Ever wonder what LA will look like in 30, 50, or 100 years? Little Tokyo Design Week, which launched last night in downtown Los Angeles, captures a glimpse of the future city through the eyes of innovative designers and companies inspired by technology from Japan. The four-day celebration takes place in one of the country’s few remaining Japan-towns and includes panels, exhibitions, parties, pop-up stores and even pub crawls. It opened last night with a forum from LA architecture school leaders Hitoshi Abe, Qingyan Ma, Ming Fung, and Andrew Zago, an outdoor screening of Hayo Miyazaki’s beloved anime classic My Neighbor Totoro, and a discussion of urban life as a customizable, sustainable existence with Tim Durfee, Ben Hooker, Keiichi Matsuda, Jon Rafman and Sputniko! Basically, this design week is about how to face the future of a more populated globe.
Finally. After 39 years of wandering around Los Angeles and trying to convince its landlord to sell, SCI-Arc today announced that it has bought its building in LA’s Downtown Arts District. The 1,250 foot-long Santa Fe Freight Yard Depot building, a reinforced concrete structure designed by architect Harrison Albright, stretches seemingly forever along Santa Fe Avenue. Students like to bike or skateboard inside it to get to class.
The school moved to the former rail depot 10 years ago after a 2001 renovation by architect Gary Paige. The school’s opening came when building owner Meruelo Maddux Properties filed for bankruptcy—meaning it really needed the money. The school bought the property for $23.1 million. Other homes for the school have included Marina Del Rey and Santa Monica. But now it finally has a real home.
And their edgy, coarse and lively corner of downtown, as SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss has pointed out, is where it’s always wanted to be. “SCI-Arc is absolutely committed to Downtown,” he told AN in a recent interview, adding that the area is a laboratory for architectural and urban development. “We are staying Downtown. Period.”
Why doesn’t landscape architecture in Southern California get the same attention as architecture? That’s one of the questions that will be answered at Friday’s Landscapes for Living conference at SCI-Arc. The event, organized by the Cultural Landscape Foundation, will focus on Post War Landscape designs in the region, which have largely stayed under the radar. For instance, who has heard of Ralph Cornell, who designed legendary landscapes like the Torrey Pines preserve near San Diego, Beverly Gardens in Beverly Hills and the Civic Center Mall and Music Center plaza in Downtown LA ? Other subjects will include Ruth Shelhorn, the only female architect to work on the original plans for Disneyland, and designer of the park’s entrance and Main Street; Bridges and Troller, who designed Century City; Lawrence Halprin, better known for his parks in the Pacific Northwest but also active in California; and of course the legendary (but under appreciated) Garret Eckbo.
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A site-specific installation at the SCI-Arc Gallery transforms a musical composition by Ken Ueno into a digitally realized built environment.
A robot, a composer, and an architect walk into a gallery. It could be the start of a corny joke, but instead it’s the captivating formula for Patrick Tighe’s new exhibition at the SCI-Arc Gallery. The composer is Ken Ueno, recipient of the Rome and Berlin Prizes, and the robot belongs to Machineous, the Los Angeles-based fabricator hired to realize Tighe’s architectural representation of Ueno’s music.
After years of trying, it looks like SCI-Arc is finally going to own its building in Downtown LA’s Arts District. According to the school the project should close escrow before this May. According to blogdowntown, the school will pay $23.1 million for the 100,000-square-foot building and its surrounding 4.75 acre lot. The deal had been held up because of property owner Meruelo Maddux’s continuing bankruptcy, but the company just settled with its debtor, Legendary Investors Group, which has pledged to honor the deal. “We don’t want to be renters anymore. SCI-Arc is absolutely committed to downtown,” SCI-Arc director Eric Owen Moss told AN when recently discussing the project. Interesting facts about the building: The quarter-mile-long Santa Fe Train Depot was converted into the school’s campus in 2000. Built in 1907, the depot was designed by Harrison Albright. At 1,250 feet long, if it were upended, it would be as tall as the Empire State Building.
37 first year SCI-Arc students have just finished a mesmerizing new installation in the school’s parking lot called Sway. The project is made of 228 thin bundled steel rods, bolted into the ground and joined via flexible (and wild) wire units above. The vast and tightly-packed array of bendy rods are responsive to subtle changes in wind force (and not-so-subtle pushing by visitors), enabling the structure to move around like trees in a forest, or a collection of organisms. At night they catch the light in changing and surprising ways.
The 1A Studi0—which produces a large installation every year— was led by professors Nathan Bishop, Eric Kahn and Jenny Wu. Bishop accurately called the piece an “encompassing environment.” Which is what makes it so great: the chance to walk right into the art and interact with it.
For you last-minute types, the deadline to register for AN and SCI-Arc’s Clean Tech Corridor Competition is the end of the day tomorrow. The competition asks architects, landscape architects, designers, engineers, urban planners, students and environmental professionals to create an innovative urban vision for Los Angeles’ CleanTech Corridor, a several-mile-long development zone on the eastern edge of downtown LA (which includes a green ideas lab and a Clean Tech Manufacturing Center). Entries should look beyond industrial uses; creating an integrated economic, residential, clean energy, and cultural engine for the city through architectural and urban strategies. That could include not only sustainable architecture and planning, but new energy sources, parks that merge with buildings, new transit schemes, and so on. While registration is due tomorrow, entries are due on September 30. So get a move on!! You can download the brief here.
A band of students from SCI-Arc and Caltech have been selected to compete in the DOE’s Solar Decathlon, to be held on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on October 2011. The team will go head to head with 20 other student groups from all over the world—including Canada, Belgium, China, and New Zeland—to determine once and for all, or at least for the next two years, who can build the most livable and sustainable sun-powered residence of 500 square feet or less. Read More
Architect and SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss talked to us the other day to correct our recent post on SCI-Arc’s future in the LA Arts District. Yes, he agreed, SCI-Arc does want to eventually own its own home (it tried unsuccessfully to buy its building from its landlord, developer Meruelo Maddux, a few years ago) . But the school’s lease is not up next year, nor does SCI-Arc face any pressure to leave anytime soon.
“SCI-ARC’s not going anywhere. SCI-Arc has no plans to go anywhere, and is not obligated to go anywhere,” he said. Read More
The LA Downtown News and Curbed LA report that SCI-Arc (the Southern California Institute of Architecture) is having some serious issues with its current location in LA’s Arts District, and may be considering a move to Hollywood, the Wilshire Corridor, or the Westside. The school rents its massive train-depot-turned-school building from developer Meruelo Maddux, which apparently charges a pretty penny (and recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy). Their lease is up in one year. According to Jamie Bennett, SCI-Arc’s COO, the school has not yet decided on whether it will renew the lease, and wants a building of its own. “We will be operating in our own self-interest. We haven’t been unhappy down here in the Arts District. We’ve got flexibility in terms of our future and we have optimism about our future, but our future will include owning where we are,” he told the Downtown News. Stay tuned, because we know downtown doesn’t want to lose one the Arts District’s driving forces…