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Cassina showroom, photo by Frances Anderton

Dear DNA friends,

I hope you are doing well! 

Before getting onto Design Things to Do, let’s remember a woman who had a huge impact on our cityscape, “from bus stops and urban design, from landscaping to clean restrooms.” 

That’s Gloria Molina, the fearless and fierce daughter of East Los Angeles, as recalled by James Rojas, a community planner who got to know Molina (or, as he knew her, “GloMo”) when he worked on the Eastside Gold Line at LA Metro. 

This past Sunday, Mother’s Day, Molina died from cancer. She had blazed a trail, especially for fellow Latina politicians. She held multiple elected leadership positions over 32 years, culminating in her role as LA County Supervisor (1991-2014), and was a force in shaping Los Angeles, from her neighborhood to the region.

“Chicago had Mayor Daley, New York had Robert Moses and La Guardia, and LA had Gloria Molina,” says Rojas. “GloMo did more to shape LA than any other elect’, despite all the setbacks as a Chicana. Her story is that of the Eastside, where being tough is how to survive.” 

Molina was the oldest of 10 children and had to support the family when her father became ill, working as a legal secretary while studying fashion design at Rio Hondo College (then East L.A. College), explains Gustavo Arellano in this obituary. All this prepared her for the battles ahead. 

“She was hated by the Latino male political machine,” continues Rojas, adding that Molina revitalized LA's rail program while planners and city leaders including Zev Yaroslavsky and Mayor Riordan, "wanted to give the Eastside and LA more buses. She was tough, she micro-managed, but she had this incredible sense of detail. I talked to her staff one time on how we could beautify fences around industrial properties in her district. She knew how to build infrastructure. While Frank Gehry, Eli Broad and other men left their mark on Grand Avenue, she put the pieces together –– from the Disney Concert Hall, placing the Cathedral where it is, to Grand Park. I learned from her that in big cities like LA you have to take power, keep it, and use it to manage the details of the community's vision.”

I recollect Molina stepping into the machinations surrounding The Grand, the hotel, shopping and residential complex now opposite the Walt Disney Concert Hall that was part of a deal that produced Grand Park. When the developer Related Companies switched from Frank Gehry to another design team Molina insisted they keep Gehry. The park has now been renamed in her honor: Gloria Molina Grand Park.

Molina's interest in beautification had deep roots. She studied fashion before getting swept up in Chicano activism, and throughout the years she maintained a passion for quilt-making. She founded the East Los Angeles Stitchers, and now the L.A. County Fair (see below) has created The Gloria Molina Quilting Award, to be awarded annually to the most outstanding quilt in their Home Arts competition. As Arellano writes, the honor commemorates “a lifelong enthusiast who applied the craft’s skills to her public service: a smart use of color, a methodical approach, an expansive outlook and a thick skin able to weather the pricks that came with the job because she could dole them out even better.”

RIP Jesús Gloria Molina (May 31, 1948 – May 14, 2023)

IMAGE 2, Gloria Molina at LA County FairImage from LA County Fair Instagram

Protective Trees Memorialize Murdered Chinese

Speaking of downtown…

In late October 1871, some 18 Chinese people were shot or hanged by a vengeful mob following the shooting of a white rancher, in the area around the Old Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. 150 years later, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument launched a competition to find a design for a memorial to those murdered.

Now a team and a design concept have been selected: artist Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong and writer Judy Chui-Hua Chung have proposed what Carolina Miranda describes as “a grove of ghostly trees, stumps and benches,” carefully placed at the specific sites where individuals were killed and interspersed with living trees and “root” benches for sitting and reflection. The duo drew inspiration from the protective banyan trees found in Sze Yup in Kwangtung, the area in China from where most immigrants to the US came. “Here, every village is guarded at the entrance by a majestic banyan, which embodies protective spirits and vital energy, or chi,” they write. 

Annie Chu, an architect and a member of the evaluation committee for the memorial, told me she is thrilled by “their poignant design proposal and thoughtful writing based on discerning research. By tapping into the profound resonance of live and symbolic tree forms –– trunk, branch, leaves and root to humans –– the proposal promises connection with the shared experiences of a broad demographic at multiple sites. The fact that this refined level of writing will be accessible by QR codes at each site will ensure an eloquent retelling of the history of the massacre, the Chinese American experience, our city’s complex evolution, the universal issue of race relations, and the reflection of our humanity.” See more images here.

