Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design


LA: An Ongoing Architectural Experiment

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

Yesterday was a fun day. I don't usually find myself saying that on Monday mornings, but a rare treat was offered to the city's architecture and design writers in the form of a press launch inside the Capitol Records building.

The Welton Becket-designed building is a gem of Los Angeles architecture, which is why there was no better place to launch Pacific Standard Time presents Modern Architecture, a survey of the city's great experiments in built environment. (Read more about it in this LA Times article.)

A not so usual view of the Capitol Records building. 
The studio was packed and, thankfully, warm on that blustery day. As we all jostled for space, speakers came up to talk about the effort--which isn't a repeat of the much larger Pacific Standard Time initiative--but a smaller, but more architecture-focused endeavor.

Hearing the various speakers take the stage, I was once again reminded of the wonderful freedom of living in Los Angeles. "Many of us moved from other cities to be part of the ideal that is Los Angeles," said Michael Maltzan, whose work at the Carver Apartments and Inner City Arts are a rare combination of serene and surprising.

Maltzan emphasized the strange paradox of LA-life where "individualistic impulse" is precisely the trait that everyone here shares, making you instantly part of the group. "It's the best of both worlds," the architect comments. Best of all, LA doesn't adhere to ossified ways of doing things. "Anyone is welcome to participate. The only entrance needed is ambition."

Eric Owen Moss, who spoke before Maltzan, certainly does have a lot of that, as well as some perceptive things to say about the initiative. Moss challenged what it now means that the experimental history of LA architecture is being presented under the auspices of the Getty Trust. In effect, "LA is now a place of history. It now has a pedigree," says Moss. What was once speculative architecture--in that projects may work or may not--has now been included in the canon. What a strange predicament.

Moss goes on to make a wonderful analogy using Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, which he had been reading to his son. "Sancho is everyone else," he says. The challenge for architects in LA is to "see [a project], build it as you think it should be...and to hell with Sancho Panza." With such fire, no wonder SCI-Arc's exhibition is called "A Confederacy of Heretics."

In the end, Moss does reconcile the tension between now and then presented by the Getty architecture initiative. He says, "We will write history and we will continue to write it, until we re-write it." Hear, hear.

As we contemplate LA architecture's past and future, Alissa Walker also have some tantalizing photos of the Capitol Records.

Doesn't it feel like the 60s all over again? :) See more over at Alissa's Flickr stream. She talks more about it over at Gelatobaby.


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