archiTEXT006 Monuments without Memory

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Above from Edward Gorey’s book EpiplecticBicycle. Harcourt Brace & Company, New York 1997

Monuments. For thousands of years we have created them to help us remember events, to remember people. Entire cities are built around them and tourists and residents alike use them as navigational devices. Do they really help us remember? What happens to monuments that disassociate from the things they are meant to commemorate? There are a series of monuments or Spomenik (the word ‘monument’ in Croatian/Slovenian/Serbian) throughout former Yugoslavia that are facing precisely this problem. These spomenici can be found across Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovenia, often in highly remote locations. They were erected as a unifying gesture by the Yugoslavian president during the 60’s and 70’s to collectively commemorate the trauma of the people there after World War II and to mark sites of historical significance. Some located an important battle and some former concentration camp sites and a variety of national architects and sculptors were involved in their design.

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Once highly visited, these monuments have become neglected after the fracturing of the former Yugoslavian republic in the 1990s. Spomenici were meant to unify a country that no longer exists through a history that has fallen out of common memory, making their neglect somewhat less surprising. It begs the question, can we really expect new generations to hold onto the hardships of generations that came before? Do these traumatic histories in physical form become a necessary part of our cultural identity? Even now unattached as they are to their original purpose, the confidence and experimentation in which each Spomenik was executed and their siting in remote locations gives them a prominence that is undeniable. The question now, is what new life can these structures have? These monuments without memory maintain a certain power, but it is not the power of remembrance. Instead they inspire new stories, including the work of Belgian photographer Jans Kempenaers and an upcoming science fiction film by our New Mexico friend Kaleb Wentzel-Fisher (there is an immense amount of talent coming out of those parts in case you didn’t know) entitled SANKOFA, the next chapter in Spomenik history.

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Although I have never had the chance to visit a Spomenik in person I would suggest a similar smaller (but by no means small) stateside experience may be found at Storm King Art Center in upstate New York. The sprawling acreage allows you to encounter massive artworks unexpectedly in the middle of the forest or view them from a distance across a great lawn. The same history of the Spomenik is not tied to these works, indeed they have separate histories even from each other, but then again isn’t the experience the same? Giant structures without meaning encountered by chance in nature.

-Heather

Photos by: Jan Kempenaers

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Meet our Neighbors: David Lewis

photos & interview by Nina Hans

Tell us a bit about Falling Whistles?

Falling Whistles is a campaign for peace in Congo. Four years ago we walked into Congo and learned of children sent to the frontlines armed with only a whistle and forced to fight. We wrote about it in a blog that was forwarded around the world overnight. Readers wrote back asking – what can we do? How can we help?

We have been working to answer those questions ever since.

The Whistle became our symbol. It showed why we cared. We hit the road asking other to join us and began building a coalition for peace in our world’s deadliest war.

Now, three years later, we partner with seven Congolese visionaries rehabilitating over 600 war-affected women and children. Our coalition includes 40,000 whistleblowers, over 200 retailers, 35 Congressmen, and 16 Senators.

Why did you guys choose to move your organization to Downtown LA?
We started with no home, no office and no plan – just $5 and a dream worth our everything. I hit the road, hitchhiking for four months from Austin to New York City stopping in living rooms and coffee shops, asking individuals to join us in the pursuit of peace.

Back in LA we pulled desks out of dumpsters, built a ramshackle office in our garage, and began building a coalition toward a goal most call impossible. Eight interns came from across North America to join us.

Soon we outgrew the garage. A friend had just moved in on Traction Ave and was building out an old space where he was gathering a small collective of DJs, artists, magicians, and entrepreneurs.

The creative energy was so deep. We couldn’t stay away.
We had to come.

What do you think is special about doing what you are doing in Downtown LA?

Well, first thing is that the people are amazing. I love dropping by the Daily Dose or Handsome and bumping into friends on coffee break. Everyone is coming off of their own little island. The south side of the Arts District is like that. And every island has it’s own culture. Out of all of the old warehouses that are getting revitalized further and further south, each is it’s own canvas. But none of them are blank. Every building bares the mark of somebody and something that came before.

A lot has happened with Falling Whistles in the past year, we would love to hear a bit about what’s next?

