In honor of the LA Forum’s 30th Anniversary this year, Delirious LA occasionally features interviews with some of its founders. This week we continue our series with architect Christian Hubert. We spoke to Hubert about the LA Forum’s origins and critical role in the design community moving forward.
Many of us had more or less recently moved to L.A. from the East Coast and missed the polemics and debates that took place in New York and the architecture schools. I had been active at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies and sought out other designers with similar interests. I knew a number of the other founding members already, and I was eager to expand that network.
Craig Hodgetts was the closest thing to an authentic L.A. figure in our original group, Frank Israel was still a recent transplant and Ben [Caffey] had moved back after a year at the GSD. Aaron [Betsky] and I had just arrived. Our goal was to make sense of the city and the architecture being created in it. We met in various offices until we were able to use the Schindler house, which provided an anchor point, an outdoor room, and an explicit link to transplanted European modernism.
The Forum’s initial response to L.A. was to perceive a need (or at least a desire) for discussion, a sense that the architectural community was inchoate and underdeveloped, to take a real interest in the freedoms and opportunities for architectural experimentation in Los Angeles, and in the future of the city — especially in relation to transportation and infrastructure.
The social tensions between the city’s socially segregated enclaves, between rich and poor, and between ethnic groups could not be ignored either, and we were fortunate to have members like Doug Suisman and John Kaliski who were committed to public initiative and changes in the city. We would always be moving back and forth between an interest in design experiment and an ambition to make real contributions to the public realm.
The tumultuous events following the Rodney King beatings underscored the importance of our working with communities, other than ours, and exploring the marginal or informal spaces of the city. We held an event in the parking lot of a burnt out mall — using found furniture — held another event under the freeway, and participated in design charrettes. We also remained committed to activist academic work and to the pamphlet publications.
I think the Forum has created an important cultural niche for itself in Los Angeles, and hope it can continue to do so. As much as possible, it should be opening up avenues for talented designers to contribute to the public good, in social and environmental terms and increasingly in political terms. The state of California is a leader and an example to the rest of the world; Los Angeles should be as well.
Keep it up!