'L.A. Now: Volume 3' Earns Architecture Magazine’s 2005 P/A Award for UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design
The UCLA department of architecture and urban design has been awarded the 2005 P/A (Progressive Architecture) Award by Architecture magazine for "L.A. Now: Volume 3," an urban design research project encompassing 35,000 housing units in downtown Los Angeles. The project was led by UCLA professor Thom Mayne, principal of the architecture firm Morphosis. The award will be announced in the January issue of the magazine.
The P/A awards, now in their 52nd year, recognize unbuilt projects demonstrating overall design excellence and innovation. They are considered by leading architects and critics to be an influential bellwether of emerging architectural design trends and talents. This year's P/A award is unprecedented in that it was granted to only one recipient rather than to several. Citations were awarded to the runners-up. It is also the first time the award was given to a university.
Judges for the 52nd annual P/A Awards were Maurice Cox, architectural designer, Harvard Loeb Fellow, founding partner of RBGC Architecture, Research + Urbanism, and former mayor of Charlottesville, Va.; architect Teddy Cruz, Estudio Teddy Cruz, San Diego, Calif.; Roger Duffy, a design director and principal of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York City; Maxine Griffith, executive director, Philadelphia City Planning Commission; and Brian Healy, Brian Healy Architects, Boston, currently president of the Boston Society of Architects.
Past P/A jurors and award recipients represent a veritable who's who of the world's leading design visionaries, including Frank Gehry, Michael Graves, I.M. Pei and this year's American Institute of Architects Gold Medal honoree, the late Samuel Mockbee.
The L.A. Now project arose from a need to examine critically the imminent problems facing Los Angeles — overpopulation, housing and infrastructure — and address them through a combined series of research and speculative urban design proposals to catalyze a discussion within the community. The UCLA department of architecture and urban design provided the foundation for the conceptual framework that began with a deep analysis of the existing demographic, cultural and infrastructural issues.
Currently, there is no policy or plan in place to address on a large scale the housing needs of a growing population in Los Angeles. The primary objective of the proposed work was to generate viable, large-scale housing solutions that address the city's impending population increase. "L.A. Now: Volume 3" investigates solutions for housing 35,000–100,000 residents on a neglected 228-acre site in the last cornerstone of downtown Los Angeles, an area that represents a crossroad and collision of every major infrastructural system and ethnic cultural district. This is the first volume to introduce several proposals to a specific area; each proposal targets a specific critical position within the current housing debate so, collectively, the publication effectively illustrates the complex landscape of solutions available.
The "L.A. Now: Volume 3" project successfully integrated UCLA students with public policy makers and provided an opportunity for the students to confront the realities of their profession through experiences not typical of conventional curricula. The project created a forum in which the students' thorough immersion in a real-world setting took into account the comprehensive and integrative nature of urban development in a major metropolis.
The students' engagement expanded beyond the conventional academic setting in terms of depth and breadth of research as they had the rare opportunity to interact with important private individuals and public officials, putting them at the front line of the city's public policy and decision‑making processes. These people participated in meetings with the students for four hours every five weeks over the course of an academic year, critiquing the students and advising them with their expertise. They also met individually with the students in between the scheduled meetings.
"A new educational circumstance was created where the students began to understand the operations which will later impact their careers, and at the same time the clients — the board of advisors modeling the establishment — were asked to consider a larger context of information in their response and criticism," said professor Richard Weinstein, acting chair of the department of architecture and urban design.
The group that met with the students was composed of Robin Blair, Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Con Howe, director of planning, Los Angeles Department of City Planning; John Kaliski, principal, Urban Studio (architect / planner); Nicolai Ouroussoff, architectural critic, Los Angeles Times (now at The New York Times); Jan Perry, member of the Los Angeles City Council; Ian Robertson, principal, Robertson Company (developer); Dan Rosenfeld, principal, Urban Partners (developer); Deborah Weintraub, Los Angeles City Architect; and Richard Weinstein, professor, UCLA department of architecture and urban design.
The UCLA students involved in "L.A. Now: Volume 3" were Raffi Agaian, Pakling Chiu, Alexios Fragkiadakis, David Garnett, Svyatoslav Gavrilov, Constanza Guerini, Chaitanya Karnik, Jacob Kwan, Narineh Mirzaeian, Masako Saito and Myungsoo Suh.
In the summer of 2000, Richard Koshalek, president of Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, approached Thom Mayne, professor of architecture at UCLA and design principal of Morphosis, about participating in a study of Los Angeles that would offer suggestions for its future development and growth. During a yearlong intensive studio at UCLA's department of architecture and urban design, Mayne and a group of students first undertook the project of understanding Los Angeles and subsequently designing speculative urban proposals for its downtown core.
A large portion of this effort focused on the collection of a sizeable amount of data on the Los Angeles area in the realization that no project could be understood properly in isolation from the larger picture. This initial research was compiled into a book that was published by Art Center College of Design in 2001 as "L.A. Now: Volume 1." Based on this research and analysis, the students then designed interpretive strategies to accommodate the city's fragmentation and heterogeneity, emergent orders and non-linearity. Each of these projects established a basis of working within the broader context of the city. The academic context of the studio allowed for the emergence of urban proposals not possible within the strictures of conventional planning and development as the initial research phase unearthed programmatic and spatial adjacencies. These projects were published in 2002 as "L.A. Now: Volume 2."
The UCLA department of architecture and urban design immerses students in the contemporary state of architecture and works with them to advance the field. Students at UCLA integrate rigorous cultural, social and technological conditions into designs of formal persuasion, material conviction and intellectual innovation through four degree programs: two professional degrees (Master of Architecture I and II) and the M.A. and the Ph.D. in architecture.
UCLA Architecture Research Studios are an intensive yearlong studio that provides students with an opportunity to gather information, document the site, attempt to understand "the problem" in the context of change in the larger city and to formulate design proposals. The groundbreaking "L.A. Now: Volume 3," led by professor Mayne, captures a snapshot of Los Angeles at the beginning of the 21st century, presenting a series of conceptual proposals that encourage civic and business leaders, developers, architects, students and the general public to rethink the city and the plans for its future.
Representative alumni include Rebecca Binder, recipient of an American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Honor Award and the City of Los Angeles Mayor's Award; Frederick Fisher, recipient of the Brendan Gill Award from the Municipal Arts Society of New York for the design of the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center; Hsin-Ming Fung, co-founder of Hodgetts + Fung Design and Architecture, whose projects include the award-winning temporary Towell Library at UCLA and the renovation/restoration of the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood; (Hank) Koning and (Julie) Eizenberg, recognized for their groundbreaking work in housing and community-based projects and recipients of AIA honor awards; John Ruble, principal in Moore Ruble Yudell, whose projects include the United States Embassy in Berlin, Germany, Tegel Harbor in Berlin, and master planning for the new Tacoma campus of the University of Washington; Patrick Tighe, principal of Tighe Architecture, recipient of a 2004 AIA/LA Next Merit Award for affordable housing, Norwalk, Conn.; Billie Tsien, founding partner of Tod Williams Billie Tsien and Associates, whose projects include the award-winning American Museum of Folk Art, New York; and Tom Wiscombe, principal of Emergent, recipient of a 2004 American Architecture Award for 2300 Live Oak, Los Angeles.