On November 20th, the rebel army M23 took over Goma, a major city in eastern Congo. M23 has executed children in the streets and as a result of the fighting, 800,000 people are displaced. They must be stopped, so we launched a platform to push back. Go to Stopm23.com learn more, and to join us in asking the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, and the White House to respond.

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Apolis Presents: Buried in Dandora

Last night Derek and Nathanael helped install a new photo exhibition that our dear friends at Apolis are co-hosting with the Pulitzer Center at Apolis. The opening is tonight, Friday, December 7th from 7 – 9 pm at the Common Gallery.

The event will mark the unveiling of a new photojournalism installation titled: “Buried in Dandora: Waste and Livelihood.” Earlier this year, Apolis Advocate Micah Albert documented life at the Dandora dumpsite in Nairobi, Kenya and his striking images from this project have been featured in the LA Times, BBC, SF Chronicle, and Foreign Policy.

Apolis is honored to present a curated selection of these images and host a live discussion with Micah and Pulitzer Center Managing Director, Nathalie Applewhite. The Pulitzer Center is an award-winning journalism organization based in Washington DC and is committed to sponsoring international journalism focused on under-reported issues.

We hope to see you there!

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Julie Wolfson’s Guide to La Brea Blvd

Freelance writer, Julie Wolfson, treks around LA and the world tracking down stories about amazing people doing inspiring things. She covers art, pop culture, travel, lifestyle, and culinary topics that celebrate creativity and innovation for cool hunting and other media outlets. Julie also mentors for the Virginia Avenue Project teaching performing arts and directing original plays.

Here’s a few of her favorite places to eat, drink and play on and near La Brea Boulevard:

1. Don Ville 2. A+R 3. General Quarters 4. Self Edge 5. St&ndard Goods 6. Mozza

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archiTEXT 005: SPORTS ARCHITECTURE INSIDE AND OUT

Although it took me six years living in Los Angeles, I finally attended a Lakers game last Friday and it was as good as I imagined it would be. Having now completed the Staples Center trifecta (Kings, Clippers, Lakers) I’ve been thinking quite a bit about sports architecture as of late. If Staples Center is iconic for LA it is thanks to its massive size and prominent location right off the time-sucking 110 freeway, and not due to anything particular memorable on its exterior. What I’m arguing is that the experience of Staples is primarily about its interior and not its exterior (LA Live being adjacent and separate). Staples Center is about moving crowds and the adaptability of the arena for everything from hockey games to Michael Jackson memorials. Incredibly, the Staples center is able to change from Basketball to Hockey in around two hours. Some may remember last year when the Kings, Clippers and Lakers were all in the playoffs resulting in Staples hosting six playoff games in four days (with multiple days of varied sporting event doubleheaders). There was a lot of worry that games would go into overtime and upsetting the delicate time balance needed to pull this off. At this point the efficiency of the system becomes paramount and also where I become obsessed with the time lapse videos of these change overs. Take a moment, take a look.

In areas of lower density there is no reason why sports arenas must remain internalized. Stadiums for the Olympics for example, are often built as much for their exteriors as their interiors as they are intended to become icons of the sport and of the city itself. Just think the 2008 Chinese Summer Olympics. The Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing by Herzog and De Meuron was one of the big standouts there and was designed with an aerial view in mind as evidenced by the renderings. When I visited, the interior was almost unrecognizable from what I’d seen in all the previous imagery, genericized by the requirements of its intended sporting function, but the concourses and exterior were entirely familiar as that iconic building.

And then in the 2012 London Olympics it was the Velodrome by Hopkins Architects that first made cycling intriguing for people like myself previously unfamiliar with the sport, and that was before even seeing the interior. The repetitive images of the hyperbolic paraboloid structure with its rich cladding of Western Red Cedar timber made me wonder what exactly took place inside and resulted in a fair amount of cycling watching that year.

What these structures don’t always have that Staples does is plan for reuse after their life as Olympic icons. We have seen some interesting and unexpected rebirths (the Inglewood Forum, former home of the Lakers, as a mega church for example) but we have also witnessed the decay of the 2004 Athenian Olympics structures before their time.

How can we reuse these structures with the same multi-use efficiency that Staples Center promotes? Can we do anything to make sure Staples and others don’t suffer the same fate as newer, more modernized stadiums are built?

- Heather

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May you have the…

Painting pictured above: Normal Rockwell, Freedrom from want.

