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L.A.

Forum News etter

for Architecture and Urban Design

3454 West First Street Los Angeles, California 9 0 004

(213) 389 - 6730

Officers: Christian Hubert, Presidenl Aaron Belsky, Vice President An n Zollinger, Secrelary/Treasurer Newsletter Editors: Aaron Betsky Natalie Shivers Board of Directors: Shelly A Berger Aaron Betsky Benjamin Caffey Craig Hodgetts Christian Hubert John Kaliski Doug Suisman

November,'988

5


Futurist Flaneurs &Fashion

Ray Ryan

Ran into Ellcre Sottsass al the new Giorgio Armani shop on Tuesday. At first one didn't recognise him but noticed his bespoke tailoring and elegant manners. Nothing about

Degas oould not be shifted to the thoroughbred automobiles of Beverly Hills. Suffice to say that Aulenti oontinues her line of generic distillation of things which, like

his parson mimicked or amplified the general vulgarity of where he stood - which recalled Beau Brummel's dictum: "the severest mortification a gentleman could incur was to attract observation in the street by his outward appearance~.

l aos who liked his beef rare and his oolumns Doric, produces a funereal corporeality.

Sottsass, debonair creator of Olivetti gadgetry and Memphis wbanal design". is in town to realise the MayerlSchwarz Gallery across the street. He is following a path from the via Montenapoleone constructed by the engineer Ferre, the enigmatic Gigli and the fabulous Fendi sisters. Together with the Armani and Vitadini stores, his presence may be seen as part of the Milanisation of Rodeo Drive. Entering the Armani store with aviator precision, into Benjamin's Minterieures", one remembers Rossi's description of Schiele "entering ... a more private area, not of abstraction but of obsession ... the repeated seH-portrait with all its narcissistic and almost M obscene variations . Indeed, w ith its layers of International Style steel and glass, it does look like one of those "Obsession" advertisements. Highly cleansed and monochromatic assistants float and glance in linle ethereal groups, the chill removed by gold screens which emit the anonymous lUxury of another Klein, (Yves). Advanced dandiacal espionage oonfirms that the Adriana Vitadini boutique is indeed by Gae Aulenti. Signora Aulenti, th e grey granny of Milanese minimalism, came to town with the understated oontrol of a soothing detective and implanted her barely perceptible oeuvre, shipped en masse from Italy, on the promenade. One oould wonder here if the expert viewing of paddocks by

Of course, "l ess is More" is quintessential Dandy: Dandy and Modernity being so interwoven, the fo rmer without the laner being mere foppishness and vice versa kitsch. Baudelaire understood the need for shopping and the relationship between materiality and materialism. Bijan, indulgently nostalgic for pre-Ayatollah Tehran, is full of t hings and never one of them beautiful. The autonomous objects of Sottsass are taking up positions. Between Dessau and Sesame Street, they wink and flirt and chanenge t he refined sensibilities of Johannes van Tilburg. Exuding wit and tone and the slyly sexual materiality of laos, black marble temple fronts pose with flesh pink chevrons to combat the ordinary. Like the dumb cacophany of Harpo Marx, they jest at our hautiness. Up above, Carlo Mollino, impecdbly scarved, rolled across the sky.


Random Notes It's once again the hazy days of winter. Whil e other cities contemplate their buildings clearly, through the web of naked Ireebranches. standing in the crisp clear air, Los Angeles sees only the corner mal1lhrough the brownish haze of coastal fog. What is it thaI Ihey see? All the elements and building blocks of the postmodern playpen.

reassembled for corner shopping malls, colored in every number on the Prismacolor chart and all tumbling around the same basic

set of plans: one or two stories, garage on grade or under, the curving walls, the

