As evidenced in our 2018 book launch of the LA Forum Reader: From the Archives of the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, highlighting our three decades of publication work, the L.A. Forum has led the critical discourse about the built environment of Los Angeles, and in this past year there was an extraordinary organizational energy and programming output that bodes well for our design discourse leadership in the decades to come. In a time of great social and cultural reflection and reformation, the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design has provided a platform for the presentation and discussion of the critical issues at the heart of cultural transformation. In parallel, the L.A. Forum Board of Directors has worked to reform our institutional organization from within to help us be ever more prepared for the increasingly complex challenges in the decades ahead.
I am proud of the work by the L.A. Forum in 2018 to renew and expand our focus on the ethical obligation to confront the difficult cultural issues that limit participation in the design and experience of the built environment. In an era marked by the rhetoric of nationalism and borders, we have unequivocally supported INTERNATIONAL CULTURAL EXCHANGE. We began the year with the conclusion of Tu Casa es mi Casa, an exhibition pairing architects from Mexico City with writers from California at the Neutra VDL House. We continued our international exchange at USC in a discussion with Abhinava Shukla, Secretary General of Ahmedabad Textile Mills Association, regarding the unique challenges faced by iconic Indian buildings designed by Le Corbusier on urban sites. And at the end of 2018 we collaborated with Japan House in Hollywood to explore the architectural exhibition “Sou Fugimoto: Futures of the Future“.
In a time of cultural conflict and increased awareness of the impact and importance of race, gender, and a host of issues challenging DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION, particularly in the design professions, the L.A. Forum has promulgated a productive dialogue regarding social justice and pluralism. In coordination with our 2018 newsletter publication, RE:Learning, which challenged contemporary architectural pedagogy, we hosted the Free School of Architecture in the WUHO gallery for our Summer Exhibition 2018. The Free School, which challenges contemporary ideas of architectural education, institution, pedagogy, and capital, was organized by an international team of four women, and demonstrated design process as product with Los Angeles available as its laboratory for exploration. Shortly after the Free School’s session finished in the gallery, the Los Angeles Forum collaborated with Woodbury once again at WUHO to host “Now What?! Advocacy, Activism & Alliances in American Architecture since 1968,” linking the U.S. design community to larger social and political movements of the late 20th century, placing design practice in the foreground and engaging viewers in critical conversations of history, progress, and the built environment in 2018. Critical questions of RACE, GENDER, AND SEXUALITY were explored to consider equity and representation in the design professions in 2018.
Our curatorial mission continued exploring DESIGN from the scale of furniture to the city, with a particular focus on housing. From our collaboration with VDL House to host European design firm BLESS, with a critical installation of their contemporary furniture, our Morning After discussion in collaboration with the A+D Museum in Los Angeles, and our On the Map programming which explored L.A.’s built environment in situ from the extra small (XS) to the extra large (XL). L.A. Forum’s Board of Directors worked tirelessly to produce an exceptional number of programs in 2018 with a particular focus on the critical social justice issue facing Los Angeles’ built environment by hosting three major events regarding HOUSING JUSTICE. The first was Part of the Solution: Yes to ADU, in collaboration with the LA County Arts Commission and inclusive across disciplines, to re-imagine the potential of “granny flats”, or Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). The second, ADU 2.0: Transforming the City from Inside Out, in collaboration with The Taiwan Academy and Bureau Spectacular, considered new infill housing typologies in Los Angeles and Taipei. The third, a book launch and panel discussion regarding Housing as Intervention with author Karen Kubey, and moderated by Frances Anderton, considered how Los Angeles might implement new multifamily housing typologies that would work to relieve the unconscionable economic and humanitarian housing crisis that we are facing.
With so much ambitious programming, and despite a hard working, all-volunteer Board of Directors, the L.A. Forum requires highly competent membership coordination and financial management, particularly regarding our numerous grants. Internally, our Board of Directors has worked hundreds of hours over the course of 2018 to STRATEGICALLY REORGANIZE the internal mechanisms and systems by which our organization operates. We have reconfigured and implemented new systems for grant application and tracking, as well as our strategies for tracking membership and programming to more effectively analyze our diverse member engagement. Many of these changes are fundamental to our organizational work, but perhaps none so much as our strategic revision of our Board of Advisors. We have created a new system of roles and responsibilities that will cultivate more productive mentorship and workflow between the Advisors and the Board.
Looking forward into 2019, I could not be happier about the future of the L.A. Forum and its recently elected leadership. We will be led by our President, Katrin Terstegen, and Vice-President, Christopher Torres, Co-Vice-Presidents of Information, Maria Esnaola and Michelle Frier, Vice-President of Grants Development, Nina Briggs, Vice-President of Membership Development, Liz Mahlow, Vice-President of Operations, Steven Chodoriwsky, and our Treasurer, Aaron Neubert. We have some intriguing projects ahead, including revisiting our L.A. Forum history of pamphlets, and have received a grant to develop a new series of PAMPHLET PUBLICATIONS regarding current topics in L.A.’s built environment. We have also been coordinating with Christopher Hawthorne in the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office regarding a 2019 collaboration on important initiatives, particularly regarding housing and the design of urban spaces in Los Angeles.
On a personal note, I am sincerely grateful for the fantastic opportunity it has been to serve for my entire five year term on the Board of the L.A. Forum, including in 2016 and 2017 as Vice President with President Roberto Sheinberg, and in 2018 as President with Vice President Katrin Terstegen. To the L.A. Forum Board of Directors, Advisory Board, Members, donors, collaborators, and all who supported my leadership, I extend my sincere and heartfelt thanks. The L.A. Forum is now, more than ever, positioned to instigate and frame critical public discourse on design and the built environment, and it is with great excitement that I look forward to the important contributions it will continue to make toward promulgating diversity, equity, and inclusion within the design disciplines and the larger culture that is Los Angeles.