IMAGE 3, Chinese Memorial, image courtesy Cultural Affairs DepartmentChinese Memorial, image courtesy Cultural Affairs Department
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Design Things To Do

Cassina Opens Supersize Showroom
When Spanish-born, Milan-based furniture and product designer Patricia Urquiola burst onto the scene at the turn of this century, a great talent had arrived. Since 2015 she has been Art Director for the Italian furniture company Cassina, an innovator in furnishings since its founding in 1927. The company, which has produced collections by founding Modern architects such as Le Corbusier, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Frank Lloyd Wright and Charlotte Perriand, as well as many designers including Piero Lissoni, Vico Magistretti, Gaetano Pesce and Virgil Abloh, always had a small presence in Los Angeles. But now it has gone big, opening what the company says is its largest store in the world, a 13,000 square feet new space at 145 N. Robertson Boulevard in Beverly Hills (see image above).

It does this, in partnership with DIVA Group, at a time when much storefront retail is shrinking. Not a problem, says Urquiola, who I met at a gathering to mark the opening of Cassina. As she sees it: “At this moment, (Los Angeles) has a big energy for design.”  

Incidentally, that gathering took place in a location chosen for its design flair: the John Lautner-designed 1956 Harpel House, which sits atop a lofty slope off of Mulholland Drive, on Torreyson Street (just south of Mulholland Drive), close by the more famous Chemosphere House. That structure now has a baby, Harpel II, a guesthouse originally designed by Lautner but never built. Mark Haddawy, co-founder of the retailer Resurrection Vintage, spent several years building the curvy concrete and glass structure as close as possible to Lautner's scheme that today’s codes would allow. It was kitted out for the event with Cassina furniture, and became a lovely lantern at night (below).

IMAGE 1, Harpel II, built by Mark Haddawy, photo by Frances Anderton, IMG_1519Harpel II, built by Mark Haddawy, photo by Frances Anderton

Green Building at the Beehive
MyGBCE, SoLA Beehive, Thursday, May 18
The Los Angeles branch of the US Green Building Council, co-creator of the LEED rating system for buildings, holds its annual tradeshow and symposium on May 18. Come find out the latest on decarbonization of buildings, all-electric everything and, hopefully, the indoor air quality revolution

There is a galaxy of great speakers taking part, and I’ll join the line-up to lead a fast-paced conversation with a small group about my favorite topic, multifamily housing – and why higher density living just might be better for the planet and human well-being. That’s one of several “Table Talks” that are part of the mix this year, along with a party with music, appetizers, and drinks for optimum networking with the sustainability crowd.

MyGBCE, as it’s now branded, is testing a new format for their event, as well as an interesting new location: the SoLA Beehive, a 92,000-square-foot retail and production space in a federal Opportunity Zone in South LA.  Six red-brick warehouses have been transformed into venues that currently house a Technology and Entrepreneurship Center as well as Black-owned businesses including a craft brewery and art gallery.

Click here for details.

Fool’s Journey
Tarot Card Readings at the MAK Center
Fridays, May 19/June 23/July 21 
Programming public events in a town with numerous competing offerings can be hard. So cultural institutions are getting creative in getting people’s attention, often by turning to popular interest in wellness and self-actualization. Both MOCA and LACMA offer yoga and meditation in their spaces. Meanwhile the MAK Center at the Schindler House in West Hollywood offers divination in the cards.

Starting this Friday, May 19, visitors can have a tarot card reading by Linda Besemer, while sitting in art: the shag carpet installation in the Chase Courtyard by artist Renée Petropoulos. Readings will take place once-monthly through July.

While at the MAK center, check out Seeking Zohn, a display of photographs of the brutalist-but-sensual parking structures, parks, housing, and office buildings designed by Mexican-Austrian architect and engineer Alejandro Zohn (1930-2000) in Guadalajara from the 1950s to the 1990s. The show was created by architecture critic Mimi Zeiger with Tony Macarena, a self-described “design queeratorial duo” (Lorena Canales and Alejandro Olávarri), based in Mexico City, with an installation by Bob Dornberger that creatively stretches a small budget. He blew up the images, mounted them on raw wood stands and frames, and placed these throughout the grounds, like set pieces enhancing the effect of the rough-hewn house and its gardens.

Click here for details about the readings. Click here for details about Seeking Zohn.

"Heal Hear Here"
LA State Historic Park, Saturday, May 20, 3:00pm - 7:00 pm
Artist and instigator Anne Bray has been quietly making waves at the intersection of public space and media art since she co-founded Freewaves, a “grassroots yet global arts organization dedicated to collecting and connecting innovative and culturally relevant independent new media from around the world.”

