Art


The Convoluted Path to Ending Los Angeles's Mural Ban

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March 22, 2012
How the city is working with artists to revise its rules about murals, art and advertising.

Once regarded as the mural capital of the world, Los Angeles in recent years has lost a good deal of its street art cred. Decades of loose regulation on signs and murals led to some creative law-skirting by outdoor advertising firms, bringing about a string of lawsuits and rule changes – and more lawsuits and more rule changes. The eventual result was an all-out moratorium on new murals.

City officials are now trying to welcome mural artists back with a proposed new ordinance. But this regulation battle still has to deal with the particularly pesky monkey on its back.

Burning Man and the Metropolis

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January 10, 2011
It's not exactly the ideal place to build a city. No water, little vegetation, limited animal life. August temperatures climb to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and drop close to freezing at night. High winds kick up powder-fine dust into blinding storms. The place is, in a word, inhospitable.

But year after year in late summer, a small city rises on this ancient lakebed in the Black Rock Desert, in Pershing County in northwestern Nevada. It's the annual event — or festival, or party — known as Burning Man, an eight-day experiment in self-expression and self-reliance that is now one of the most notorious cultural events in North America. What began as a bonfire attended by 20 friends on a San Francisco beach in 1986 has exploded into a global mega-event with 50,000 participants.

Fixing a Broken City

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November 24, 2009
Just across the river from Detroit sits a city forgotten. Battered by the fall of the auto industry and struggling to keep its economy running, Windsor, Ontario, has seen some tough times in recent years, and things aren’t likely to improve any time soon. It has the highest unemployment rate in Canada, a plummeting population, and the empty storefronts and foreclosed homes that have come to define this generation’s Great Recession.

Though geographically south, Windsor’s been called the Detroit of the North. For some locals, it’s simply a broken city. But there’s a growing movement that believes Windsor is a city that can be fixed.

A group of artists, activists, and urbanists has come together in Windsor with the straightforward-yet-complex goal of repairing the city.

RoboCop: The Monument

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June 22, 2011
Can open source play a role in urban planning? Launched on Kickstarter, the proposal to erect a monument to RoboCop has received support from thousands of people worldwide.

The Internet's very local demand for RoboCop

Strange things can happen when the nerdy niches of the Internet mobilise. In less than a week, the wacky-yet-kindaclever idea of building a statue in Detroit of the title character from the Detroit-based 1987 film RoboCop surpassed its $50,000 goal through donations on the fundraising website Kickstarter.

Landscape Futures Super-Workshop

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January 27, 2011
Geoff Manaugh is trying out a new shared and experimental approach to curating which calls for direct interaction among participants.

Sure, you could curate an exhibition like everybody else: pick a theme, commission a few artists, and then sit back and wait around to sip your plastic cup of Cabernet on opening night.

Or, you could curate like Geoff Manaugh.

(D)evolved Interiors

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October 14, 2010
On a calm street, blocks from the auto hum of Wilshire and Fairfax, a 1930s architectural classic plays portal to another era's drug surreality. Within the walls of Rudolf Schindler's Buck House lie '60s decay and dystopia, a bizarre mix of science, government and psychoactive drugs that turned quietly hidden pockets of postwar Southern California into a substance-fueled testing ground for the expansion of consciousness.

This is ostensibly the former home of one Dr. Arthur Cook, a CIA-sponsored psychedelic drug-testing psychologist — who never actually existed. The remnants of years of drug manufacturing, experimentation and use scattered throughout its rooms and hallways, apparently abandoned for decades, are actually an elaborate new installation from Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman, "Bright White Underground," at Country Club L.A.

Urbanist Thinking at the Temporary Metropolis of Burning Man

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September 6, 2010
It's already disappearing. The temporary city that forms during the annual Burning Man event is fading away, as the tens of thousands of people who traveled out to live in the desert of northwestern Nevada for the past week have filed out of the void and returned back to the rest of the world.

The event's organizers and volunteers are still erasing the traces of the event, from demolishing structures to removing fencing to picking up trash. Within another week or so, the entire city will have disappeared.

Art for Urban Planners - Part One

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August 5, 2009
Urban planning is one of those things people don't realize they can relate to. Everybody understands cities, so why can't they understand how they are planned? Well, there's really no reason. Urban planners -- steeped in the inner workings of the urban world -- probably aren't the best to try to communicate this idea. So bring in the artists.

Art has an incredible communicative power, especially in regards to concepts that are otherwise hard to verbalize or explain. In the world of urban planning, art could be a great way to improve public understanding of projects, acceptance of new ideas, or simply to expand the idea of the city from a place to an evolving and interactive experience.