Thursday, June 30, 2011

June Recap > HOLA > Lafayette Park

Gorgeous barrel roof

On the first day of the Los Angeles Design Festival last month, de LaB organized a tour of Heart of LA's Lafayette Park community center, one of the most exciting new public buildings to be completed in LA. HOLA, in partnership with Kanner Architects and the city's parks department, worked together to create a landmark for recreation and community in the neighborhood, but also to make it as green of a building as possible.


Our tour began across the street at the leafy patio of HOLA, where executive director Tony Brown introduced the program and the impact it has made in the neighborhood. In fact, HOLA runs an incredible program called "Send a HOLA Kid to Camp" which allows people to donate as little as $25 to send a child to a basketball clinic. Read more at HOLA's website. Then Neil Drucker and Jerry Montero from the Department of Parks and Recreation and City Bureau of Engineering explained the unique public-private partnership which allowed the community center to be funded and built as the first LEED-certified city of LA structure.

The center looks out at the park

With that, we set off on our walk around the community center, set as the cornerstone of a busy and well-used Lafayette Park. The center looked stunning in the evening summer light. Project manager Jaime Contreras explained how the beautiful barrel roof of the original building was preserved, and brought up to date with the concept that the community center should embrace the park. The challenge was to make local residents feel welcome at any time, but also to help them feel safe in a sometimes violent neighborhood. The designers had to incorporate unfortunate but necessary elements like anti-vandalism surfaces, paint colors that could easily cover graffiti, and bullet-proof glass.

Nice windows to see outside

Inside, the building was warm and surprisingly well-lit with natural light, even at sunset. Jimmy explains how the gymnasium was opened up to the park by adding windows that allowed people inside to get a glimpse of palm trees. Even over on the left-hand side, you can see how glass block elements bring in more light and break up the monolithic wall of padding. Along the ramp is a cool recycled metal curtain that's almost like chain mail, which keeps stray balls from hitting pedestrians. And that floor? Yes, that's a certified Lakers logo laid in a beautiful bamboo floor. We didn't think we'd ever seen a bamboo basketball court.

Beer Belly is the best!

Afterwards we headed into the heart of Koreatown to Beer Belly, designed by our good friends at MAKE Architecture. Owner Jimmy Han greeted us as we sampled over a dozen local beers on tap and even enjoyed beer-battered delicacies like fish and chips and artichokes.

Thanks to everyone who helped make the first night of the Los Angeles Design Festival a success!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Los Angeles Design Festival: What to Do June 16-30

Standard's Tree House will be featured on Dwell on Design's Eastside Home Tour on June 25th. Photo by Benny Chan.

de LaB is thrilled to be part of the first-ever LA Design Festival. From June 16 to June 30, LA will be alive with design parties, panels, and yes, even a parade (a Big Parade walk, that is!). So to help you plan out your social calendar for the next few weeks, here's a round-up of our top picks of events produced by our friends and collaborators (and don't forget our own HOLA/BeerBelly double header on Thursday, June 17!).


An inside peek at some of the Eastside's creative studios. Westside tour on Sunday.

Walking tour of downtown LA with Dan Koeppel, LA's stairmaster and good friend of de LaB.

Special guest Andre Dekker will be on hand all the way from the Netherlands to share his perspective on placemaking at this panel at ATX. With Geoff Manaugh, Oliver Hess, and Edward Lifson.

Galleries, studios, and shops will be open late hosting a mix of receptions, parties, sales, etc.


de LaB's Marissa Gluck will be moderating a panel on designing for demographics, hosted by LAIAD at Telemachus Studio at The Brewery.


de LaB's Alissa Walker will be in conversation with ZELLNERPLUS's Peter Zellner and Architzer's Marc Kushner at the Standard Downtown.


Friday 6-9 pm at Stussy, 112 South La Brea
Saturday 6-9 pm at Covell, 4628 Hollywood Blvd
A mobile gallery following some of L.A.'s best food trucks. Design Truck will feature the work of 12 Los Angeles-based designers, bringing comfortable chairs, beautiful tables and designed lighting to the hungry masses.


