Day one of the AIA Committee on Design's 2013 Spring Conference...a few first impressions, observations, and connections...
First of all, my apologies for the lack of posting, but the internet connection in my room last night was spotty. This morning it seems to be much better.
Second, I'm going to explain a bit how I will be doing the live posting. I'm basically going to keep it in the format of a Instagram slideshow of the events. The conference will be focused on visiting and experiencing meaningful design projects here in Palm Springs. As such, I will focus less on the designs themselves, and more on the experiences.
I made the two hour drive from Los Angeles with relative ease, since heading east on the I10 (away from downtown) in the middle of the day is petty much traffic-less (by LA standards).
The conference is being hosted at the Riviera Palm Springs...when I arrive Bruce Bland AIA National Staff member is greeting attendees and checking them in...
Within minutes of arriving, I have been greeted and introduced to at least 10 AIA CoD members arriving at the same time from various locations across the country. As one of the recipients of the AIA Knowledge Scholarship, it is clear that Bruce's enthusiasm in making my presence felt to the other attendees will be a theme throughout the conference. At the moment, the names are coming so fast I can't remember them...but I do remember some cities and some states...Alaska, Connecticut, Phoenix, Washington DC, San Francisco, Detroit, and Iowa to name a few of both.
The first event I am shuttled off to is a private tour of the Frey House II, the home of Albert Frey, a former collaborator of Richard Neutra and Les Corbusier who relocated to Palm Springs. The house sits on the side of a mountain overlooking the Palm Springs Art Museum and the Coachella Valley.
It is a compact yet elegantly proportioned and austere steel post and beam house with a glazed facades and a cantilevered roof overhang in the tradition of California Modernism and the Case Study Movement.
The most noticeable characteristic of the house is that fact that it is not only situated around a very large boulder, that boulder actually penetrates the house (and I believe) supports the roof. However, the things I am struck by about the house is how it uses the sectional condition of the site and the contours around the boulder to inform the sectional condition of the house. Sectional partitions within the house create soft spatial boundaries between zones, while providing opportunities for integrated furnishings (seating, shelving, stairs, etc)
The effect of this is clear. Both inside and outside the home, one is deeply connected to the natural terrain and vistas of the site. Visually, spatially, structurally, ergonomically the landscape defines the home.
It is also quite interesting, and fun to see a collection of architects move through a space/site like kids in a candy store....moving from one delightful moment to another, and collectively taking their photographs.
Conference chair Takeshi Yanai greeted us with opening remarks while Lance O'Donnell schooled us on the legacy of Palm Springs as a Mecca of modernist legacy. Very interesting to note that Palm Springs was heavily developed post WWII through the sixties, but lost favor through the 70's and 80's. Thus the architecture of the area is firmly defined almost exclusively by a mid century modern aesthetic. It was a playground for experimentation for materiality, geometry and inside/outside living for architects like Neutra, Lautner, Wexler, Krisel and more.
It was a very nice event that was my first opportunity to get an overview of the 100 or so attendees at the conference. It was also the first time I was able to see the efforts the committee is making in terms of attracting a younger and more diverse demographic. This last point is actually why I was brought here specifically. The AIA CoD wants to break out of its stereotype as an old boys club of partners and principals and engage a broader younger community of like minded and design-centric architects.
My own personal highlight of the trip so far, was when I was approached by architect William Krisel, one of the keynote speakers of the event and designer of many of the projects we will visit. William approached me and asked if I was Alvin, and when I replied yes, quickly began speaking to me in Mandarin! It turns out he had read my bio that the CoD had provided and recognized me and wanted to connect with a fellow Trojan Alum. William graduated in 1949, I followed shortly in 1998, and am now back again teaching at my alma mater.