A squadron of U-Hauls descended on the parking lot in front of the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA last weekend, setting up a pop-up architecture exhibition in the first in a series of events called On the Road. The U-Hauls served as temporary displays for the work of up-and-coming, experimental architecture practices here in Los Angeles--where architecture businesses are known for being experimental, even if they don't often get a chance to deploy those innovations in Los Angeles. The search for new mediums in architecture was a prominent theme in all of the projects featured. "There are so many ways to think about 'where' and 'when' for architecture," says event curator Jonathan Louie.
The location and day of the event were no accident--June 2 was originally scheduled for the opening of MOCA's contribution to the ongoing Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in LA series, A New Sculpturalism (which is back on the calendar after experiencing some drama involving Los Angeles's most famous architect, Frank Gehry). On the Road set out to engage with MOCA, and intends to carry that over to the project's next events. "We're interested in creating dialogue with other institutions and other locations," says another of the event's curators, Danielle Rago. Future On the Road locations will all be relevant to the ongoing process of rethinking Los Angeles: "It's an LA-specific project," says Rago.
One of the projects on display, "Made in Opa-Locka" by Studio Bonner + Stayner Architects was based on the group's work in Opa-Locka, Florida, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to create public art and engaging spaces in the city's most notorious neighborhood (common to many cities in the country, foreclosures have led to severely blighty conditions). Working with a local community development corporation, Studio Bonner + Stayner have been designing additions to and conversions of single family homes to make them into homes for small businesses and public amenities. Examples include an employment office, a neighborhood gallery, culinary businesses, and laundries (Jennifer Bonner of Studio Bonner told Curbed that families sometimes walk two miles to wash their clothes in Opa-Locka). The community development corporation working with Studio Bonner + Stayner Architects usually focuses on providing affordable housing, so the NEA-funded project is a new addition to the city's economic development toolbox, and it's been made much easier by less stringent land use regulations: "We can literally change the zoning code while we're doing this," says Bonner.
Another of the projects on display at On the Road focused its experimentation on the Los Angeles neighborhood of Mt. Washington. The Foundation for Architecture and Design, led by Grey Crowell, is working in collaboration with Extraordinary Real Estate in Highland Park to develop nine vacant lots in and around Mt. Washington. "We see this as an opportunity to investigate housing design in a way similar to the Case Study Houses developed in LA in the 1940-60's," according to Crowell. For On the Road, Ffaad produced a series of elevation drawings to "approximate a dream and reality coming together," says Crowell, while still conforming to the requirements of zoning and the topography of the site.
· On the Road [Facebook Site]
· Why the Thin Skin, Frank? [The Architect's Newspaper]