GOOD Design: LA (A Belated Recap) GOOD Design: LA (A Belated Recap)

GOOD Design: LA (A Belated Recap)

by Casey Caplowe

January 5, 2009

Together, with design writer and frequent GOOD contributor, Alissa Walker, we gathered seven local designers and design-minded people we very much admire (Artecnica, Frances Anderton, Barbara Bestor, Materials and Applications, Geoff McFetridge, Rene Daalder, and Stefan Bucher) asked each to put together a short presentation about solving a very LA problem (Tacos, Traffic, Ugliness, Water, Pollution, Isolation, and Acts of God, respectively). The collection of people and ideas was wonderfully diverse, and offered some fun, serious, and occasionally totally outlandish things to think about as how to make LA an even better place.

We'll be pulling together videos of the presentations and posting them in the new year.  In the meantime, you can read a nice and full account of the evening on Alissa's design blog, Gelatobaby.

But first, here are some highlights from the speakers along with notes scanned from GOOD's own Beth Stone which offer a bit more flavor:

Enrico Bressan on TACOS:
Enrico a principal of the furniture and accessory design company  Artecnica (profiled in GOOD Issue 006) took on the subject of street vendors in LA.  From taco trucks, to fruit stands, to the invisible figures behind a pile of balloons drifting down the sidewalks, street vendors are, or can be, a wonderful part of Los Angeles, yet they are increasingly threatened by retailers who don't want them around and new laws pushing them out. Enrico proposed that we start a conversation between the vendors and community they are serving. He sketched out a website that could match the needs of certain neighborhoods to the offerings of different vendors and even suggested that we tack on community service functions such as recycling or sidewalk cleaning or landscaping to the requirements of the the vendors.

Frances Anderton on TRAFFIC:
Frances Anderton, host of KCRW's DNA and regular Dwell-contributor, shared with us that some crazy amount of morning traffic (25%!) is caused by parents driving their children to school, and so she offered the painfully obvious solution of: Walk! (or Bike!)  Sometimes it is that simple.

Barbara Bestor on UGLINESS:
Architect Barbara Bestor, made the interesting and hopeful observation, that as we head into this recession and the funding dries up for the kind of grand civic architectural projects we have seen in recent years (the Caltrans building and new BCAM extension to LACMA being two of her main LA examples), now is the time for more renegade public art and architecture-projects that can be just as fulfilling for the city, if not more so (the Watts House Project being her big example here). Bestor's personal passion is to take on the the ubiquitous, totally unremarkable LA strip mall, and make something remarkable out of it. (She ended by asking if anyone out there knows anyone who has a strip mall for her; so, if you do, try to track down Barbara here.)

Ingrid Mattson from Materials and Applications on WATER:
Pretty much everyone knows, LA has a water problem-namely, that we don't have enough of it. What Ingrid explained is a different side of our water problem-that because the earth of LA is more or less entirely covered with buildings or roads, when we do get rain, it enters a system built to get it from the ground to the sewers to the ocean as quickly as possible. This obviously makes for terribly polluted oceans in the days following our infrequent rain. Materials and Applications, has been working on green roofs and other ways of helping the system. The basic premise of all the storm water solutions is pretty simple: Slow It. Spread It. Sink It.

Geoff McFetridge on POLLUTION:
Graphic artist Geoff McFetridge took on the LA concern of visual pollution, specifically embodied in his distaste for vinyl signs. As a long time LA resident, Geoff spoke to his love for the bleakness of the city, yet seeing the impersonal, mass produced vinyl signage ascend as the defacto medium for retail self-expression is the wrong kind of bleak. To counter this movement, Geoff called for LA's merchants to pick up a paintbrush and ladder and do it themselves. We think of vinyl as the cheap-and-fast solution, but by giving his five-minute talk over a real-time video of himself painting a "NAIL SALON" sign, Geoff succintly illustrated that we might just have things all wrong.

Rene Daalder on ISOLATION:
Rene Daalder, flimmaker and recently the creator of the very cool web project Space Collective, offered a nice counterpoint to a lot of the very local ideas put forth by the presenters when he challenged everyone to think big. Rene, who has been ardent believer in the internet and the virtualization of many of the facets of our real world for decades, suggested we radically rethink how we use space in an urban built environment. When we picture the entire 20-something miles or so of the National Archives physical collections collapsed onto hardrives that can fit in a closet (and think about the space devoted to film storage in LA), and you get a sense of the kind of space we'll be recovering from old uses to put to new ones. Similarly, "You used to have to go to the office because that's where the files were, that's where the IBM Selectric typewriters were." he said."Now all that stuff is available from anywhere from your computer." So, "Why are we still going to offices?" he asked, "Why are we still building office buildings?"

Stefan Bucher on ACTS OF GOD:
Stefan, of 344 Design, and Daily Monster, recognized that small earthquakes are fun and "keep the weenies out of LA." It's the big ones, that are the problem, and so he offered a comprehensive plan for how to do away with them. While you can pick up some of his thoughts from Beth's notes above, for the rest, you'll have to wait for the video, as I would only ruin it by trying to explain.


And that was the lineup. I want to express my thanks for all the speakers for coming out and putting their fantastic presentations together, and Keith Scharwath for illustrating the awesome intro slides. It was a great time had by all, and definitely something we hope to do again in near future.

As noted above, keep on the look out for video of the event and other GOOD December happenings in early 2009.
Join the discussion
Recently on GOOD
Sign up to receive the best of GOOD delivered to your inbox each and every weekday
Refugees in Macedonia sew their mouths shut in protest of border restrictions.
GOOD Design: LA (A Belated Recap)