Dwell on Design - 10am to 6pm
Check out all the latest and greatest on the show floor at the Convention Center, Eastside Home Tours, and much more. On Sunday, June 26th, de LaB's Alissa Walker hosts two back-to-back panels, one on biking in Los Angeles, one on growing school gardens.

Check here for exact times that this incredible house in Silver Lake which was once the home and office of architect Richard Neutra will be open to the public.

You've seen de LaB's Alissa Walker speak at this popular breakfast lecture series for creatives. Now they're adding booze and music. It's like "a Justin Bieber concert for design dorks"... how could you miss this?


Join your de LaB hosts at this awesome experiment in Chinatown to produce art and design for clients for $1/minute. Come "hire" our expertise for two minutes or two hours (walking tours around Chinatown? dim sum guide? personal shopping at local stores?) or offer your own skills. Basically, come hang out with us!


Frances Anderton will be emceeing this annual awards show that honors the city's most beautiful and civic-minded projects.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June Recap > Design-n-Dim Sum Bike Ride

Once again, de LaBbers took to the streets, this time by bike, on our annual Design-n-Dim Sum ride. On June 5th, about 40 riders met at bike shop Flying Pigeon as we ventured from Highland Park to Frogtown to Chinatown, visiting design studios along the way.

After owner Josef Bray-Ali tuned up bikes, put a few together for borrowers, and tested the megaphone, we on the road for a gloriously sunny, crisp day.

In years past, we usually headed straight for Chinatown but this year we rode along the LA River bike path up Elysian Valley to Frogtown, passing the riders on the LA River Ride along the way.

Our first stop was RAC Design Build, a design and construction services firm founded in 1989. Principals Rick and Tracy Cortez gave us a tour of the studio, from their fabrication workshop to the upstairs offices. The firm does residential and commercial design, and with a machinery studio in house, have the luxury of producing their own prototypes.

Our next stop was Tracy Stone's studio, just around the corner. The small firm works out of a lovely, eco-sensitive live/work space, with the studio on one side and Tracy's home on the other, separated by a shaded patio (with an outdoor shower!).
Tracy talked about her residential and commercial projects, and perhaps most notably, some of her biggest fans are her smallest clients. Tracy has done a substantial amount of work for animal facilities, such as North Central Animal Services. Tracy is also one of the founders of the Frogtown Art Walk, a self-guided tours of studios and galleries along the LA River.

After seeing Tracy's studio we hopped back down the river towards Chinatown to visit architecture firm Johnson Fain. Business development director Dana Smith gave us a tour of the massive studio, showcasing projects that span architecture, master planning and green design. One of the firm's biggest local projects is the renovation and expansion of Dodger Stadium, set to be completed by next year.
Unfortunately, we were running a little late so we missed our window to visit artist Zoe Crosher's studio in Chinatown, but you can check out her work here.

So our last stop was Golden Dragon for dim sum. Because nothing satisfies a bunch of hungry bikers like a bao. And roast pork. And shu mai.

Even babies love biking and bao.

Thanks to everyone who came out last Sunday and to Josef, Rick, Tracy C., Damien, Tracy S., Dana and the fine folks at Golden Dragon!

All photos by Alissa Walker.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

May Recap > John Chase's West Hollywood Walk

John back on the big screen

On May 21, what would have been John Chase's 58th birthday, about 200 friends, co-workers, and design fans joined us for John Chase's West Hollywood, an adventure on foot through West Hollywood to honor the city's late, great urban designer.

Walking for John!

We met at the West Hollywood Gateway at La Brea and Santa Monica at 10:00 am and marched throughout West Hollywood until 5:00 pm, stopping at over a dozen locations: buildings and streets John had written about, places where he lived and worked, and gorgeous examples of architecture that John's work for the city had helped make a reality. (And yes, we only venture west of La Brea for certain events—John was definitely worth it!)

Talking at Formosa 1140

At each location, architects met us to talk about the projects and how John helped bring them to fruition. Here at the bright red and orange condo project Formosa 1140, developer Richard Loring told one of the most memorable stories: When the project's proposal came under discussion at the city council meeting, John showed up to the hearing in a red seersucker suit. It was a clever and sly way to show he was fully in support of the project, without saying a word.

