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Is There an L.A. Sensibility? Place and Politics in Los Angeles Design

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Barnsdall Gallery Theater

4800 Hollywood Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA 90027

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“(Re)Designing LA,” a public-events series led by Occidental College Professor of Practice Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles’ first-ever chief design officer, will call on a broad cast of experts and activists to explore how the city can promote innovative design while addressing climate change and guarding against displacement and the erasure of neighborhood culture and history.

“(Re)Designing LA” marks the fourth year of Occidental’s 3rd LA initiative, launched by Hawthorne in 2015 during his tenure as architecture critic of the Los Angeles Times. He was appointed last year as chief design officer by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The series this year will be co-sponsored by Occidental and the Mayor’s Office. The kick-off event is sponsored in part by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

The series begins on March 6 at Barnsdall Gallery Theater, next door to Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1921 Hollyhock House, with a kickoff event entitled Is There an L.A. Sensibility? Place and Politics in Los Angeles Design. Architects, planners, critics and historians often praise works of architecture or urban design for suggesting an authentic sense of place — or knock them for lacking it. But what precisely does it mean for a design — of an apartment building, a park, a Metro line, a bus stop or a 2028 Olympic venue, or even a song or work of art — to reflect the spirit of Los Angeles, or of a specific site or neighborhood in the city? Given the long history of rapid change, displacement and mythmaking in Southern California, these questions can be more fraught and elusive here than in other American cities. What’s more, the effort at so-called placemaking in new project design can run roughshod over community or architectural history, giving rise to a new phrase that many prefer: “placekeeping.” Helping architects, designers, city officials and community leaders frame the question of place in a more nuanced, productive and inclusive way will be Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson (to discuss the Destination Crenshaw initiative), artists Rosten Woo, Janna Ireland and Ruben Ochoa, architect Frederick Fisher, Occidental Associate Professor of Music David Kasunic and others.

This event is free and open to the public, registration is required.


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Barnsdall Gallery Theater

4800 Hollywood Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA 90027

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