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Meet our Neighbors: Justin Bauer

Photos & Interview by Nina Hans

Justin, what exactly is it you do?
I’m a painter and designer primarily.

What are you up to these days?
The last six months I’ve been doing a lot of art experimentation on top of working on a new series of paintings. I’ve been exploring digital mediums and other bizarre creative endeavors to see what new and unique stuff I can come up with. I started writing a book. Basically, revisiting all the childhood things I thought I could never do, to see if I can actually do them. I’m also designing a new leather line, called Snake brand that should launch next year.

How did you end up in the Arts District?

I’ve always hated LA. I use to swear it was the worst place to live. One day some friends said “We found this building and I swear you are going to love it!” My friend Tyler Simmons brought me up here, we looked at the loft space and that second I decided I was going to move here. Two weeks later, I moved up from lovely Costa Mesa to establish my studio here. Basically I was having a great time down by the coast but I wasn’t going to be able to meet the people I wanted to meet or have the community I wanted down there. So I moved to the Arts District and was totally blown away by the kind of of people surrounding it. The variety of encouragement and explorative entrupeners here. I’ve loved it ever since.

What’s different for you now that you’ve left the surf industry to work on your own as an artist?

Before I was so busy being tied up directing and being a full time guy that I wasn’t able to live in my own city, experience the city, and enjoy the benefits of inspiration in my own city. Back then it was just an idea, but now that it’s where I live, work and play here, I’ve been completely blown away exploring Los Angeles, going to the LA river at night, or being in east LA. Down in the Arts District, the days are like an industrial cowboy zone, with a certain sense of decay and distress and at the same time like I said community, all rolled into one. You walk and smell all these weird ugly smells, and smog, with dust and grime everywhere, but I always feel more alive for it and always feel like I’m walking in my own neighborhood.

What’s your dream project?

Well I’m incredibly stubborn for one, I have twenty dream projects and I want to do them all. I’d love to be in the Marc Selwyn gallery. The painting series that I’m working on now is a dream project. I think is going to be drastically different, or at least a big change from the other stuff I’ve been working on and it represents a more streamlined vision for what I want to say, where I’ve been experimenting until now. It’s mostly about the comfort vs. malaise of nostalgia or pop. We all have nostalgia, we love it. I’m interested in showing some of these collected elements that have become our personal pop culture, and how they look now as we’ve become adults. I feel pretty good about it and I’d love to be able to convey something to the gallery world, and in other innovative ways.

Also I modify everything I own, everything in my life. In that way a dream ‘project’ is designing everything from apparel or cookware to film and motorcycles. If you ask me to consult on something for you or reinterpret something, I really enjoy getting into your world and problem solving things with design.

What do you think is unique about doing what you doing as an Artist in Los Angeles?

Sheer collaboration, people doing the same thing you are doing but differently. Or people doing different things and inspiring you. The back and forth… Saying you didn’t know it was possible and then seeing your best friend do it. Being able to discuss openly about how to do things, the tactile development of things. Honestly, LA allows you to dream up stupid ideas that you think will never happen and see them actually come to fruition and believe that it will go somewhere. You believe it wont only impact your friends and community but also further the LA hub of creativity that it’s always been. Now though I think its getting more of the attention it deserves from the rest of the world.

Where can we see what you’ve been up to?

For paintings you can go to JustinBauer.com, for useless experiments you can go to my tumblr, and if you want to hire me to design something, go to Bauerhaus.

Together we Build?

Futures for those who don’t have a future. I believe your own art should be unique to you, its your version of what you see. If you don’t know it now I promise it’s in there somewhere. I can’t tell you how many people I meet that are inspired by little artistic things and don’t realize that they themselves can do just that. I think it’s a matter of not limiting yourself. Future represents the unknown and I think that’s the key. You may see something you think you can’t do, it’s a variable. If you focus too much on the exact point of inspiration you may end up not being to use that inspiring thought at all. The point is to figure out your way and know that it’s valid to all of us. The more invested you are in creating your craft the more invested you will be in your community around you.

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ARCHITEXT 004: What is a house? Japanese Edition.


This is the reply I wish I had given when first asked the question of what a house is. I was working on my very first residential project and I felt I knew what went into it, walls, systems, parts, but the project manager was asking me to go deeper and asked me, “No, really think about it. What is a house?”