Frances Anderton outside John's house

Throughout the day, friends and co-workers of John read excerpts from essays that he had written about the city. Frances Anderton read a passage from John's book Exterior Decoration, which talked about how the design and decorating community in West Hollywood used clever, affordable touches to distinguish their simple stucco and Spanish-style homes when they didn't have the money to execute a full renovation.

Katie Spitz at John's old house

We made one stop by John's own house, a tiny bungalow that he lived in before moving to a house with his husband, Jonathan Cowan. Katherine Spitz, his friend and former classmate at college, talked about how they worked together to create a garden for entertaining that felt like an extension of the home. The brightly-colored plexiglass panels they added to the garden were still there, although a bigger hedge blocked much of the view that John had worked so hard to keep open to the street.

Brian Lane at Plummer Park

Public spaces were very important to John and he was responsible for helping to create one of the most vibrant and best-used spaces in West Hollywood, Plummer Park. For the community center he worked with Brian Lane, who headed up the project at Koning Eizenberg. Brian talked about the plan for the center and played a video of John where he talked about the project, calling it "West Hollywood's living room." Just hearing his voice in the space was incredible.

Ric Abramson speaks at Sierra Bonita

West Hollywood's excellent initiatives to create affordable housing for groups ranging from seniors to people living with HIV was championed by John. Here, Ric Abramson talks about the Sierra Bonita Affordable Housing project designed by Patrick Tighe, a stunning example of how affordable housing can be architecturally outstanding, sustainable, and good for the neighborhood.

Christopher Hawthorne reads about a dingbat

John wrote a lot about the vernacular architecture of West Hollywood, including the ever-present dingbat apartments which are found on every street. While facing an aqua dingbat that actually appeared in one of his books, Christopher Hawthorne read a passage called "Stucco Box" from John's book Glitter Stucco and Dumpster Diving that explained the cultural impact of these little pastel cubes.

On Sunset Boulevard we got a huge surprise. Joe Shooshani, the owner of a building on Sunset with a video wall had previously shown a photo of John on the signboard in the weeks after his death. Joe not only put that photo back into rotation (the top image on this post), he also added a second slide commemorating the walk and John's birthday. Everyone gathered outside the Andaz hotel and snapped shots of John on the big screen again.

Merry Norris

Afterwards Merry Norris talked a bit about the Andaz's renovation, and how John was a part of turning the "Riot Hyatt" into a classy, design-focused hotel. Merry also explained the art program that she helped curate there, including the public art that graces the exterior. And then, she took us inside for free iced tea, soda and water courtesy of the Andaz at one of their communal tables. Thanks so much to the Andaz!

Jennifer David speaking outside Mel's

Definitely one of the most emotional moments on the tour came when Jennifer Davis, who worked at the planning department of West Hollywood with John, told the story behind their quest to save Mel's Drive-In, which was then known as Ben Frank's. Their persistent, witty urging—basically giving a crash course in design education by bringing in books and photos—helped preserve this Googie structure by convincing the owner of its significance.

The plaque in Mel's!

Mel's was extremely generous to let a group of sweaty urban hikers inside to see the plaque itself. It reads: The Googie Style Architecture of this building has been preserved by the City of West Hollywood City Planners Jennifer Davis & John Chase"

Julie Eizenberg speaking at Hancock Lofts

Not all the architects talked exclusively about the buildings. Julie Eizenberg, who designed the Hancock Lofts project that she's standing in front of, also told stories about attending college with John, where he was always up for a drink and a late night conversation.

Pat Smith speaking about urban design

John was also responsible for many improvements to West Hollywood's streetscape. Here, landscape architect Pat Smith and John Keho, from WeHo, talk about the various infrastructure decisions and landscaping choices that make the city's streets more amenable to pedestrians. We also stopped at a very special space outside Koo Koo Roo to hear the essay that John had written about it as a victory in creating a kind of informal public plaza for the city.

Friends forever!

