Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design


Nothing is too small to inspire devotion

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

What can be more pedestrian as carpet, something you literally walk all over, every day. Designers may aspire to erect buildings or monuments, but the reality is that everything can aspire to something greater.

Just look at the case of the late, great Portland Airport carpet, which is currently being torn apart and replaced with a supposedly more modern counterpart.

The old PDX carpet via Jonathan Simmons
In a great history done by Adam Clarke Estes of Gizmodo, the carpet's origins are as humble as you can imagine. Its design was created by SRG Partnership in the 80s. The firm took inspiration from X-shaped runways that can be seen from the control tower. The city's boom in the 90s invited more feet on the carpet. Even when the bubble burst, the city became a cheaper option than Seattle or San Francisco, turning it to a mecca for visual artists and designers--all of whom began to see the carpet hallmark for home.

Portland's popularity finally made another airport upgrade necessary. Officials never knew locals prized the carpet as much as it did, but once the announcement was made public, an outpouring of sadness and nostalgia expressed through InstagramFacebook, and Twitter surfaced. PDX nails, tattoos, shoes, beer, and even poetry.

PDX merchandising via @ursiday
If something like a carpet can be so loved, why not something as customarily overlooked as the project you're working on now?

Though the PDX carpet will live on in other products and endless homages, I'm sure, its greatest lesson for me is that there are no inconsequential undertaking. One only needs a little love and time.

With that, it's the weekend! TGIF guys. Hope you find a little inspiration this weekend.



Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

Well, I did it! My husband and I finished the 5.5 mile route from North Hollywood to Studio City in the first-ever Ciclavia in the Valley.

I had my doubts at first, but the cool, cloudy weather and the constant flow of people through a usually intimidating street was enough to keep me going.

Over and over, I kept hearing people say, "This is amazing." I think, just like me, they're seeing the street in a new light. No longer is it a blackhole for machines that separate us from one another, but it's become a gathering place for people to enjoy.

Here's to more Ciclavias everywhere. :)

Walking with fellow pedestrians, Los Angeles Walks

I hardly ever pass through this Noho gate. 

Bumping into some familiar faces. Dan Koeppel of Big Parade LA!

Ventura Boulevard transformed!


Ciclavia comes to the Valley!

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

Walking is such a different way of experiencing the city and one event that consistently allows people to re-imagine their urban space is CicLAvia. Now on their 12th edition, the now amazingly popular car-free event is finally, finally coming to the Valley!

Their website promises a lot of fun activities: nature walks, performances, art for adults and kids, but really we're all out there to get a little sun with our neighbors. As usual, the folks at CicLAvia took some time to do a little neighborhood guide to help residents and newcomers alike get oriented, but some enterprising cyclists have also taken the time to write a guide of their own, touting their favorite spots around the 5.5-mile route. Check them out here and here.

I often find myself getting off the North Hollywood red line station, but never realized it was the third most popular Metro stop. I also noticed this plaque to Firefighter Thomas G. Taylor, but never knew the sad story behind it.

If you're like me, you're already wondering, how do I get there? There are a couple of options, which Joe Linton breaks down at Streetsblog LA. If you plan to take the bus, they've come up with a handy visual to see bus rerouting maps here.

My best tip, bring water and have fun! Take your time and step into every cute little shop you see. They're sure to have something cooking.

We don't yet have awesome photos like those below, but by Sunday I hope we will!

CicLAvia - Heart of LA
By Serena Grace/Flickr

By KW/ Flickr

CicLAvia - Heart of LA
By Serena Grace/ Flickr


Kikkomans to Bullet Trains

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

A few days ago, I heard an obituary radio announcement. Japanese designer Kenji Ekuan has died. The name didn't mean anything to me then, but the announcer went on to explain that he designed everything from Kikkoman's red-topped bottles to Japan's bullet train. That extra information was jarring.

Kenji Ekuan via US News

As a writer, I know that design is everywhere, but here was a person who was able to work at all levels, from the smallest condiment containers to the largest people transporters. It's humbling to realize how much a mind can accomplish, if he dedicates himself to it.

Japanese industrial designer Kenji Ekuan and his designs: the Narita Express, the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle, Yamaha VMAX and the Komachi bullet train Photograph: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Further research yielded other gems. Ekuan was a monk with a philosophical bent, who said, "Everything has a soul." He came to work every day in a green wheelchair he designed. He never married, saying instead that he was married to design.

