidewalks or our beaches. And that's an administrative question, a political question, a cultural question."

Madden says that if plastic were more desirable and more durable people wouldn't want to throw it away. 

I can attest to that. In my home I have some durable, heirloom plastics like the modern classic Fantastic Plastic Elastic chair designed by Ron Arad for Kartell.

The problem is the throwaway plastic bags. There is no such place as "away."

Get all the Wasted stories here, airing weekly on KCRW's Greater LA through early March. Wasted is
produced and hosted by Frances Anderton, in collaboration with co-host Caleigh Wells, story editor Sonya Geis and sound engineer Charles Previtire. Wasted is supported by the California Arts Council.

Photo credit for Ron Arad chair and foam flush toilet: Frances Anderton; Archamelia image courtesy of Charlie Hodges.

Monday, December 21, 2020



This is the first post on the new web site of yours truly, Frances Anderton. In late 2020, after 22 years of passionate commitment at KCRW radio station, I took a staff buyout and embarked on a new path, as an independent.

The break came with the same fear and excitement that I felt in June 1991 when I boarded an airplane at London't Heathrow Airport at age 27 for a new life in Los Angeles. Except that now I was 30 years older. Not necessarily the best age for new beginnings. And I don't even own a house. So the fear was at once greater, but it was also lesser. This is because by now I had established a life in Los Angeles and had made many friends and had great collaborations. And it is with those friends and collaborators that I will move forward.

One friend calls this phase in life, when people of a certain age start over, Act 3. For me Act 3 won't be too much different from Act 2, in that I will still be preoccupied by design, architecture and land-use (as described on this web site), dreams of being a goat farmer notwithstanding.

The topic too is deep in my DNA to do otherwise -- literally. My father was an artist-builder; my grandfather was a plumber; my mother can make anything. So, with thanks to KCRW, I will keep the name DnA alive in future programming around design and architecture.

In the meantime, I just wrapped a series still to air on KCRW. Every week for two months, starting January 4, reporter Caleigh Wells and I explore waste, in a series is called “Wasted: Neat Solutions to the Dirty Problem of Waste.” It is supported by California Arts Council.

In researching waste of all sorts, we got many shocks, including the fact that our EV and solar panel future may not be quite as clean as we had hoped. Photovoltaic cells and lithium ion batteries are -- boohoo -- a major source of deeply toxic e-waste when they reach their end-of-life.

But there is also beauty to be found in waste. Inspired by our research into the glut of packaging in this year of ordering in, my daughter Summer and I turned some of our excess cardboard and styrofoam into this holiday tree.

I'm posting it here by way of greetings. I hope you have as good a holiday as possible and that 2021 brings much joy and renewal.

Don't Miss This: February 2021

Read on for the latest on projects I'm involved with: Modernism Week ; Wasted and a visit to Homeboy Electronics Recyling, a 3D Printe...