A very special moment for the tour occurred at Habitat 825, the fantastic condo project of architect Lorcan O'Herlihy and developer Richard Loring. Due to its location next door to the Schindler House, the project was extremely controversial. At one point, Lorcan and Richard (from left) were at odds with Bruce Kaye (right), who was working on behalf of a preservation group for Kings Road. But, as they remembered, John encouraged them to work together and served as a uniting voice for the project. Bruce also read an incredible remembrance of John.

Deborah giving a talk at City Hall

Due to John's penchant for wearing bright colors and outrageous patterns, everyone was encouraged to dress as if John had picked out their outfits. We swear, even the jacarandas seemed a bit brighter that day! Deborah Murphy definitely won for best dressed, with a photo of John attached to her bag and matching pooch-wear!

The gang's all here at Barney's

At the end of the day we gathered at West Hollywood institution Barney's Beanery, where we toasted John's birthday over pub grub and beers.

There were so many incredible moments throughout the day that it's hard to sum them up in a post. So thanks to the LA Forum, we will be helping to produce a map and poster of the day's stops, along with details from the tour, to help keep John's legacy alive in the city he loved. Look for that later this year, as well as information on how you can get one. Until then, you can see the Google Map of all the locations to help guide your own tour.

Thank you again to everyone who made this such a fantastic day, including: Frances Anderton, Christopher Hawthorne, John Keho, Sharn Ure, Jennifer Davis, Katherine Spitz, Allyne Winderman, Deborah Murphy, John Kaliski, Margaret Crawford, Lorcan O'Herhily, Richard Loring, Merry Norris, Andy Liu, Wade Killefer, Pat Smith, Joe Shooshani, Brian Lane, Julie Eizenberg, Bruce Kaye, Campbell Architects, the City of West Hollywood, all the buildings and residences who allowed us inside, to John's sister Laura Chase, and of course to John's husband, Jonathan Cowan.

Friday, June 3, 2011

June 16 > LA Design Festival: HOLA & Beer Belly > Lafayette Park & K-town

Photo by Nicolas O.S. Marques

As part of the first-ever LA Design Festival - a citywide series of events that celebrate our fair city's creative talent - de LaB is hosting a double-header on opening day, June 16th!

First, join us for a tour of Kanner Architects' Heart of LA building at Lafayette Park. Heart of LA (or HOLA) provides an oasis of safety and encouragement to under-served inner city at-risk youth. The center was Los Angeles architect Stephen Kanner's last major project.

Formerly a senior center, the newly renovated 15,000 complex boasts a light-filled gym and interconnected classroom spaces and community rooms. Originally designed by modernist architect Graham Latta, the best of the center's original features - such as the barrel arched concrete canopies - are highlighted by the remodel. The new center is the City of LA's first LEED-certified building and the result of a successful partnership between the LA Department of Parks and Recreation and HOLA. There's been no shortage of buzz about the the building. Check out these stories in the LA Times and The Architect's Newspaper.
The tour is FREE. However, we ask that you bring school or art supplies as a donation to support the work of this great organization.

Photo via Curbed LA

Following the tour, we'll head over to K-town to quench our thirst at Beer Belly, the new simple and slick craft beer bar designed by our friends at MAKE. Just in case you need help finding the door (or your car), owners Jimmy and Yume Han have provided some helpful signage. Mmmm, beer.

Thursday, June 16

Heart of LA / Lafayette Park Recreation Center
625 South Lafayette Park Place
Los Angeles, CA 90057
6:30pm (the tour begins promptly at 7:00pm)

Beer Belly
532 S. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90020

The two locations are about a mile away from each other, and both are easy to reach by Metro. Just sayin'.

RSVP here so we can get an accurate headcount

Whether you know it or not (de LaB does!), LA is a global design capital and the LA Design Festival (June 16 - 30) is meant to recognize this fact. The Festival is a citywide series events taking place over two weeks, or in other words, a moment during which we can all collectively celebrate our city's awesome creativity. Other Festival events include showroom parties, design discussions, studio tours, and the biggest design event on the West Coast. Check out the full calendar of events here.