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California Forever

Dear DNA friends,

I hope you and yours are doing as well as possible, while acclimatizing to our darkened evenings.

As for yours truly, I went to bed this past Saturday night anticipating an extra hour of snoozing, only to be woken up by the searing sound of metal on metal. The driver of an all-electric SUV had somehow careened into several cars on our street before coming aground on a curb. He made a run for it and soon the police and a tow truck arrived, meaning it was goodbye to sleep. 

So I popped in some earbuds and caught up with “New Dork City,” on Today, Explained, produced by Avishay Artsy. This is a fascinating dive into the hush-hush acquisition of large amounts of dusty farmland around a military air base in Solano County by some Silicon Valley billionaires with plans to build an entirely new city. Named California Forever, this fantasy place, whose sugary renderings suggest a small-town America of yesteryear (above), would have plenty of dwellings for working people who have been priced out of the Bay Area by, er, Silicon Valley billionaires. 

This metropolis built from scratch could have one benefit: no 3 AM car crashes, since cars would not be welcome here (as at The Line in Saudi Arabia, another utopian and secretive, but architecturally more futuristic, city mentioned in the episode). The concept is for a dense, walkable, solar-energized community of the type that is so difficult to achieve in existing California cities because voters hold on so tightly to the car-based, low-rise, land-use that privileges single family homes.

This was evidenced most recently in the outright rejection of a study into replacing the 90 freeway with a park and low-income housing (whose politics were shrewdly explained by the LAT's Erika D. Smith); and in a recent update to the City of LA’s Housing Element, the plan for meeting current housing needs. City planners gently let R1 zones off the hook for accommodating multi-unit affordable housing, while other areas have to step up. 

Incidentally, as explained by a “new cities” expert interviewed on the Today, Explained episode, there is no guarantee these new Solano County property owners will deliver. They could simply get the land rezoned and then sell it at a premium. Moreover, this project raises the question: why does this consortium want to build on the state’s shrinking agricultural and open land? Again, because anti-growth forces in the existing, sprawling cities are resistant to greater density. But if we keep on paving over our natural resources there won’t be a California forever.

Streets for All freeway to parkStreets For All proposed replacing the 90 freeway with a park and affordable housing

Come on out with KCRW and the Autrey!

Design Things To Do

Museum Opening, 170 South La Brea Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90036
November 9th, 7 PM - 10 PM
A+D Museum has been a semi-nomadic institution since its founding in 2001 –– by Joe Addo and the late Stephen Kanner and Bernard Zimmerman –– as a forum and exhibition space created by and for architects and designers. Its first home was the Bradbury Building. Since then it has roamed around the basin, with temporary stays opposite LACMA, in West Hollywood, and most recently in the Arts District in DTLA, before going pop-up for a while and partnering up with Helms Bakery District and SoCalNOMA to host Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip Hop Architecture.

Now this little-engine-that-could has new leadership –– Natasha Sandmeier, who teaches architecture at UCLA; and managing director Camille Elston –– and a new home on South La Brea Boulevard. This Thursday, November 9, you can get to see it, by attending its annual “Celebrate” gala and auction. The title and theme is INK, expressive of “A+D's return to the physical realm and… intent to leave a lasting impression.”

Works in a silent auction by Dwayne Oyler, Design, Bitches, Kevin Sherrod (below), and many more, will explore “both the enduring nature of ink and the boundless expanses of the digital wave.”

Click here for tickets.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Architect Kevin Sherrod made this artwork for the A+D Museum auction.

KAOS Theory
The Artform Studio, Highland Park; Thursday, November 9, 7:00 – 8:00 PM
The multimedia artist Ben Caldwell honed a talent for photography while serving in Vietnam. As a UCLA film student, he helped forge the Black independent filmmaking movement known as L.A. Rebellion. Then he founded KAOS Network, a community arts center in the heart of Leimert Park Village that has provided training in digital arts and new media to hundreds of young people for four decades.

Now Caldwell’s life in activism, verbal and visual artistry has come to life in the newly published book, KAOS Theory: The Afrokosmic Ark of Ben Caldwell (Angel City Press), by Robeson Taj Frazier with Caldwell.

As a “caretaker of the Village,” Caldwell helps “support and steward the different generations, dynamically pushing each one to seed and nurture new cycles of growth and patterns of purpose,” writes Taj Frazier, who also hosts the PBS SoCal show, Hip Hop and the Metaverse.

This Thursday, the artist and author will give a book talk and signing at The Artform Studio in Highland Park. They will be joined by LA hip-hop artist Myka 9, who recently released his own biography, My Kaleidoscope.

Click here for information.

KAOS_p238-SankofaCity-1Sankofa City is a community design project for Leimert Park, envisioning future urban technology. From KAOS Theory.

Caldwell and Angel City Press on Film!
Artbound Screening, Tuesday, November 14, 7 PM
The Crawford Family Forum, 474 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena
Ben Caldwell also appears in two new documentaries produced by KCET’s Artbound. One is about L.A. Rebellion. The other is about Angel City Press, its founders Paddy Calistro and Scott McAuley, and their unique publishing house that has produced a trove of books on California history, art and architecture, of which the most recent is KAOS Theory.

Angel City Press: L.A. through the Pages will be screened for the public next Tuesday evening. Caldwell is one of the interviewees.

