Science + Technology

'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 urbandesign has been awarded the 2005 P/A (Progressive Architecture) Award byArchitecture magazine for "L.A. Now: Volume 3," an urban design researchproject encompassing 35,000 housing units in downtown Los Angeles. The projectwas led by UCLA professor Thom Mayne, principal ofthe architecture firm Morphosis. The award will beannounced in the January issue of the magazine.

The P/A awards, now in their 52nd year,recognize unbuilt projects demonstrating overall designexcellence and innovation. They are considered by leading architects andcritics to be an influential bellwether of emerging architectural design trendsand talents. This year's P/A award is unprecedented in that it was granted toonly one recipient rather than to several. Citations were awarded to therunners-up. It is also the first time the award was given to a university.

Judges for the 52nd annual P/A Awards wereMaurice Cox, architectural designer, Harvard LoebFellow, founding partner of RBGC Architecture, Research + Urbanism, and formermayor of Charlottesville, Va.; architect Teddy Cruz, EstudioTeddy Cruz, San Diego, Calif.; Roger Duffy, a design director and principal ofSkidmore, 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 averitable who's who of the world's leading design visionaries, including Frank Gehry, Michael Graves, I.M. Peiand this year's American Institute of Architects Gold Medal honoree, the lateSamuel Mockbee.

The L.A. Now project arose froma need to examine critically the imminent problems facing Los Angeles —overpopulation, housing and infrastructure — and address them through acombined series of research and speculative urban design proposals to catalyzea discussion within the community. The UCLA department of architecture andurban design provided the foundation for the conceptual framework that beganwith a deep analysis of the existing demographic, cultural and infrastructural issues.

Currently, there is no policy or plan in place to address on a largescale the housing needs of a growing population in Los Angeles. The primaryobjective of the proposed work was to generate viable, large-scale housingsolutions that address the city's impending population increase. "L.A. Now: Volume 3" investigatessolutions for housing 35,000–100,000 residents on a neglected 228-acre site inthe last cornerstone of downtown Los Angeles, an area that represents acrossroad and collision of every major infrastructuralsystem and ethnic cultural district. This is the first volume to introduceseveral proposals to a specific area; each proposal targets a specific criticalposition within the current housing debate so, collectively, the publicationeffectively illustrates the complex landscape of solutions available.

The "L.A. Now: Volume 3" project successfullyintegrated UCLA students with public policy makers and provided an opportunityfor the students to confront the realities of their profession throughexperiences not typical of conventional curricula. The project created a forumin which the students' thorough immersion in a real-world setting took intoaccount the comprehensive and integrative nature of urban development in amajor metropolis.

The students' engagementexpanded beyond the conventional academic setting in terms of depth and breadthof research as they had the rare opportunity to interact with important privateindividuals and public officials, putting them at the front line of the city'spublic policy and decision‑making processes. These people participated inmeetings with the students for four hours every five weeks over the course ofan academic year, critiquing the students and advising them with theirexpertise. They also met individually with the students in between thescheduled meetings.

"A new educational circumstance was createdwhere the students began to understand the operations which will later impacttheir careers, and at the same time the clients — the board of advisorsmodeling the establishment — were asked to consider a larger context ofinformation 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 wascomposed 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, architecturalcritic, Los Angeles Times (now at The New York Times); Jan Perry, member of theLos Angeles City Council; Ian Robertson, principal, Robertson Company(developer); Dan Rosenfeld, principal, Urban Partners (developer); Deborah Weintraub, Los Angeles City Architect; and RichardWeinstein, professor, UCLA department of architecture and urban design.

TheUCLA students involved in "L.A. Now: Volume 3" were Raffi Agaian, Pakling Chiu, Alexios Fragkiadakis, DavidGarnett, Svyatoslav Gavrilov, Constanza Guerini, Chaitanya Karnik, Jacob Kwan, Narineh Mirzaeian, Masako Saito and Myungsoo Suh.

Project background

In the summer of 2000, Richard Koshalek, president of Art Center College of Design,Pasadena, approached Thom Mayne, professor ofarchitecture at UCLA and design principal of Morphosis,about participating in a study of Los Angeles that would offer suggestions forits future development and growth. During a yearlong intensive studio at UCLA'sdepartment of architecture and urban design, Mayneand a group of students first undertook the project of understanding Los Angeles and subsequently designing speculativeurban proposals for its downtown core.

A large portion of this effort focused on thecollection of a sizeable amount of data on the Los Angeles area in therealization that no project could be understood properly in isolation from thelarger picture. This initial research was compiled into a book that waspublished by Art Center College of Design in 2001 as "L.A. Now: Volume 1."Based on this research and analysis, the students then designed interpretivestrategies to accommodate the city's fragmentation and heterogeneity, emergentorders and non-linearity. Each of these projects established a basis of workingwithin the broader context of the city. The academic context of the studioallowed for the emergence of urban proposals not possible within the stricturesof conventional planning and development as the initial research phaseunearthed programmatic and spatial adjacencies. These projects were publishedin 2002 as "L.A. Now: Volume 2."

Department background

The UCLA department of architecture and urbandesign immerses students in the contemporary state of architecture and workswith them to advance the field. Students at UCLA integrate rigorous cultural,social and technological conditions into designs of formal persuasion, materialconviction and intellectual innovation through four degree programs: twoprofessional degrees (Master of Architecture I and II) and the M.A. and thePh.D. in architecture.

UCLA Architecture Research Studios are anintensive yearlong studio that provides students with an opportunity to gatherinformation, document the site, attempt to understand "the problem" in thecontext of change in the larger city and to formulate design proposals. Thegroundbreaking "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 businessleaders, developers, architects, students and the general public to rethink thecity and the plans for its future.

Representative alumni include Rebecca Binder,recipient of an American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Honor Award andthe City of Los Angeles Mayor's Award; Frederick Fisher, recipient of theBrendan Gill Award from the Municipal Arts Society of New York for the designof the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center; Hsin-Ming Fung, co-founder of Hodgetts + Fung Design and Architecture, whose projects include theaward-winning temporary Towell Library at UCLA andthe renovation/restoration of the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood; (Hank) Koning and (Julie) Eizenberg,recognized for their groundbreaking work in housing and community-basedprojects and recipients of AIA honor awards; John Ruble, principal in MooreRuble Yudell, whose projects include the UnitedStates Embassy in Berlin, Germany, Tegel Harbor inBerlin, and master planning for the new Tacoma campus of the University ofWashington; Patrick Tighe, principal of Tighe Architecture, recipient of a 2004 AIA/LA Next MeritAward for affordable housing, Norwalk, Conn.; Billie Tsien,founding partner of Tod Williams Billie Tsien and Associates, whose projects include theaward-winning American Museum of Folk Art, New York; and Tom Wiscombe, principal of Emergent, recipient of a 2004American Architecture Award for 2300 Live Oak, Los Angeles.



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