It is normally a two storey walk-up apartment-block developed back over the full depth of the site, built of wood and stuccoed over. These are the materials that Rudolph Schindler and others used to build the first modern architecture in Los Angeles, and the dingbat, left to its own devices, often exhibits the basic characteristics of a primitive modern architecture. Round the back, away from the public gaze, they display simple rectangular forms and flush smooth surfaces, skinny steel columns and simple boxed balconies, and extensive overhangs to shelter four or five cars.
But out the front, dingbats cannot be left to their own devices; the front is a commercial pitch and a statement about the culture of individualism. A row of dingbats with standardized neat backs and sides will have every street facade competitively individual, to the extent that it is hard to believe that similar buildings lie behind.
– Reyner Banham, The Architecture of Four Ecologies
The Dingbat grew out of Los Angeles’ rapid postwar expansion period and defined a pervasive vernacular that still weaves through the space of the city’s neighborhoods and the decades of their development. For more than half a century, this idiosyncratic typology has been vilified, praised, studied, and often misunderstood – as much for being ugly and ordinary as for being innovative, iconoclastic, and distinctly “L.A.” As a housing type, the Dingbat has aided the sprawl for which L.A. is infamous while simultaneously creating a consistency of urban density achieved by few other cities. Beyond its role as an alternative to L.A.’s traditionally single-family planning focus, the Dingbat allowed millions of immigrants to arrive in Los Angeles and find their shared piece of paradise. The Dingbat offered the tropes of the singly family house minus the mortgage – a consolation prize to the American Dream.
Yet despite its dominance for over 50 years, the original Dingbat no longer fulfills the changing needs of a new Los Angeles. The majority of new immigrants to L.A. no longer arrive from Middle America and instead they carry with them different traditions of individuality and family life. The car (and the development patterns it demands) is no longer sustainable in a metropolis whose very identity is synonymous with “car culture.” Today is an opportune time to revisit the Dingbat, its relationship to the identity of the city, and the unexploited possibilities it may yet offer the discipline of architecture.
Dingbat 2.0 asks designers to re-envision the Dingbat, and, in so doing, offer a revised vision for L.A. itself. In order to redefine the Dingbat, it is essential to understand what has made it so successful (or at least ubiquitous) and determine what form of Dingbat-ness will best define a new identity for an emerging 21st Century Los Angeles. In short, this is not Banham’s Dingbat. Instead, Dingbat 2.0 is a complete re-invention of the typology, one that could allude to L.A.’s residential future, rather than simply glorifying one of the many pop-cultural icons of its past.
For me it’s the sad, faded dignity of the apartment buildings that makes this plasticky City of Angels seem like a livable place. A place where names are no longer placeholders for a better tomorrow, but first editions of the American dream, executed in shades of turquoise and dusty rose.
– Mimi Zeiger, Dingbat Culture
The Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design proposes DINGBAT 2.0, an open, single-stage, international design competition, reconsidering Los Angeles’ ubiquitous dingbat apartment building for the 21st century. All designers, architects, artists, engineers, students, and other interested parties are fully eligible for participation in this competition.
This is an ideas competition that calls for the consideration of two design issues regarding the Dingbat and it’s impact on the urban fabric of Los Angeles. Two boards (digital-only submittal) will be required for the competition. One board will address the typology of the Dingbat at the scale of the individual building (are they to be retrofitted? replaced?), and the second board will consider the larger urban scale of an entire city block within a ‘Dingbat neighborhood’. Three separate sites in three distinct Los Angeles neighborhoods will be considered for the competition.
Barbara Bestor / Principal, Bestor Architects, Los Angeles / Chair, Graduate School of Architecture at Woodbury University
John Chase / Author / Urban Designer, City of West Hollywood
Teddy Cruz / Principal, Estudio Teddy Cruz, San Diego / Associate Professor, UCSD, Visual Arts Department
Dana Cuff / Director cityLAB – UCLA/AUD
Neil Denari / Principal, NMDA, Los Angeles / Professor, UCLA/AUD
Joshua Prince-Ramus /Principal, REX, New York
April 1: Competition announcement
April 12: Complete Competition Brief available
May 31: Registration period ends
June 4: Submission deadline
June 12: Jury
June 19: Winners announced + Exhibition
Prizes and Entry Fees:
A total of $9,000 USD in prize money will be awarded in the following categories:
1st place $4000 USD
2nd place $2000 USD
3rd place $750 USD
1st place $1500 USD
2nd place $500 USD
3rd place $250 USD
*Number of Honorary Mention prizes to be awarded at jury’s discretion, and will receive LA Forum individual membership + LA Forum gifts. All winning entries to receive free LA Forum annual membership for single member of design team, in addition to the designated prize money (six total).
Professional entry fee: $75 USD
Student entry fee: $25 USD (must provide copy of Student ID)
The Dingbat 2.0 Competition & Exhibition are sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Enterprise Holdings Foundation, the Woodbury University School of Architecture, and the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design. Archinect is the media sponsor for the competition, and printing has been generously provided by Ford Graphics.
The winning and honorable mention entries from the Dingbat 2.0 Competition were announced at the LA Forum’s Dingbat 2.0 Exhibition opening on Saturday, June 19th, at LA Forum Events @ WUHO*. There were EIGHT professional winners and FIVE student winners selected from over 80 entries from 18 countries (number of ‘winners’ includes honorable mentions in both categories). The work of the thirteen winners is being exhibited at the Dingbat 2.0 Exhibition through July 24th.
Download Gallery Guide PDF with all winners + jury commentary.