Once again our friend Stanley Saitowitz—San Francisco architecture’s answer to Meryl Streep— took home the most honors at the AIA SF’s annual awards, held at the San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center last Thursday. Saitowitz took home prizes for his elegant, and relatively affordable, Tampa Museum of Art, his screen-obsessed Costa Rica house, and his effervescent Toast Restaurant in Novato, CA, which the jury described as “like walking inside a loaf of bread…..like swimming in sparkling champagne….” . Other big winners included Jensen Architects, noted for their SFMOMA rooftop garden and Walden Studios in Sonoma; EHDD, which took home awards for its UC Merced Science and Engineering Building and its Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo in Lincoln Park, IL; and Min Day, which took home prizes for its L Residence and its Community CROPS Center, both in Nebraska.
We don’t usually track our emails from the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) very carefully. But today we learned via one of their offerings that Sarah Palin will be the keynote speaker at the NHLA’s annual convention, which will be held from October 13-16 in Vancouver. So what does Palin have to do with an organization formed to “establish a uniform system of grading rules for the measurement and inspection of hardwood lumber?” Here’s what they say: “The hardwood industry has been successfully self-regulated for more than 110 years. Governor Palin supports a free enterprise system with limited government involvement and understands that industries, such as ours are a great example of America’s pioneering spirit. We are pleased and honored to welcome her as Keynote Speaker.” There you have it. God Bless America.
Once again the Society for Motion Pictures About the Built Environment (SMIBE) has dared filmmakers to document the constructed world around them, with its second annual short film competition (see our take on last year’s competition here). This year’s theme, “Personal Infrastructures” (everybody loves the word infrastructure these days, right?) spurred some great work, including First Place winner “Ice Carosello” by Matthias Löw, which captures the creation and enjoyment of an ice carousel (yes, a spinning block of ice in the middle of a frozen lake) in Sweden through time-lapse photography, accompanied by light techno background music. Now we REALLY want to visit one of these things. Our favorite of all was Augmented (Hyper) Reality: Domestic Robocop by Keiichi Matsuda, who explores the blurring line between humans and cyborgs as an animated human (or is it a robot?) digitally scans everything in his kitchen to make a cup of tea. Reality is coming, and we are all turning into iPads.
A Quincy Jones’ Brody House in LA’s Holmby Hills has hit the market for a whopping $24.95 million, report the Wall Street Journal and LA Curbed. The 11,500 square foot modernist home has nine bedrooms, a tennis court, pool, and a guest house on 2.3 acres. It also features a floating staircase, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and plenty of indoor-outdoor spaces. Not coincidentally the art collection of the home’s owners, Sydney F. and Frances Brody, is going up for auction today at Christie‘s in New York. It includes works by Picasso, Giacometti, Matisse, Degas, Renoir (not bad staging pieces for a house sale). The couple were founding benefactors of LACMA, major patrons of the Huntington Library and Gardens, and known for throwing legendary parties full of stars. Frances Brody died last November. We think Mr. and Mrs. Brad Pitt would like living here.
The magnificent Neutra VDL House on the Silver Lake Reservoir is one of our favorite places in Los Angeles. Now we like it even more, thanks to its first ever concert series, inspired by Richard Neutra’s love of music (Neutra played piano throughout his life). Small groups of students from Cal Poly Pomona (which owns the home) will be performing works from Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Ravel, and Mozart on May 8 and May 22. All proceeds will go toward restoration of the VDL House, an ongoing effort that has included roof, window, and electrical repairs and work related to long term water damage.
The Trust For Public Land today announced that it successfully wrapped up its down to the wire save of Hollywood’s Cahuenga Peak, the 138-acre swath of land behind the Hollywood Sign that had once been slated for development (one of many pleas included red letters over the sign reading “Save The Peak”). The final donor: none other than Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who chipped in $900,000 to complete the $12.5 million needed to finalize the purchase. The Trust had missed its original April 14 deadline, but were granted an extension until April 30. Hefner, who had helped raise money back in the 70s to rebuild the sign, back when he was dating a whole other set of playmates, was joined by other LA stars, philanthropists, and companies. These included Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Aileen Getty, Norman Lear, CAA, LucasFilm, Walt Disney Company, CBS, NBC, Sony Pictures, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and many others. Really a historic Hollywood collaboration.
