One of Jane Jacobs’ most valuable contributions to the understanding of cities was her faith in the wisdom of the urban dweller. She argued that the physical city—and any approach to city planning—could not be separated from the wisdom of each individual inhabitant, “People who know well such animated city streets will know how it is. I am afraid people who do not will always have it a little wrong in their heads, like the old prints of rhinoceroses made from travelers’ descriptions of rhinoceroses.” The complication arising from Jacobs’ argument is simple though difficult to solve; how can we plan a city when planning is one part abstraction and abstraction removes us from Jacobs’ precious “real life” mentality?
A step towards solving this contradiction is sfbetterstreets.org, a website launched last week by the City of San Francisco. Developed by the San Francisco Planning Department in conjunction with other city agencies, the website is part of the city’s larger, “Better Streets” initiative. The legislative concept, described in San Francisco’s Better Streets Plan, is to create streets “designed and built to strike a balance between all users regardless of physical abilities or mode of travel… maximizing features for the comfort, usability, and aesthetics of people walking.”
This editor’s recent piece on the divide between architectural education and architectural practice has spurred a lot of discussion, prompting both high praise for addressing a worsening problem and charges of, ahem, “neoconservatism.” If it’s a debate that interests you, please join us next Tuesday, May 29 at Gensler’s new headquarters for the panel discussion, “A Teaching Moment.” Panelists include UCLA’s Neil Denari, Michael Maltzan, USC’s Alice Kimm, Woodbury’s Barbara Bestor, SCI-Arc’s John Enright, and Gensler’s Li Wen. At the panel we will discuss not only the schism between practice and education, but also new approaches toward technology, urbanism, and more. See you there!
Trust us, you don’t want to miss this weekend’s Venice Art Walk & Auctions (May 19-20), which in addition to showing off the area’s wealth of art studios and galleries, will introduce you to some of its finest new architecture. That’s impressive because everybody knows that Venice has more architects per square foot than pretty much anywhere else.
The Japanese American Cultural & Community Center’s first annual spring festival, LA Bloom wrapped up on May 5, but late visitors to the Little Tokyo site in Downtown LA can still enjoy a piece of the festivities. LA Bloom’s centerpiece ecoartspace installation will remain up for a few extra weeks. Using over five million pebbles, JACCC Artistic Director Hirokazu Kosaka and landscape architect Calvin Abe of AHBE created a large zen garden that, during the festival (along with thousands of feet of colorful thread) created a serene background for Kosaka’s evocative Mare Nubium performances.
“It isn’t something that can be experienced through description. It would be like explaining what it’s like to be present watching the original moon landing,” said Abe, for whom the space created a “profound existential experience.”
Los Angeles firm Layer (you may remember some of their past work) are showcasing their talents once again with an upcoming exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA). Opening June 3, the show, entitled Layer: A Loose Horizon is designed as a low-relief, web-like sculptural installation that begins outside the museum’s second floor window and continues into the interior of the building, across the lobby.
The series of overhead shapes “explores the threshold between perception and logic,” and creates “a physically engrossing and intellectually stimulating spatial construction,” according to the PMCA.
The largest development proposed in the history of downtown Seattle—an approximately 3 million square-foot headquarters for Amazon—may take eight years to complete. Project details presented at a recent downtown design review committee meeting revealed that Amazon’s glassy three block project, designed by NBBJ (designers of the recently-c0mpleted Gates Foundation, also in Seattle), will be built in three phases of two to four years.
While cameras allowing real-time viewing of work on downtown LA’s Broad museum have been in place since construction began last fall, the scenery is finally getting more interesting. The structure’s parking garage is now complete and construction permits were recently approved for the museum itself, according to LA Downtown News.
Los Angeles enjoyed its customary sunshine last Sunday, making it the perfect time to peek inside some of the city’s most exclusive historic homes, thanks to LACMA’s Art Museum Council, the museum’s volunteer support group. The council has been putting up an annual art and architecture tour, supporting the museum, for the past 56 years. In this year’s run, the council shared four homes of varying styles. AN was afforded a glimpse of the high life, not to mention lessons on how to display a LOT of objects.
Just steps away from the Space Needle, locals and visitors can see how hydroelectric power is generated, transmitted, and consumed in Seattle. Projected on the giant north facing wall of the Armory/Center House, the installation Current, by Brooklyn-based artist Adam Frank, uses light to create a real-time map of electricity distribution through the city’s neighborhoods. Frank was recently named artist-in-residence at the city’s public utility company Seattle City Light (SCL), and this is his first project. His art is part of a series of events taking place through October at the Seattle Center, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Seattle 1962 Exhibition.
Lloyd Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, was one of California’s most talented modernist architects, but he was overshadowed by his father’s fame and notoriety. Wright’s lack of press largely led to the destruction yesterday of his Moore House (1958) in Palos Verdes, a ritzy beach town near Los Angeles. Apparently, when the owners of the property planned the demolition they had never heard of the architect. The city council denied an appeal from the Los Angeles Conservancy, and now the winged, x-shaped house is gone. According to Curbed, the owner wants to build a Mediterranean McMansion in its place. Read More