Friday, September 3, 2010

Culture in Concrete

Culture in Concrete: Art and the Re-Imagination of the Los Angeles River as Civic Space is John Arroyo's Masters Thesis in City Planing written in May of 2010 at MIT. LA Yellow Box was included in this 241 page exploration. Here is an online link for the thesis:

Congratulations John!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bag It - Just Say No, This is Your Brain on Plastic

On Sunday August 22, 2010 from 4-7pm The UCLA Institute of Environmental Studies hosted a screening of the film "Bag It!" by Suzan Beraza and a short film called "Plastic Bag" by Ramin Bahrani. There also was panel discussion with Heal The Bay, Plastic Pollution Coalition and The Daily Ocean along with a talk by Assembly member Julia Brownley regarding plastic pollution and bill AB 1998 (authored by Brownley) which will ban the use of single use plastic bags in the state of California. AB 1998 has already been voted in favor by the state assembly and is being voted on in the California State Senate in this week. Please do your part by supporting this bill, links will be provided below where you can take action!
Assembly Julia Brownley discussing AB 1998

Still from Brownley's presentation, an ad campaign by the American Chemistry Council which is lobbying against AB 1998.

This is Suzan Beraza, Director of Bag It! This documentary was awesome, clever, thoughtful and full of information! It is a fantastic film and a great way to get ANYBODY thinking about how our use of plastic is detrimental to the well being of the planet and all life on it. It shows with candor and humor the environmental and health problems we are facing with use of disposable plastic while providing solutions. It is a must see for EVERYBODY. Thank you Suzan Bereza for making this important film, I am grateful for the likes of you!

Still from Ramin Bahrani's 18 minute short film "Plastic Bag". This touching short shows the personal story of a plastic bag as it finds a home and searches for love and acceptance until it finds it's place of comfort with other plastic bags living in the ocean.

Another still from Bahrani's "Plastic Bag".
Panelists including speakers from Heal The Bay, The Daily Ocean and Plastic Pollution Coalition in support of AB 1998. Sara Bayles (in white shirt) lives in Santa Monica and collects trash on the ocean everyday for twenty minutes. She is documenting the is her blog:

This was a great afternoon. I consider myself in the know of issues surrounding plastic, but even I found myself with a gaping mouth and shaking my head from time to time with some of the statistics I learned about. I have posted about AB 1998 earlier along with the Los Angeles River riddled with plastic bags after the rains. It is horrifying when you see the amount of plastic in the River, especially if you participate in FoLAR's river clean up's. FoLAR has been an incredible organization advocating for the Los Angeles River and the environment.

AB1998 has already received California State Assembly support and is being voted on by the California State Senate this week! It is imperative that this bill passes. Please contact your Senator immediately to support this bill which can reduce plastic waste by one third, simply by taking a bag with you to the store. We can greatly change things sometimes by not doing something...and that means not relying on disposable plastic! Here is a link to take action:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

More Notes From The Past - Collected Dec. 2008-February 2009

Here are some more notes collected by people who spend time along the Los Angeles River. These notes inspired the direction of LA Yellow Box along with my own sense of connection to
the River, which brings me a sense of peace, along with being a physical metaphor for my own personal life experience.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Supportive Housing - New Carver Apartments

On Wednesday night August 11, 2010 I attended a talk and tour provided by LA Forum for Architecture and Urban Design as part of their Habitation series at the New Carver Apartments - a building which provides supportive housing for homeless and low income people in Los Angeles. The building was acquired by the non-profit organization Skid Row Housing Trust and was designed by the architectural firm Michael Maltzan Architecture. The building began schematic design phase in June of 2007 and construction was completed in late November of 2009 for a total cost of 18.4 million dollars. The funding comes from many city, state and federal sources and other tax deductible donations. The structure contains 97 total units, two of which are occupied by on site managers, which provides single occupancy homes for 95 people. It has been open for one year and is the 21st building the Skid Row Housing Trust has provided as supportive housing in the city of Los Angeles. The New Carver Apartments are located at 1624 South Hope Street in Downtown right next to the freeway. There is currently a 6-8 month waiting list for all supportive housing which Skid Row Housing Trust provides. A California ID and a Social Security number is what is initially required to file an application and applicants must check in on a weekly basis to keep their file active. Once their turn is reached an interview process begins and each case is dealt with on an individual basis. It is not free to live in these units, yet it is a place which gives people who are homeless or low income a stable environment. Residents have no time limit for their length of stay.


The building has a central courtyard at it's core. It is a way of bringing in nature, light and creates the space in such a way that residents leave their apartment into a community space. The design is a solution which addresses the issue that many amongst the homeless population feel an acute sense of isolation.

Galvanixed metal fins: A design element which Maltzan created as a symbolic connection between the sky and the earth while providing structural support for the balconies. He felt the material has a reflective/mirror like quality (not blinding of course). They also play with the idea of allowing privacy and transparency depending on where you are standing. The variation in light as the day goes into night is quite beautiful. The building is six stories high (first floor is community/ public space and five floors above are residential).

The eye. You can watch airplanes fly above. Surreal. The acoustics are only a little issue if you are having a lecture in the courtyard, nothing a microphone and enunciation on behalf of the speaker does not fix.

Mike Alvidrez of Skid Row Housing Trust in foreground and Michael Maltzan of Michael Maltzan Architecture in background.

The Community Kitchen (Each unit has it's own kitchen as well).

Medical Room for basic care. There is a hospital blocks away for full service needs. Tenants are educated about how to take care of certain conditions, such as diabetes, through diet and exercise. There are also offices for mental health, addiction, education and advocacy.

Of course, that is the freeway. Can you guess where? Maltzan believes in the iconography of architecture, so keep your eyes peeled and you will see this building if you are driving anytime soon. (Please keep your eyes on the road too!)

No, this is not The Standard. This is a lounge area for tenants on an upper residential level. It is an open view to the city which is intended to be a place of not only relaxation, but connectivity. The skyline presents a perspective that allows the people who live here a chance to see that they are a part of the vast city which they may have felt isolated or shunned from in the past.

Looking down, those dark rectangles down there are planted herbs.

The use of the color yellow is used throughout the building in various areas. That makes me smile!
Interior of one of the units.

What does this have to do with the Los Angeles River? If you spend anytime along the River you will know or see some people who live along the concrete banks, amongst the foliage lining the bike paths, in the center of the lush islands (which are being cut and cleared as of late. I was told by somebody that it is getting rid of invasive species of plants. I welcome any additional information somebody may have.) under the bridges, and all paths along the way. We never know what circumstances may be presented to any of us at any given moment in life. We are all connected as people living within a community, we need to have the eyes to see one another with dignity and respect. The blood which flows through all our veins is connected and the same, as the River traverses and connects this City of Angels.

Thank you to all people who provided their time and talent to this project and tour, especially Molly Rysman of Skid Row Housing Trust and Siobahn Burke.