The NY Times this weekend reported on the status of one of our favorite LA structures: LAX’s UFO-like Theme Building. It looks like the ugly scaffolding which has adorned the parabolic edifice for the past couple of years is finally down, and the structural retrofit of the building (originally designed in 1961 by Paul Williams and Pereira & Luckman) is just about finished. The building underwent the procedure after a 1,000-pound chunk fell off one of the upper arches and landed on the roof of a restaurant. In addition to a sparkling new paint job, the Theme is now reinforced with a 1.2 million-pound tuned mass damper that sits on flexible bearings. The $12.3 million project was completed by Gin Wong Associates architects and Tower General Contractors. For those interested in unique LA experiences we recommend checking out the observation deck and the Encounter restaurant.
Ever since Woodstock, music festivals have morphed into celebrations of eclectic hedonism and of course, all types of artistic expression. Indio, California’s Coachella, which starts tomorrow, is no exception. In addition to three days of music, the festival offers dozens of art installations. This year the most prominent, right at the festival’s entrance, is called Ascension, The Crane. It’s just that: a giant white crane made of modular aluminum tubes and a mesh fabric called Textilene. It measures 45-feet-tall with a 150-foot wingspan, and the big bird’s multi-colored LED lighting is powered by two adjacent photovoltaic stations that also serve as benches and canopies. The 35,000 pound crane, which was put together on site (all of its components fit into a single shipping container), was designed by Crimson Collective, a group of socially-oriented designers led by LA visionary Behn Samareh. The group works to “bridge the gap between art and architecture,” through interactive installations. Check out a fantastic video detailing the construction here. It should be noted that the crane is a symbol of grace, wisdom and peace. This explains why all origami seems to be crane-based, including, apparently, gargantuan origami. Read More
A couple of months ago we introduced you to the W Hotel in Hollywood, a collaboration of some of the leading design talent in LA. One of those firms, Sussman Prejza, just sent us a video that shows off their all-important fiery red and multi-colored “W” signs, seen throughout the building. In addition to the behemoth 35-foot-tall W on top of the hotel, the firm designed a slew of animated signs, which sparkle thanks to LED’s, red and/or crystalline filters, and faceted, laser-cut acrylic surfaces. The signs vary from 2.5 to 5.5 feet tall and are programmed with their own dedicated control computer, 10 network switches, 61 power supplies and over 24,000 LEDs. And you thought all that Hollywood sparkle was simple, didn’t you?
Even though we already knew who had won ahead of time, we couldn’t help getting excited about AIA/LA’s ARCH IS__ awards, crowning “two exceptional young architects” at SCI-Arc on Monday night. The winners: Oyler Wu Collaborative and Tom Wiscombe/ Emergent. Both are pushing the envelope in terms of design, materials, engineering, and program, and are even starting to (slowly) build things. Read More
Ok, we promise this is our last link to AN contributor Alissa Walker’s Fast Company posts for a while. But this one is definitely worth it. The other day she focused on a subject we’ve been pondering for a long time: how despite their design expertise, most architects’ sites aren’t very good. Many, she points out, overuse gimmicks and make finding information and projects way too difficult. Sites for Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid, Renzo Piano, Rem Koolhaas’ OMA, she says, are all completely Flash-reliant (a no-no in the new i-Phone, i-Pad world) and “use label-less maps, wordless grids, sketches and other graphic devices with rollovers as navigation, with no easy way to locate or share projects.” One site that we at AN find particularly confusing is that of Lorcan O’Herlihy (one of our favorite architects, by the way), which puts projects into a grid that resembles the Periodic Table of the elements. Sure, it looks great, but.. Well, you get the idea.