The high desert town of Lancaster, California, population 156,000, has set its sights on becoming, in the words of its mayor R. Rex Parris “the solar capital of the world.” That means producing more electricity from solar energy than it consumes, which it would have to achieve by covering roofs, fields, and parking lots with enough solar panels to generate more than 200 megawatts citywide. The city, located about two hours north of Los Angeles in the Antelope Valley, already has about 40 megawatts built and 50 megawatts under construction, according to the New York Times; a combination of private investment and construction from the municipal utility.
Lancaster could prove to be a good case study: getting a solar permit in the sun soaked town is already much easier than anywhere in California—the number of residential solar installations have tripled in the last 18 months—and Parris is touting the initiative as an effective way to add jobs to the struggling area.
At a DeLab (Design East of La Brea) Tour this Saturday, Los Angeles-based firm Lettuce Office shared the epic story of its new solar array for LA’s Occidental College. The 1 megawatt installation, made up of 4,886-panels, follows the contours of its hilly site, with its angled panels raised just two or three feet off the ground. To guard against sliding, each set of panels had to be imbedded into the earth via concrete-supported columns.
Think LA has too many issues? Then start voting in the My LA2050 Challenge, a competition handing out $1 million in grants to some of the most innovative and creative ideas meant to tackle the city’s biggest problems. Voting, which is all online, began on April 2nd and lasts until April 17th.
More than 275 ideas have been proposed. One is AN West Coast Editor Sam Lubell’s exhibition, Never Built: Los Angeles, which brings to life more than 100 innovative, often unbelievable, unbuilt schemes—many dashed by LA’s inability to embrace innovation—and challenges the city to change its culture of public timidity and banality. Another favorite is Farm on Wheels, by LA-Más, in which food trucks will serve as citywide “hubs of healthy food.”
Dialogues, the series of conversations between architects and artists that took place at the MAK Center in Los Angeles over the last couple of months, is finishing up tonight with an exhibit of the designers’ work. The show features drawings, images, and models from a serious lineup at For Your Art on Wilshire Boulevard. Contributors include: Doug Aitken, Barbara Bestor, Escher Gunewardena, Fritz Haeg, Jorge Pardo, Linda Taalman, Xavier Veilhan, Pae White, Peter Zellner, and many many more. The show will be up until April 16.
This October, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon—a biennial competition encouraging schools from around the country to create affordable, solar powered, Net Zero houses—will be held outside of Washington D.C. The new location, in the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, gives SCI-Arc and Caltech a distinct home field advantage. The team of 16 SCI-Arc and 20 Caltech students is creating a fascinating structure, called DALE, which stands for Dynamic Augmented Living Environment (their last entry was called CHIP.. get it?) that could only be possible in the moderate Southern California climate.
The perforated aluminum skin would replace the previously proposed glass facade. (Courtesy TJPA)
It looks like Pelli Clarke Pelli’s Transbay Transit Center, which stretches about three blocks through the city’s Rincon Hill neighborhood, might go ahead with its first major piece of value engineering. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the architects have suggested that the building’s undulating glass skin become perforated aluminum. The move would meet federal safety guidelines and chop $17 million from the estimated $1.59 billion budget for the center’s first phase. The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) board will be asked to approve the change at its March 25 meeting. The structure is not expected to be complete before 2017.
On Saturday I moderated one of two AIA/LA-sponsored panels about bio-inspired design at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. The first panel looked at the general influence of nature on design, from the Mars Rover to the San Diego Zoo, and ours zeroed in on architecture’s envelopes and skins, with insights about breaking away from the static, heavy, and largely-unresponsive architecture of today by architect Tom Wiscombe, Arup engineer Russell Fortmeyer, and evolutionary biologist Shauna Price. Speaking of bio-inspired design, before the panel I got an early look at the new gardens at the Natural History Museum, designed by Mia Lehrer + Associates.
Now we’re really confused. Amidst reports that LA’s MOCA might be taken over by LACMA or USC, now we hear via the New York Times that the struggling institution might now join forces with the National Gallery in Washington D.C. According to John Wilmerding, the chairman of the Gallery’s board of trustees, MOCA is “close to working out a five-year agreement…to collaborate on programming, research and exhibitions.” The deal wouldn’t include fundraising assistance, but would obviously bolster MOCA’s ability to raise money with the National Gallery’s high profile assistance on programming, exhibitions, research, curation, and staffing. Oh, and guess who approached the National Gallery, according to the story: MOCA board chair Eli Broad, who has made it clear he doesn’t want to be swallowed by LACMA. Stay tuned as this saga plays out.