triangular pediments and the bright red cubes are the same from Studio City to Alahambra. Work goes on in large, corporate versions 01 articulated steel chic - meta-morphosized grids 01 sleel housing bank buildings. Skidmore Owings and M errill rips off Mayne and Rotondi, Arquitectonica brings International Class Bank Architecture to Wilshire Boulevard. So much for daily life. At night, one can return 10 any number 01 four-story neo-Spanish, neo-Haifa, neo-Dutch sagging stucco mansions currently being put up by a Santa Monica architects in the Fairlaxlla Brea area. The evolution Irom apartment buildings into condominiums can be traced in the emergence of tile roof s, arched windows and palm trees planted out front. At night, there are dozens of new movie theaters and, soon, a new opera hall. The evolution from Mickey Mouse into Placido Domingo wi1l be mar1l.ed by metal and dancing cubes, by paper thin classicism or by confused expressionism, depending on who panders most successfully to Mrs. Disney's fear of design. 01 course, this monument to the conversion of a crass industry into elite ta ste temples will be surrounded by the lastest in corporate megalomania, whether in the overblown temples of yuppie living or in the glass CUlVes and grids of mysterious business. Los Angeles wi1l soon have a downtown (at least one), even if we will not be able to see it through the haze of our soon permanent winter.

The Forum will keep its expeditions going through this winter wonderland. In fact, the current project is to map the territory in as many ways as possible. A pamphlet, 10 be published within Ihe next lew months, will contain geological maps, sUlVeys, pueblo markings, fault s, floodplains, industrial sUlVeys and health images. Aspiring cartographers are needed. The Forum is also planning a series of events for the Spring which will highlight the wor1l. of young architects. The -Living on the Edge- design charrene, postponed Irom this month, wi1l be held in February. The National Endowment for the Humanities has made many publications possible, so please make suggestions. lime to come out of hibernation.

Footnote: This summer, two dozen architects, half of them famous and accomplished, half of them young and eager (and thus, in some cases, members of the Forum), were asked 10 design life guard stations lor an exhibition at the Kirst en Kiser GaUery. By engaging the end of the continent, the primordial sense of shelter and viewing of the elements, and by indulging in frivolity, the designers produced a series of follies which reduced their architectural inquiries to their ridiculous kernels. Such is Los Angeles architecture. Now, two architects who were excluded from the procession of the naked emperors, Cesar PeUi and Bernard Zimmerman, are set to deisng gingerbread structures for charity. None of the lifeguard stations sold. Must architecture be edible to be true to its principles?


Notes on the Edge

Christian Hubert

Underlying the fecent Forum discussion series. WUving on the Edge: Towards an Archi tecture of Housing- was a question: to what extent is the single-family house slill appropriate as a model lor thinking housing in Los Angeles? The recent compet~io n sponsored by MOCA, in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition of the 路Case Studies" houses, adhered to the premise that mixed income, multifamily housing is the issue of today. The Forum 's discussion of the Case Studies houses , held at MOCA with Robert Winter, Tomas Hines , David Gebhard, and Elizabeth Smith, revie wed the powerlul appeal of the bungalow in Southern California and of its highly formalized exemplars in the work of Neulra and Schindler. According to some of the historians present that evening, the Case Studies houses should not be romanticized into models of the single-family home in Southern California. They suggested that the vitality of the developer bungalow or the sophistication of Neutra and Schindler ran the risk of becoming pallid excercises in "good taste" under the tutelage of John Entenza, and that the one truly powerful exceptions, the Eames House, occupied an ambiguous and subsequently unexplored position within that programme. According to David Gebhard, the majority of the case studies houses did not occupy the landscape as imaginatively as many regressively "styled" houses, and the architects involved in the program paid lip seNice to social purpose, but never attempted to make multi-family dwelling the object of their designs. After these fascinating but mixed reviews, the second Forum evening attempted to outline the scope of the housing crisis in l os Angeles today. The dimensions of

disenfranchisement and the social costs of political decisions were most particularly explicit in J ennifer Wolch's descriptions of general downward mobility in the housing chain and in Gary Squier's account of the economic consequences of the decision to seismically upgrade l os Angeles' masonry building stock. While George Bush was blathering on television about "a thousand points of light" and claiming that one should not confuse the issue of housing and the problems of the homeless, the genuinely political nature of the housing crisis was vividly illustrated. On that evening in particular, the questions of architects' responsibilities, of their attempts to balance formal and social concerns. were subsumed into a more general issue of political priorities. As a member of the audience pointed out, the issues that architects should address are not so much "how to do it for less: but "how to do it well: but the issue that we all face is the scope and force of our political will. On the third evening 01 the series, Dana Cuff, John Mutlow, and Julie Eizenberg presented models for housing and social action in their own work. Dana illustrated how architects can act as catalysts and help formulate socio-political programmes for a community. John MuHow and Julie Eizenberg showed specific examples of housing that expressed the identity of the family unit within a collective project or which created a complex program out of different types of dwelling units. Allan Hankin shared some of his obseNations 01 the Route Two cooperative along Santa Monica Boulevard in Silver lake and Echo Park. In that area, the tenants living in a swath of land fifty yards wide and several . miles long were able to buy the land back