So much more than shelter, the house in the modern age has the potential to be the physical manifestation of an idea on the way a family lives and interacts. Japanese residential architecture in particular has been fruitful ground for experimental living. In Japan, architects and families alike are willing to push the boundaries of how their lives will be shaped by the houses in which they reside.

This includes a house (Roof House, Kanagawa, Japan, 2009) by Tezuka Architects built around the idea that the roof can be the most utilized room of the house. In this project, every family member has a skylight in their room with a ladder that accesses the roof. The entire family often converges there, which is consequently outfitted with a dining area, shower, and kitchen.

Photos:
Katsuhisa Kida / FOTOTECA –

While I first heard about Shigeru Ban’s Naked House (Kawagoe, Japan, 2001) nearly 10 years ago it has stuck with me as an extreme example of family living. It is a house built around the idea of not separating family members from each other. Ban wrote that the client for this project wanted a house that “provides the least privacy so that the family members are not secluded from one another, a house that gives everyone the freedom to have individual activities in a shared atmosphere, in the middle of a unified family.” While many architects might have solved this request by adding more interior windows or clerestories Ban took this residence in a radical direction by rethinking the idea of rooms altogether. He created rooms on casters, open on two ends that would move around a fixed shell. What is so incredible to me about this project is that a family actually lived in it, elevating it from the realm of the conceptual to a functioning revolution in family living. While it is incredibly hard for me to imagine growing up in these conditions with my own family, being introduced to this project had sparked all kinds of questions for me. Are our living habits dictated by the walls and architecture that surround us? Why has housing typology of the last 100 years been so incredibly uniform with so few exceptions?

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Refueled Mag: Featuring Nathanael Balon

Refueled Issue Ten just dropped and we’re excited to be featured alongside designer Aaron Draplin, a gathering with photographer Laura Dart, Folk Fibers’ Maura Ambrose, our good friend, furniture designer Stephen Kenn, Logan Caldbeck & Colt Miller of Cobra Rock Boot Company, a trip out to the Bonneville Salt Flats with adventurer/photographer Scott G Toepfer, the vibe of West America with Jordan Hufnagel & James Crowe and the Look from Imogene+Willie. Photos by Nina Hans

Please check out the online version for free right here.

Thanks so much to Chris Brown for his hard work and dedication to sharing Community, heritage and discovery.

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ARCHITEXT 003: Architecture Couples

Last week I attended the marriage of two friends, both architects, who have now made formal their union of awesomeness. They do not (at least not yet) work together but in tribute to these two very talented individuals this week’s blog looks at famous architecture marriage partnerships and the wealth of work these unions have produced.

Having been raised by parents both working in the same profession, I grew up seeing first hand the blurring of boundaries in a marriage/working partnership and how the personal and professional parts of life tend to spill into each other. I also have worked for quite a few architectural couples. At its best, I have seen how this constant back and forth at all hours can be incredible fruitful, especially in the design profession. This sentiment is echoed by those who have made it work, including Elizabeth Diller who shares a practice with husband Ricardo Scofidio (now also with Charles Renfro who was made partner in 2004). Included here is their Hypar Pavilion at Lincoln Center, completed in 2011, a project that works to integrate landscape into urban fabric of New York.

Photos by Iwan Baan

This leads organically to Foreign Office Architects’ Yokohama Terminal_Yokahama, Japan by (then) husband and wife team Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Farshid Moussavi from Spain and Iran respectively. While this union did not last, the wealth of innovative work they produced while married can be found on every architecture die hard’s bookshelf as Phylogenesis.

I also want to give a mention to J. Meejin Yoon & Eric Höweler of Höweler + Yoon Architecture who, in order to combat prevailing notions that the husband takes a leadership role in marriage/work architectural practices, actually run two parallel practices including one that J. Meejin Yoon heads independently. Parti wall, completed in Boston in 2008 by the couple, is another urbanscape, greening intervention (I may be sensing an underlying theme here in the projects I’ve chosen to highlight).

The list of architecture couples is of course much more extensive than this sampling, all with requisite black and white headshots as good as the ones included here. Amanda Levete & Jan Kaplický_(Future Systems), Billie Tsien and Todd Williams (Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects), Sharon Johnston Mark Lee (JOHNSTONMARKLEE) also come to mind. Any others you’d add?

Further reading:
NY Times article on the subject. Couples Who Build More Than Relationships.

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