The Breed Street Shul which I visited this past week is interesting considering the current festival of Passover and its themes of freedom, exodus and wandering…

Street view of the Breed Street Shul

Street view of the Breed Street Shul

This synagogue was built in 1915 in Boyle Heights, a working class neighborhood east of downtown Los Angeles. At that time many residential subdivisions in western Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley had restrictive covenants in place prohibiting Jews, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Irish, from purchasing property. Boyle Heights was free of such covenants resulting in a thriving working class community of new immigrants.

During the course of the 20th century those immigrants slowly moved out of the area, taking advantage of greater acceptance, improved economic conditions and new laws that outlawed racial discrimination. Today Boyle Heights is still predominantly first generation Latino, but recent Asian and Jewish immigrants typically settle in other areas. So the synagogue was no longer used and suffered from decades of neglect, vandalism, earthquake damage and abandonment.

Beginning in the late 1990s a movement began to try and save it, with designs for it to be used as a community center for the Latino neighborhood while keeping & restoring the old synagogue’s interesting features (for example frescos with the signs of the zodiac paired with the 12 tribes of Israel!). There are not enough jews in the area to justify a functioning synagogue.

The main sanctuary of the Breed Street Shul (synagogue)

The main sanctuary of the Breed Street Shul (synagogue) in its glory days…

Our firm recently designed the interiors and collaborated on the landscaping for this 1923 Frank Lloyd Wright designed house in Pasadena. Featured in this week’s WallStreet Journal Magazine.

Millard House Living Room (photo by Scott Mayoral)

Millard House Living Room (photo by Scott Mayoral)

From the WSJ:

“Part of a venture into modular housing by the venerable architect, 1923′s Millard House (which Wright himself referred to as “La Miniatura”—a label to describe his fondness for the house) was created from concrete blocks, each featuring a carved cross and square pattern, in a style he believed would lower the cost of home construction while retaining delicacy and beauty. The 4,230-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bath home—currently on sale through Crosby Doe Associates for $4,495,000—offers a rare opportunity to lay claim to a unique piece of Wright history. The house, located in Pasadena, California, was originally built for book dealer Alice Millard for $17,000. Wright once said, “I would rather have built this little house than St. Peter’s in Rome.”

Millard House Gardens (photo by Scott Mayoral)

Millard House Gardens (photo by Scott Mayoral)

Living Architecture is one of Alain de Botton‘s many ventures (philosopher, writer, teacher, entrepreneur, etc). It is an attempt to broaden the appeal of modern architecture by making it accessible to the general public. The company commissions high profile architects ( Zumthor, MVRDV, Hopkins, others) to design homes; these are then built and rented to the general public as vacation homes. A creative and admirable feat in support of design and architecture (although the rents – even if not outrageous – are probably not within reach of the masses, only the mid or upper middle class). So far they’ve built five projects, in and around London, with two more coming soon. I challenge developers in the USA to prove that this as a viable business model in our shores…

The Shingle House, designed by NORD Architecture

The Shingle House, designed by NORD Architecture

The Dune House, designed by JVA Architects

The Dune House, designed by JVA Architects

The Long House, by Hopkins Architects

The Long House, by Hopkins Architects

The Balancing Barn, designed by MVRDV

The Balancing Barn, designed by MVRDV

A Room for London, by David Kohn Architects & Fiona Banner

A Room for London, by David Kohn Architects & Fiona Banner

Urban Farming as topic is not new, and certainly not without loads of different advocates and examples, but this one from UrbanFarmers AG, a company in Switzerland is interesting because it is intended to be installed on rooftops in dense urban areas, and is – theoretically – self-sufficient. The aquaponic system: aquaculture (fish) plus hydroponic (cultivation of plants without soil) works as a closed loop system, so food (vegetables AND fish) can grow anywhere. And without fertilizers, pesticides or antibiotics.

Well, at least that’s the theory. We’ll see if this system sticks. It would be great if it did.

UFBox_ UFFarm_ UFGlobe_

A geometric sans serif typeface influenced by Bauhaus and the early modernist era. Precise circles are optically adjusted to create a clear, natural typeface with great legibility. Designed by Jonathan Hill of the super hip The Northern Block Digital Type Foundry based in the UK, check them out here.

corbert_reg_4corbert_reg_1corbert_reg_3corbert_reg_2

Great images of the mural of recently deceased architect Oscar Niemeyer (link to his foundation) in São Paulo, painted by local muralist Eduardo Kobra. Note the amazing juxtaposition of the black & white portrait with curvy colorful patches showing, among other things, details of some of his buildings (columns of the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, for example). I wonder how many architects are this notable/recognizable to be immortalized in such a public way (Le Corbusier on the 10 Swiss Franc bill comes to mind… any other ideas?).

EduardoKobra1_Niemeyer

EduardoKobra_Niemeyer2 EduardoKobra1_Niemeyer EduardoKobra3_Niemeyer EduardoKobra6_Niemeyer

pear trees in bloom

pear trees in bloom

pear trees in bloom

pear trees in bloom

pear trees in bloom

pear trees in bloom

The entire city of Los Angeles seems to be filled with blooming pear trees these days (late January – early February). The crowns are so filled with white flowers it almost looks like snow. Luckily this is the closest thing to snow that we get down here (except for the actual stuff on the mountain peaks…).

