Alexander Has His Moment

West
Friday, September 18, 2009
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Christopher Alexander

Christopher Alexander

Last week, we wrote about Christopher Alexander winning the prestigious Scully Prize. Now, he’s been named the third most important urban thinker by venerable planning site Planetizen, after Jane Jacobs and Andrés Duany and ahead of F.L. Olmsted and Kevin A. Lynch. Even Daniel Burnham, who’s celebrating the centennial of his eponymous plan was lower on the list. If we sound surprised, it’s because many of us here in the office had either never heard of Alexander or long forgotten about him, his heyday having been so long ago. But clearly he is on people’s minds, considering Planetizen‘s list of the 100 most influential urban thinkers comes from a survey of its readers.

Perhaps Ned Cramer put it best, when we discussed Alexander’s selection by the Scully jury, of which the Architecture editor was a part: “I think it’s a lot like Venturi in the 90s, people are really starting to recognize a very influential designer, someone they’d been drawing on for years without even realizing it.”

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Park It Here

West
Friday, September 18, 2009
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AN Contributor Alissa Walker enjoys the pocket pasture at Silverlake restaurant Local

AN Contributor Alissa Walker enjoys the pocket pasture at Silverlake restaurant Local

Today  is Park(ing) Day LA. It’s the third year that the City Of Angels is participating in this transformation of metered parking spots into temporary microcosms of park-like environments — some replete with bench seating, grassy areas, and fresh food off the grill. San Francisco-based art and activist studio, Rebar, created the idea in 2005 as a comment on the lack of quality public spaces as well as to promote social interactions and critical thinking among urbanites. And the meters? Organizers are continually plunking change into the metal coin collectors while the parks occupy the parking spot. Some highlights include: Read More

Day 2, AIA SF Home Tours: The House in the Gray Flannel Suit

West
Sunday, September 13, 2009
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Mork-Ulnes house in the Haight.

The “in” color for homes in San Francisco these days is a dark charcoal gray.  If you are boldly angular, the sober color helps camouflage you. And if you are historic, you can declare your modernist leanings by choosing to dial down any rambunctious curlicues.

Inside the several charcoal-gray houses on the tour, it was a dramatically different story. Interior design for modern homes can play it safe, or go out on a limb. You wonder: Is it going to be straight-up Eames/Noguchi/DWR? Too-cool-for-you-Italian? Zen-rock-bamboo? Z Gallerie? Or a quirky mix of industrial materials and antiques? Read More

Day 1, AIA SF Home Tours: Jack Sprat

West
Saturday, September 12, 2009
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Roanoke St. Residence by Apparatus Architecture

Roanoke St. Residence by Apparatus Architecture

Remember the nursery rhyme?

Jack Sprat could eat no fat

His wife could eat no lean

And so betwixt them both, you see

They licked the platter clean.

The last two houses on this first day of the AIA SF’s Home Tours were rather like Jack Sprat and his wife.  In Glen Park, the Roanoke St. house was a skinny 12 1/2 feet wide. Not too far away, the Bosworth St. house was only 42 feet deep.  Each was an inspiring example of how to get out of a tight squeeze. And on this rainy day, where fall seemed to have arrived overnight, modern architecture’s ability to grab whatever sunlight there was to be had was particularly welcome.

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So Long SCI-Arc

West
Friday, September 11, 2009
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3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue, once home to SCI-Arc, is no longer worth preserving says Ray Kappe. (Courtesy Santa Monica City Council)

3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue, once home to SCI-Arc, is no longer worth preserving, says Ray Kappe. (Courtesy Santa Monica City Council)

“I hadn’t even heard about it,” Ray Kappe told us when we called him to find out about an item in Curbed the other day noting that the Santa Monica City Council had overturned a ruling by the Landmarks Commission that would have designated SCI-Arc’s original home as a historical icon worthy of preservation. Kappe, who founded the school in 1972 at a 1950s industrial building at 3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue [map], actually sided with the council in its decision, calling the building “messed up completely.” He said it used to sport “a pretty good 30s modern look. It had good character, but now it’s got dumb character.” That’s because at one point the landlord replaced the ribbon windows with generics, among other changes. Read More

Emerson Morphs in Hollywood

West
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
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Thom is right at home with this Emerson project. (Courtesy Curbed)

Thom is right at home with this Emerson project. (Courtesy Curbed)

When Boston’s Emerson College chose to open a satellite “campus” for students studying and interning in LA (it’s really just one building), the school would have been hard pressed to find a more suitable architect than Thom Mayne. After all, Morphosis has had a string of academic successes of late, including the new 41 Cooper Square in New York and the Cahill Center for Astronomy at Caltech. Indeed, some of the firm’s earliest successes were two high schools in Southern California. Now, Curbed alerts us to this latest project, complete with the above rendering. The details are kind of sketchy, though we do know there will be 224 residences in that La Defense-like box with classrooms in the inner blob, which is, like, so Thom Mayne.

