by Danielle Rago, AA MA HCT, 2012 AA Visiting School Los Angeles Programme Coordinator
25 April 2014 Los Angeles, California   Los Angeles is a city developed around and defined by houses rather than large architectural monuments. The singular residential unit is an elastic object, having long nurtured experimental pursuits and critical inquiry. From Rudolph Schindler’s Schindler House, 1922 in West Hollywood to Frank Gehry’s Gehry Residence, 1977-78 in Santa Monica and Lorcan O’Herlihy’s Vertical House, 2004 in Venice, the house has been the primary tool for architectural innovation in both thinking and making for the last century in LA. The AA Visiting School Los Angeles (AAVSLA) posits this architectural innovation in housing design and it’s strong lineage in Southern California and Los Angeles in particular as the framework for the overall Visiting School Programme that will feature two parallel methods of exploration through which to engage with the topics: design and writing.   [caption id="attachment_3115" align="alignnone" width="360"]John Lautner's Goldstein Sheats Residence Image credit: Art Jocks John Lautner's Goldstein Sheats Residence
Image credit: Art Jocks[/caption] The AAVSLA Programme, similar in scope and format, responds directly to the historic Case Study House Programme of the 40’s created by then-editor of Arts & Architecture Magazine John Entenza. The programme, which took place between 1945-1966, was developed as an experiment in the social use of technology as a response to the post-war cultural climate of the late 1940’s. Its intention was to use inexpensive and mass-produced materials to create model homes for the US residential housing boom post-World War II. According to Entenza in a statement that accompanied the launch of the programme in the January 1945 issue of the magazine, “What man has learned about himself in the last five years will, we are sure, express itself in the way in which he will want to be housed in the future.”
Entenza’s ideas about the future were translated into the architecture and design he promoted and ultimately produced through various commissions of residential experiments by some of the leading architects and designers of the time including Raphael Soriano, Charles Eames, Craig Ellwood, Pierre Koenig, Richard Neutra, Eero Saarinen, Rodney Walker, and William Wurster, among others. While the AAVSLA programme echoes Entenza’s Case Study House Programme, it goes beyond re-mastering current attitudes driven by contemporary issues of architectural design and production such as issues of parametric design, new materialization and digital fabrication, sustainability, and instead hypothesises future modalities of living that are informed by the present.   [caption id="attachment_3116" align="alignnone" width="360"]Housing Studies by Claudia Otten, a student of Alvin Huang at USC Housing Studies by Claudia Otten, a student of Alvin Huang at USC[/caption] The design component, led by co-directors Alvin Huang (AA DRL 2004) and Kevin McClellan (AA DRL 2005) aims to interrogate, challenge, and speculate on new modes of living that are enabled by advances in technology, and guided by changes within contemporary society. Participants will be asked to design experimental “adaptive” single-family homes that utilise associative geometries to enable dynamic attributes such as re-parameterisation (mass-customisation), re-configuration (variability), or interactivity (responsiveness). The writing portion of the program, led by myself, will focus on the deep historical narrative of innovative housing driven by the latest technological developments and social movements from the early twentieth century to current-day architectural practice. Participants will select a single housing project in Los Angeles, either an iconic work of architecture – one that has been overly saturated in the discourse of modern architecture – or one that is part of the vernacular landscape, to use as a case study for critical inquiry into L.A.’s residential architecture – past, present, and future.
An integral component of both parts (design and writing) is historical precedent and this is incorporated through site visits and house tours to some of the most iconic homes in Los Angeles; contextually placing students into the canon of residential architectural projects. Students will visit and tour Charles and Ray Eames’ Eames House, 1949; Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House #22/Stahl House, 1960; Richard Neutra’s VDL Research House, 1932; and John Lautner’s Sheats Goldstein Residence, 1961-63. The siting of the program here in LA, with access to a variety of progressive residential projects is integral to the overall intention of the course. The programme will conclude with an exhibition of student’s work at the Bradbury Building in Downtown Los Angeles as part of the Los Angeles Design Festival. Exploring various media from drawings and models to text and physical exhibition; the course seeks to respond to the myriad ways architecture is being produced and consumed in the twenty-first century in this unique metropolis and abroad.   For more information: The Architectural Association Visiting School Los Angeles will take place between 16 and 27 June 2014. Design instructors include David Freeland (FreelandBuck), Marc Fornes (TheVeryMany), Alvin Huang (Synthesis Design + Architecture), Adam Marcus (Variable Projects), Kevin McClellan (Tex-Fab), and Jenny Wu (OylerWu). While Danielle Rago will lead the Design Writing section. The course also includes a public programming series that will feature lectures and panel discussion by AAVSLA faculty, Neil Denari (NMDA), Tom Wiscombe (Tom Wiscombe Architecture), and Heather Roberge (Murmur).   Applications for the course are now open through June 1.   AA Visiting School Los Angeles prospectus AA Visiting School Los Angeles microsite   AASVLA-Poster