By James Brasuell, Guest Contributor
The Central City Association today gathered for the monthly meeting of the organization, focusing on architecture in an architectural showcase panel entitled, “Looking Up, Moving Forward.”
The panel may have been more aptly named, “Looking to Integrate, Moving International,” with the panel focusing mostly on opportunities to engage architecture with infrastructure, along with cultural and social institutions, in international cities and domestic locations other than the city and county of Los Angeles. According to Alice Kimm, of John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects, the recession requires that architects to ask, “How do we identify ourselves in our work in the world out there?”
In response to that question, each panelist presented portfolios that expanded the breadth of architecture’s traditional realm of influence. Nathan Cherry, of RTKL Associates, called sustainable infrastructure “the amenity of the 21st century,” citing his firm’s work in China and Australia. Mary Oliver, of Lehrer + Associates, described her firm’s award winning concept of the Farm on Wheels, which would distribute fresh food to underserved locations around metropolitan Los Angeles.
The panelists agreed that business is better than last year, mostly because they are seeking different types of projects—projects they might not have bid on three years ago. Mary Oliver, from Mia Lehrer + Associates, mentioned that two major projects, stalled since the beginning of the recession, had recently come back online, allowing the firm to hire four new employees. But Alice Kimm was quick to point out that the class of 2010 is mostly unemployed, without the opportunities enjoyed by previous generations.
A common theme of the panel was that the political and social environment of Los Angeles lacks the ability to draw the talent and resources necessary to make the kinds of redefining changes emerging from China’s lightning-speed urbanization process, where 50,000 new high rises are expected by 2050.
According to Robert Hale, of Rios Clementi Hale Studios, “The challenge in America is to find consensus around compelling ideas.” An unanswered question for Los Angeles, and the architects that want to re-shape its built environment, is whether we can develop the political mechanism to enable a 21st century city built on compelling ideas, or if the status quo will win the day.
Moderator: Scott Johnson, FAIA, Johnson Fain
Gabrielle Bullock, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP®, Perkins + Will
Nathan B. Cherry, AIA, AICP, LEED AP®, RTKL Associates Inc.
Robert Hale, FAIA, Rios Clementi Hale Studios
Alice Kimm, FAIA, John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects, Inc.
Mary Oliver, Mia Lehrer + Associates