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.”


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