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.


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