In honor of the LA Forum’s 30th anniversary, this year Delirious LA will occasionally feature interviews with some its founders. To kick off the series, we spoke with Aaron Betsky, critic, curator, and dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, about the LA Forum’s origin and critical role in the design community moving forward.
We started the Forum in Frank Israel’s office with the idea that we would have a reading group. Most of us were brand-new arrivals and were fascinated by the Southland; we wanted to understand more about what made the place work. We worked and taught at different places and had the sense that we would benefit by talking to each other. We quickly realized that a reading group was not going to work (nobody seemed to have the time or inclination), so we decided to have a discussion group instead.
After the first few meetings at Tony Bill’s studio on Market Street, we began to develop interests in both exploring Los Angeles and sharing each other’s work. That is what the group grew into, with the most notable early series being the original “Out There Doing It” and “Hidden L.A.” in which we went to visit places such as the Caltrans yard under the 405/10 interchange. We also wanted to argue for better architecture and urbanism, because so much of what was being built was horrible (in that sense not much has changed). We believed that if only we would get the chance, everything would be different.
By now there is a much larger body of analytic and descriptive work on the architecture and urbanism of the Southland than there was in 1987. There also is a sense that L.A. has developed a clearer sense of its own history and character. It seems to me that the Forum could either agitate for better architecture and urbanism, or document what is there. That could come on top of the continued notion of a forum, which is a place to exchange ideas and experiments in architecture and urbanism.