This Saturday, Freewaves and Take Action for Mental Health LA offer a free public event in a “multi-sensory, multicultural environment, encouraging Los Angeles to break out of isolation and into a reparative afternoon of collective care in Yaanga, the homelands of the Tongva/Gabrielino/Gabrieleños.”

“Indigenous-informed” opening and closing ceremonies, a labyrinth, a dancing and drumming participatory workshop, a star garden and large-scale puppets created by Beth Peterson (One Grain of Sand/LA Commons; shown) are among the treats created by 30 artist groups and organizations who invite Angelenos to “join us as we soothe + connect + harmonize + toast + scream + hum + dismantle + sing + rock + breathe + move + meditate + walk together.”

Register for the event at

IMAGE 7, Puppets by Beth Peterson-LA Commons, image courtesy Heal Hear HerePuppets by Beth Peterson-LA Commons, image courtesy Heal Hear Here

ArchTour FestLA
Wednesday, May 17 - Sunday, May 21
Final reminder to sign up for this Saturday’s tour of (W)rapper, the provocative new office tower by Eric Owen Moss at which I’ll do a Q and A with EOM. It is one of several tours of new LA buildings hosted by AIA/Los Angeles, including the Hilda L. Solis Care First Village, the Crenshaw High School Performing Arts Center, the Jungle Gym House and several more.

Click here for tickets.

You Are Here: California Photography Now
Millard Sheets Art Center | LA County Fair
Through May 29
When the LA County Fair opened in Pomona in 1922, it boasted harness racing, chariot races and an airplane wing-walking exhibition. This year, the crowd draws include the Haunt Super Show, the Ray Cammack carnival,  the Paul Cash Environmental Magic Show, and some fine art: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has brought You Are Here: California Photography Now to the Millard Sheets Art Center at the Fairplex.

The 35 artworks, drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, “speak to specific aspects of the region, from entertainment and technology to marijuana dispensaries and flea markets…expand the definition of photography,” according to a LACMA press release. 

The Fair has shown art exhibitions since the 1930s, said Walter Marquez, President & CEO of the Fair, in the release, but “what we find today is that many Inland Valley residents do not get the opportunity to experience the larger art scene in Los Angeles. This is why having LACMA here is important.” 

Access to the exhibition is free with fair admission. Click here for details.

IMAGE 8, Rafael Cardenas, Dos De Asada, 2010, inkjet print, LACMA, copyright Rafael CardenasRafael Cardenas, Dos De Asada, 2010, inkjet print, LACMA, © Rafael Cardenas

What I'm Digging

Watch: Eurovision song contest
If you need some pure, ridiculous escapism and you’ve never seen the Eurovision Song Contest — in which nations from the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) compete for best, three-minute pop song — then sign up for Peacock, and replay this past Saturday’s 2023 contest final. The show’s always exuberant spirits were heightened by the fact that this year’s show was hosted by Liverpool on behalf of Ukraine, winner of last year’s competition, and unable to host the following year, as is the tradition, due to the war. I won’t give away too much, but can say that the show did not fail to deliver OTT outfits, catchy songs, and a marvel of high camp from Croatia.

Farewell: Sumiko
We probably all have a favorite store in our corner of Los Angeles. For me, it is Sumiko in Ocean Park in Santa Monica on Main Street at Pier Avenue. The discreet store, to which you gain entry by pressing a buzzer, is owned by Sumiko Biller, a former fashion designer whose daughters have served as her models. Paintings by her husband, the artist Les Biller, adorn the walls of the space which is crammed with her taste: hats, jewels, hanging kimonos and obis, drawings by her grandchildren, and an always interesting selection of glittery, glamorous gowns along with their opposite: asymmetrically cut, monochrome dresses and pants. After 36 years in business, Sumiko is closing, unable to survive the pressures of retail moving online and a year of closure during the pandemic. She will be much missed. In the meantime, she’s selling off her inventory, at a sale on through May 28. Click here for opening hours.

Read: Connie’s World
This story about all the Asian-American women named Connie and why is utterly delightful and moving.  

IMAGE 9, Sumiko, photo by Frances Anderton, IMG_1628Sumiko, photo by Frances Anderton

And finally…

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be researching “awesome” affordable housing in Los Angeles, thanks to a fellowship from Friends of Residential Treasures: Los Angeles (FORT: LA.) We will set out to define what “affordable” means, explain the tools to achieve it, and create a self-guided tour of some gems. If you know of a building that warrants a shout out, give me a shout at

I’ll also be supporting the production of events at the Los Angeles Design Festival, coming up at the end of June under the direction of Erika Abrams. Stay tuned for more details.

That’s it for this newsletter. Thank you so much for reading it. 



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