A School for the Future

West
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
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Architecture for Humanity just announced the winner for the 2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom. The global competition involved 1,000 registered design teams from 65 different countries. The challenge for the architecture, design, and engineering community was simple–partner with actual students and their schools to create real solutions for a classroom of the future. The winner, Teton Valley Community School in Victor, Idaho, was designed by local firm Section Eight. The concept is centered around the idea of place-based education in the school, a mode of learning that gives more importance to cultural and environmental sustainability than technology and consumerism. Read More

Fire Blast

West
Friday, September 4, 2009
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The fire this time. (Photo: Mary Beth Trama)

The fire this time. (Photo: Mary Beth Trama)

Among other scary lessons, the latest L.A. fire reminds us why it’s important to stick to a small footprint. As of this writing, the Station Fire in Los Angeles County has destroyed 64 homes, three commercial buildings, and 27 outbuildings, and has burned through at least 145,000 acres of land. In the midst of the blaze stands the historical Mt. Wilson Observatory, which was in danger from the nearby flames, but now appears to be safe. Read More

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Perfect Angle for Treasure Island: 68 Degrees

West
Friday, September 4, 2009
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(Rendering courtesy CMG Landscape Architecture.)

Sixty-eight degrees happens to be the best angle for the streets in San Francisco’s Treasure Island project, a utopian vision of green, pedestrian-centric living. The planners have realized that nobody will walk if they’re buffeted by blasts of wind that sweep the island from the southwest, so they came up with a compromise that blocks wind while giving cars enough clearance to turn.

It was just one of the interesting factoids that came up during yesterday’s tour, organized by the AIA SF for their Architecture + the City Festival, going on right now  (still time to catch one of the other tours and get in on the learning and schmoozing!). Read More

That Empty Lot Problem? Solved.

West
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
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While the recession has put a damper on development along San Francisco’s Octavia Boulevard, the mayor’s office has reached out to Douglas Burnham of Envelope A+D to come up with something cool to temporarily fill the two vacant lots that front Hayes Green at the intersection of Octavia and Fell.

Burnham’s plan sounds like a lot of fun. He plans to transform the space into a mini-shopping, dining, and entertainment destination called PROXY–using a series of modular units that will be recyclable in two or three years when things ratchet up again. The vision includes a group of  pop-up stores,  a food court served by “slow food” carts, an art gallery, and a courtyard for projecting outdoor movies.  Design-wise, the spaces will make their transient nature apparent, revealing their infrastructure (e.g., wiring, water storage) and their modular assembly.

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Pint-Sized City

West
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
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AN contributor Christina Chan sends this wee report from Irvine:

Pretend City is populated entirely by kids–this mini replica of a city is Irvine’s newest children’s museum. The 28,000-square-foot facility, which just opened its doors to visitors, has taken over a decade to come to fruition. Philanthropists Alexandra Airth and Sandra Peffer are behind the new mini-metropolis. The museum includes interactive learning exhibits geared for kids up to eight years of age.The city includes a farm where little ones can learn about the food they consume, a ATM for financial learning, a café with mock ovens and menus, and a beach that will teach about the effects of pollution. And for budding architects, there is even a construction site where kids (and perhaps grown-ups, too) can build structures with wooden planks.

How Fruity?

West
Friday, August 28, 2009
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Alan Tossman of Santa Monica's Farmers’ Market Movable Spaces, one of three submissions already approved in the competition.

Alan Tossman of Santa Monica's Farmers’ Market Movable Spaces, one of three submissions already approved in the competition.

Just a reminder that everyone has until Tuesday, September 1, to make their submissions to the Redesign Your Farmers Market competition launched earlier this month by us, GOOD, The Urban & Enviromental Policy Institute at Occidental College, and the LA Good Food Network. They’ve updated the submission guidelines, so be sure to check ‘em out, as well as three proposals that have already gotten the thumbs up.

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