from Caltrans after it had been taken over by the state agency for the right-ol-way of a projected freeway. The Route Two cooperative affords an eXlraordinary "case study" of a physically and socially diverse slice of the city that became a political community on the basis 01 cooperative land ownership. Through the legislative process its inhabitants were able to create a housing cooperative which can maintain low income housing. In fact. Hankin suggested, there might be many other cases where purchasing existing housing and taking it out of the speculative market might afford a more viable alternative than new construction . While the majority of Angelinos no longer live in single family houses and new housing construction is preponderantly multi-family, the suburban ideal of the single-family dwelling remains a prism through which other housing fo rms are viewed and judged. The Forum's discussion series offered some glimpses inlo housing forms and political conle xts which could offer both community and individual identity.


Random Events Exhibits I Even t s

L ectures

Master Drawings of Otto Wagner Wight Art Gallery, U.C.LA (213) 825-3264.

Thorn Mayne :

~ Work

in Progress."

2 160 D ickson Hall, U CLA. November 17, 8:00 p.m.

Through Doc8mber 11.

Morphosis PertcH HaU, Graduate School 01 Architecture and Urban Design, UCLA

Little Tokyo Walking Tour. Los Angeles Conservancy, (213) 623-CITY lor required reservations, November 19, tour starts at 10:00 a.m.

(213) 825-3791 Through December 2.

Excavations : Five Artists Otis Parsons Art Gallery. 2401 Wilshire, (2 13) 251-0555

Through December 24. Arata Isozakl Kirsten Kiser Gallery, 964 North La Brea (213) 876-7012 Through December 3 t.

Tours of Pershing Square, Palaces of Finance, Broadway Theaters and Mecca for Merchants, with the Los Angeles Conservancy. Call (213 ) 623路2489 for reservations. Every Saturday, 10:00 am.

Neil Denari: " The Ellipse of the Mach ine." Main Space. Sci路Arc, 1800 Berkely Street, Santa Monica. November 23, 8:00 p,m. Kurt Forster : " Aida Rossi: Archaic Type and Modern Character." Harris Hall, School of Architecture, USC. November 28, 8:00 p.m. Taisto Makela: " Alvar Aalto 's Villa Matrea: Alternative Reading s." Room C, Sci-Arc, 1800 Berkeley Stroot, Santa Monica. November 28, 2:30 p .m. Lebbeus Woods: "Sentrlcity: The Unified Urban Field." Main Space, Sci-Arc, 1800 Berkeley Street, Santa Monica. November 30,8:00 p.m. Kurt Forster, Hans Hollein and Richard Meier: " OUo Wagner and the Use of Drawings, " 2160 Dickson Hall, UCLA. December I, 8:00 p.m. Dan Garcia : " The Politics of Racial Isolation ." 1243A Perloff Hall, UCLA. December I , 5:30p.m. Dimitri Prophyrios: " Chara cter and Style." Harris Hall, School of Architecture, USC. December 5, 8:00 p.m. Jane Friedman: " A Roya l Resting Place: The Church of Brou ." Leo S, Bing Theater, LACMA, 5905 Wilshire . Boulevard. December 10, 1:00p.m.


Membership in the Fonm is open to any interested individual. The $35 annual fee eot~ les members to free adm ission to Forum events, to receive the bi-monlhly newsletter, and 10 purchase other Forum publications at reduced rates. Members are encouraged to participate in planning Forum activities. Please check the appropriate category below if interested .

um, : I ddrlU:

I am interested in participating in the following activl1ies: publications planning and development fundraising lectures and discussions reading groups and research social events Fo r more information contact : Ch ri stian Hubert, (213) 389-6730 or Aa r on Belsky, (213) 938-6826

The Forum Needs To Know Help us collect archibabble, construction news, designer events, and loose ends of architecture. Help write the Forum Newsletter. Call Aaron Betsky, Newsletter Editor, at (213) 938-6826.


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Newsletter, November 1988