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Jack Skelley has over 25 years of experience at publications ranging from Harper’s magazine to the Los Angeles Times. He specializes in issues surrounding urban design, including architecture, real estate and urban planning. A senior partner at Paolucci Communication Arts, Skelley edits the firm’s “marketeering and urbaneering” e-newsletter and blog, The Hot Sheet. He serves on the Executive Committee of Urban Land Institute, Los Angeles and writes frequently for FORM, Urban Land and Riviera magazine, where he is a Contributing Writer. Other publications include Los Angeles magazine, LAist.com, Angeleno, Riviera Interiors, L.A. Weekly, Wired, Salon, Buzz, PlanNetizen.com, California Homes and California magazine. He is an active blogger on Politico, Curbed L.A., and Huffington Post.

Skelley recently co-edited a book, Los Angeles, Building the Polycentric City, for Congress for the New Urbanism. At Los Angeles Downtown News he served in a series of top positions, including Executive Editor and Associate Publisher.

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Jack Skelley

Tuesday
Nov232010

Chris Burden's Hot Wheels Auto-Urbanism Coming to LACMA

Artist Chris Burden gave conceptual art a real shot in the arm back in 1971 when he had someone fire a rifle at him. Since then he’s evolved into creating elaborate, entertaining museum-scale installations. The latest, coming soon to Los Angeles County Museum of Art is “Metropolis II.” It includes 1,200 custom-designed Hot Wheels-style cars and 18 lanes; 13 toy trains and tracks; and buildings made of wood block, tiles, Legos and Lincoln Logs. Burden’s crew is completing the installation at his Topanga studio, according to LACMA. Check out the video and you can see the scale and significance of the artwork: It seems to capture the multitudes of autos in today’s cities, but its tiny toyishness puts the experience in an aloof – perhaps absurdist – perspective.

-Jack Skelley

Monday
Nov082010

Urbanists Notice That Arcade Fire Rocks 'The Suburbs'

The hot-selling new album by Arcade Fire, The Suburbs, has caught the attention of the urban-design community. (The title song is the video above.) It’s a series of anthemic explorations of the complications suburbs are for most of us: not just a near-universal living experience, but a state of mind: nostalgia and freedom mixed with paralysis and decay. On the negative side, songs such as “Wasted Hours” explain: “First they built the road, then they built the town / That’s why we’re all driving around and around.” Or even more frighteningly, in “City With No Children,” singer Win Butler despairs of privatization: “I feel like I’ve been living in / a city with no children in it, / a garden left for ruin by a millionaire inside a private prison.”

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Tuesday
Oct122010

‘Densification’ Sounds More Appealing in an English Accent

CNN’s Richard Quest (Quest Means Busines) has new a series on problematic urban centers around the world. Guess which troubled berg made the list? Los Angeles stars in this recent installment with the veddy British Quest reciting L.A.’s standard list of shortcomings: dozens of cities in search of a center; unwalkable, unsustainable. It’s all true, of course, and architect Michael Maltzan and ULI Los Angeles’ Katherine Perez give good advice. The most palatable, most opportune solution is urban infill: Increasing density by building in already built-up areas. But why can’t Quest find where infill has already blossomed? Dozens of urban centers from Santa Ana to Santa Monica have vibrant mini-cities, where – even in our current recessionary disaster – economies have managed to survive if not thrive . And they’re much more livable than Quest’s L.A. clichés suggest.

--Jack Skelley

Thursday
Sep302010

The L.A. River Banks on Smart Development

Concept rendering of Piggyback Yard development along L.A. RiverWhen poet Lewis MacAdams founded Friends of the Los Angeles River 25 years – imagining a lifelong art project to return the bedraggled waterway to greatness and greenness – to some he might have seemed out to lunch. Now we know he was ahead of his time. (I have the distinction of writing the first-ever article about FOLAR; it was for Los Angeles Downtown News.) Witness the new Piggyback Yard plan. MacAdams has enlisted three top architecture firms to create a plan that not only creates green space along the Los Angeles River, it also performs a crucial flood-control role. The idea, reported in the New York Times, “is that on a few days each year, the river would overflow into the yard. The rest of the year, the land would be a park.” This flood-detention aspect is brilliantly essential to comprehensive revitalization, because flood-control was the reason for encasing the river in ugly, community-dividing concrete more than 50 years ago.

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Friday
Sep172010

Can Architecture Be Green if It Doesn’t Have a Conscience?

  

Noero Wolff Architects. Red Location Museum Of Struggle, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. 1998–2005. Image: Iwan BaanIn the architecture world, is “sustainable” more important than “humanitarian?” For several years now,by Andres Lepik and Barry Bergdoll(Paperback, Oct 31, 2010, preorder) the mantra of good-design-must-be-sustainable-design has dominated parts of the industry. But it begs the question: Shouldn’t architects be just as concerned about people as they are about the planet? It’s a question I explored in my article about pro-bono work in the most recent issue of FORM. As John Peterson, Founder of Public Architecture, told me, “Social justice issues will rise just as high as green issues have. In fact, we’re seeing a change in the definition of sustainability to include a much broader set of criteria.” And it’s the theme of an upcoming exhibit at New York’s Museum of Modern Art: Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement. The show (opening October 3) looks at “eleven architectural projects on five continents that respond to localized needs in underserved communities.” This includes the Inner-City Arts complex in downtown Los Angeles, designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture.

L.A. Times art critic Chris Hawthorne recently wrote about the show. He caught the gist of one tension within the architecture community when he quoted Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of the San Francisco-based nonprofit group Architecture for Humanity, saying, "There's often a moment when you say [about your clients], 'They just need some damn water — it doesn't matter if it's an uplifting space.'"

--Jack  Skelley