Here's a great description of his impact over at the Independent.


Never say never

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

It's February and I'm only now getting back into the swing of 2015, but if there were something I had to remember all throughout this year, it's to never stop trying.

Yesterday, I was part of an amazed audience, watching as the New England Patriots snatched the Super Bowl championship from the grasp of the Seattle Seahawks. At the waning moments of the game, I'm sure everyone had given the victory over to the Seahawks---everyone but the Patriots.

During the last play, an unknown player Malcolm Butler intercepted the opposing team's game-winning pass, turning the game's resolution on a dime. It was Butler's first career interception. Never before has he ever intercepted a football for his professional team before this.

Life often plays us the same way. We stand before an opposing force, individual, or situation and we think, "They are obviously going to win." And unconsciously, we give up the fight. We lose our fighting spirit. Yesterday's Super Bowl shows us, that isn't the way to go. Even in the last waning minutes of a losing game, things can still take a turn for the better. The key is not to give the opposition the win, before the game is decided.

It's difficult. I agree. I've been faced with many situations where my logical mind races to the conclusion and conceded defeat. But this year, it will be different. It will take a measure of self-confidence, security, and a sense of my worth, but until midnight rings on 2016, my goals will remain my goals, no compromises.

What are your New Year's resolutions? How resolute are you?

Here's a clip from last night's Super Bowl, if you need a little inspiration.


We can afford...better gifts

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

I love the holidays. The cooler air, the smell of pine, and all the food in family gatherings, but what I don't like as much is the strange pressure to purchase little trinkets or large, grand gifts so our loved ones know they're remembered.

Giving is a great feeling, but don't you ever find yourself wondering if spending for stuff that people might not even need is the best way to show your appreciation? If all the things we spend on are really worth it?

Those questions, and many others about our current culture of consumerism, bubbled to the surface while I was leafing through Los Angeles artist Bonnie Ebner's "We can afford better" at the Ooga Twooga's Artist’s Books and Cookies event early this year.

Ebner paired a commercial quality natural photographs with tired marketing slogans we're constantly exposed to and the result is pure provocation. These marketing call to actions to buy, to gratify, are turned on their heads because of the beautiful, pristine images in their background. Ebner's book was beautiful and tragic at the same time.

Copyright 2014, Bonnie Ebner, used with permission

Copyright 2014, Bonnie Ebner, used with permission

Copyright 2014, Bonnie Ebner, used with permission

So, this holiday season, instead of taking out our wallets and succumbing to what sociologist Marcel Mauss identified as the threefold nature of gifting (or what I call the gift's vicious circle)--in which gifting involves an obligation to give, to accept, and to reciprocate--let's figure out what other immaterial gifts can result in happier, more precious holidays, whose memories will last long after the last trace of pine waft out of our living rooms.

In case some of you are interested in copies of Bonnie's book. Please get in touch with her using her website's contact form.


How the Dutch got their amazing cycling infrastructure

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

We have two bicycles in our apartment. It sits comfortably on a bike stand indoors, but only one ever makes it out on a regular basis. Why? Because despite the many strides in alternative transportation in Los Angeles, cycling is still a scary prospect, especially for those who aren't proficient bikers.

I'm one of the former. My husband is the latter. On the tight cycling paths, I find myself wobbling and imagining gruesome deaths by swooping cars just inches to my left. The city is getting better at promoting cycling, however, as I write this they're overhauling a small 0.5-mile path just outside my home to make room for a wider cycling path and next year, much to my excitement, CicLAvia, a popular car-free event in the city will be coming to my neighborhood! No need to take the Red Line to wherever CicLAvia has opted to set up. Despite these good news, I still find myself wishing for a more secure, segregated bike paths that are physically separated from the cars, but I'll take what I can get.

In the meantime, I shouldn't lose hope. Change comes not because of one event, but multiple confluences. In Netherlands, their amazing cycling culture was borne out of an cramped city infrastructure that couldn't handle a large motorized vehicle volume, an oil crisis, and also an alarming surge of cycling deaths. This gave rise to citizens who clamored for change and kept at it.

Here's a great video found via Root Simple:

Many cities might share the same problems, but the lesson here for me, is that without political will coming from the people themselves, there can be no change. In Los Angeles, we are building that political will. It has already resulted in major strides in pro-cycling and pedestrian policies, but we still have much more room to improve.

But, if the Dutch can do it, so can any city right? All we need is to want it and to say it, loudly and consistently.

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