I believe these are fruitless Bradford Pear trees, but as there are at least 30 different types and countless scientific names, I will not attempt to identify…

Seven buildings designed by the “dean” of São Paulo architects, João Batista Vilanova Artigas (1915-1985), have been recently declared historical monuments by the local authorities (Condephaat), and are now protected. Below are images of some of them. Artigas’ perhaps most influential building is the Faculty of Architecture of the University of São Paulo (FAU-USP) declared a monument in 1982. Designed in defiance of the military dictatorship (’64-’85) and completed in 1969 it includes such radical features as having no front door (celebrating openness and that it couldn’t be locked up), a large central atrium (used frequently for demonstrations and strikes) and large ramps for transparency and continuity between spaces. Not surprisingly, Artigas was quickly removed from teaching duties and forced into exile. His buildings and teachings, however, went on to influence and educate several generations of architects and form the core of what is known as the São Paulo school, characterized by exposed concrete, large open spans, and a more conceptual approach to the more free-flowing and intuitive carioca school (Rio de Janeiro), made famous by Oscar Niemeyer.

FAU-USP: view towards street – no doors (photo by Pedro Kok)

(photo by Pedro Kok)

FAU-USP central atrium (photo by Pedro Kok)

student demonstration

student demonstration

FAU-USP typical design studio (photo by Pedro Kok)

FAU-USP: exterior view below overhang (photo by Pedro Kok)

Edifício Louveira, São Paulo 1946: street view (photo by Pedro Kok)

Edifício Louveira (1949), Vilanova Artigas

Edifício Louveira, São Paulo 1946: street view (photo by Pedro Kok)

interior view; photographer unknown

Edifício Louveira, São Paulo 1946: interior view

Artigas Residence, São Paulo 1949 (photo by Pedro Kok)

Artigas Residence, São Paulo 1949 (photo by Pedro Kok)

Baboon Face (dubious way to attempt privacy while improving acoustics...)

Baboon Face (dubious way to attempt privacy while improving acoustics…)

A funny and interesting book showing the silly poses and rituals that we are all guilty of as we’ve become quite attached to our digital devices… Produced by Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Worth checking out the blog and book here.

Active Companion (the phone becomes part of the walk/jog)

Active Companion (the phone becomes part of the walk/jog)

Angry Monkey (shaking phone)

Angry Monkey (shaking phone)

Baboon Face (dubious way to attempt privacy while improving acoustics...)

Baboon Face (dubious way to attempt privacy while improving acoustics…)

Conversation Generator (making someone look at your funny pictures even if they're not interested)

Conversation Generator (making someone look at your funny pictures even if they’re not interested)

Digital Juggling (no explanation needed)

Digital Juggling (no explanation needed)

Naive Fix (raising your finger to improve reception)

Naive Fix (raising your finger to improve reception)

Cell Trance (walking around in circles in public spaces while on phone)

Cell Trance (walking around in circles in public spaces while on phone)

Social Mimicry (If YOU'RE going to check your phone, so will I)

Social Mimicry (If YOU’RE going to check your phone, so will I)

Under the Radar (hiding the phone from police)

Under the Radar (hiding the phone from police)

The typeface for Rio’s 2016 Olympic Games was announced recently in Brazil, and it shows clear signs of brazilian-ness, or at very least cariocaness, in my opinion. The flowing brush-like curves reminiscent of waves, mountains and other curvy beauties of Rio.  See the official announcement here.  The design was a collaboration between brazilian designers working with the Swiss foundry  Dalton Maag.

This typeface reinforces my un-scientific conclusion that recent typeface design appears to be moving towards more playful, serif-y / curly-ish / flowing designs, and away from the hardlined sans-serif old modernist standards. The drawback in my opinion is that these interesting typefaces usually have a limited shelf-life. After a few years one gets sick of them. But it’s fun.

Los Angeles County building codes used to allow buildings up to 35 feet high (10m) and 400 sf (37 sm) in area to be constructed without a building permit. Seizing on this interesting “loophole,” artist Chris Burden created together with architect Linda Taalman, this temporary installation which was unveiled earlier this year in a shopping center – of all places – in Pasadena.

Burden – a terrific artist most famously known for the permanent installation Urban Light at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, but also for his provocative performance art (such as being nailed to a VW Bug and being shot at by his assistant- not at the same time) – allegedly began this Pasadena piece several years ago. The County has since tightened the building permit no longer allows such a structure without a permit, therefore explaining the involvement of an architect (and presumably a building permit). Oh well…

This gallery contains 7 photos.

A few years ago somebody decided that Jerusalem needed a contemporary architectural statement, perhaps to contrast its other, much older, architectural wonders. The Chords Bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava and completed in 2008 spans not a river or valley but just a somewhat busy avenue. The structural/architectural problem was its own creation, as the span …

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This gallery contains 4 photos.

Cast in fiberglass by Siemens to be installed in Denmark’s Østerild Test Station, the blade is 75 m long (246 feet) and when installed the turbine will be a staggering 154 meters in diameter (505 feet), capable of generating 6 megawatts (enough to supply power to 5,000 homes). An engineering feat, and beautiful as objects on their …

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This gallery contains 9 photos.

Artist Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass piece at LACMA is finally unveiled. Lots of controversy surrounded it including its cost, estimated at over $10M (funded through privated donors), its difficult permitting and transportation process, its reclusive and media-shy artist, down to whether Los Angeles should have dedicated such a large stretch of public land to one …

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One of L.A.'s classic early "modernist" apartment buildings is this four-plex in Santa Monica designed by architect Irving Gill. Completed in 1921, i.e. a year before Schindler's Kings Road house and a few years before (for example) Bauhaus Dessau, Rietveld Schroeder House, Villa Stein, etc, showing that California was perhaps leading the way in disseminating modernist design. Gill's work does not fit easily into the modernist classification as its roots were Mission architecture, stripped of ornamentation but retaining some of the principles of mass, shadow/shade, arches and thick walls. Photo from the Historic American Building Survey.

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