For over two years and counting, we have been confronted with a novel approach to living in space, one that is unfamiliar and mostly unprecedented. Social distancing, isolation have had a multitude of effects on the global population, on how we relate to each other and to space. 

During this pandemic, (personal) space has increased for some and decreased for others, with access to and options for different safe physical and mental spaces being sadly granted based on income and privilege. Access to safe, not overcrowded housing (or housing at all), access to green spaces for exercise and relaxation, access to safe/remote workspaces. Access to childcare, to services for the elderly and for disabled people. Access to transportation, to digital resources for remote learning, remote working, remote personal interaction, and to mental health providers. The list is long.

With Welcome Back!, the L.A. Forum for Architecture and Urban Design intends to embrace the full meaning of the word welcome as we emerge from the unwelcoming circumstances of our time. We ask you to welcome us back as we welcome you, the Los Angeles community and beyond, to engage in a conversation about space in a “post-pandemic” world. We welcome you to share your perception of space--if and how it has changed during the past two years. What do you define as a safe space, physical or mental? What felt like home during this time, and how it felt to be (forced) at home? What spaces did you wish to have more access to or were grateful for? How did your spatial routine change?

In this Newsletter, you will find a balloon with an ellipsis (dot-dot-dot). Inflate the balloon just enough to create a smooth surface that will allow you to annotate it with an indelible marker. Write, diagram, draw your thoughts on the topic presented above. Deflate the balloon, place it in the pre-addressed envelope, and mail it back to us.

We would like to hear from you!

This Newsletter is printed in a limited edition of 500 copies, and our desire is to receive all of the balloons. So, play with us, mail yours back! They will be gathered, inflated, and assembled in a floating installation, celebrating the thoughts and reflections of the community, date and location to be announced. In a time where personal connection is more vital than ever, this Welcome Back! event recognizes the special human interaction and exchange that naturally occurs at public gatherings. By now, we have learned how to navigate and be safe in such environments; we are celebrating the return to public activities, to activism, and to instigating interactions with the public.

*Pneumatic objects have been used since the 1930’s as instruments of propaganda and advertisements, and historically, also as tools for activism. In the 1960s and 70’s, the Italian radical group UFO created “urboeffimeri,” inflatable structures that established a dialogue with participants at demonstrations against the American war in Vietnam. These were works that occupied, disrupted, and created space. The idea for the Welcome Back! balloons--acting as a carrier of your message--is inspired by these historic methods of demonstration. For this collaboration, we chose the balloon as the archetypical, fantastical, and ubiquitous inflatable object with an innate sense of whimsy. The balloon rises up, takes up space; it migrates with the wind, violating borders, stimulating the imagination--an assemblage of balloons, floating. They foster community and participation, generate interest and agency.

Editor: Quynh Nguyen
Graphic Design Credit: Still Room

© 2023 LA Forum for Architecture and Urban Design
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