Click here for tickets to the screening.

Constructive talk about Common Ground and Design For Dignity
Since my book Common Ground: Multifamily Housing in Los Angeles was published by Angel City Press, I am also a talking head in the Artbound film being screened on Tuesday, 10/14.

The following evening, Wednesday, November 15, I will sit down with members of the Construction Specifiers Institute (whose mission is to "advance quality construction") for dinner and conversation about Common Ground. It is a ticketed event taking place at Sheraton Grand Downtown LA, but isopen to all.

Click here for details.

And if you want to learn more about affordable multifamily housing, from a stellar line-up of builders and architects, this ticketed conference, Design For Dignity, may be just the ticket for you. It is organized by AIA/LA and takes place this Thursday, November 9, starting 9:30am.

Click here for details.

Screenshot 2023-11-07 at 12.31.44 PMStill from Artbound's Angel City Press: L.A. through the Pages

Netto on Netto at Arcana
Book-signing at Arcana Books on the Arts
Saturday, November 11th, 4-6:00 PM
David Netto pops up everywhere, writing magazine articles, composing and posing for pithy posts for Instagram –– about people and visuals that catch his attention. Meanwhile, he designs interiors, twenty of which have been gathered in a new book, David Netto, (Vendome Press), which he will sign at a book party this coming Saturday at Arcana Books on the Arts.

The book showcases city apartments, country houses, and seaside and mountain getaways, all styled in an aesthetic that brings “to modernism a touch of warmth… and to traditionalism a jolt of energy.”

Click here for details.

Screenshot 2023-11-04 at 1.55.09 PMCover of David Netto's new monograph (Vendome Press)

Under the Influence 003: José Amozurrutia, Carlos Facio and Julie Eizenberg
Manola Court (aka Sachs Apartments); Saturday, Nov 11th, 4:30 - 7:30 PM
Under the Influence, hosted by the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, brings together designers to ruminate on Los Angeles modernism, in a space that lives up to “the radical movement that rejected predetermined rules and embraced experimentation, striving for freedom of expression in all areas of culture.” 

Their third outing takes place in R.M. Schindler’s quite wonderful Manola Court, also known as the Sachs Apartments, in Silver Lake: 16 distinct apartments that cascade down a steep slope around a stepped court. It was commissioned by the ceramicist Herman Sachs, and is in the midst of a rehabilitation by current owner Paul Finegold with Enclosures Architects and Terremoto landscape architects. 

Speakers José Amozurrutia and Carlos Facio, founding partners of TO (Mexico City); and Julie Eizenberg, founding principal of Koning Eizenberg Architects, will discuss their work in the context of this seminal building.

Click here for information and tickets. Read more about Manola Court in Common Ground.

Manola Court, photo by FA, IMG_5236View from court of part of Manola Court. Photo by Frances Anderton

It’s About Time: Exhibition and Conversations
Brand Library & Art Center; Through November 22
Closing Reception: Saturday, November 18, 5:00 - 8:00 PM.
Tuesday, November 14: An evening with Ravi Gunewardena and Michael Rotondi
Time waits for no man, as they say, and it is also a challenge to capture in art. So co-curators/artists April Greiman and Stacie B. London have created an exhibition that attempts “to make the complex subject of time more coherent through a multidisciplinary, tactile, and visceral study of materiality, process, and technique."

17 Los Angeles artists and designers — including Greiman, London, Carolyn Castaño, Tibbie Dunbar, Dennis Keeley, Mary Little, Sandeep Mukherjee, Shizu Saldamando, Adam Silverman, and John Ziqiang Wu –– explore “time’s arrow” (sequential events or narrative) and “time’s cycle” (repetition or patterns and seasons) in metaphorical artworks in a wide range of media.

They will also tackle ‘time” in two ARTful Conversations, hosted by Brand Associates. The first, on Wednesday, November 8, is a poetry workshop, facilitated by art historian Valerie Taylor and poet Tina Demirdjian.

The second, on Tuesday, November 14, opens with an ikebana demonstration by Ravi Gunewardena, followed by a dialogue with the architect Michael Rotondi, who can always be relied upon to offer up sage insights into the mysteries of life. 

Click here for information.

April Greiman, About TimeImage: April Greiman, Untitled, 2023. Giclée print, 36 x 36 inches.

Westedge Design Fair
Barker Hangar, 3021 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica; November 16-18
Opening Night Party, Thursday, November 16, 6:00 -10:00 PM.
Among the numerous casualties of the pandemic was Westedge, the annual trade fair that showcases local and visiting talent in interiors and furnishings.

So it's good to learn that Westedge is back, at its usual home of Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport. In addition to the always lively opening party, the vendor displays and cooking demos, you can also hear from designers in the WestEdge X Convo By Design 2023.

This series of panels takes on topics including AI, hybrid workspace, and whether "All Roads Lead to SoCal," creatively speaking. I’ll moderate the latter, with guests Sarah Malek Barney, BANDD/DESIGN; Leo Marmol, principal of Marmol Radziner, and Christine Vroom, Christine Vroom Interiors.

We’ll talk about finding one's voice amidst a bombardment of visual stimuli, staying afloat when cheap creative space is hard to find, and making work that channels the materials, makers, and the spirit of Los Angeles.

Click here for information and tickets.

Christine-Vroom-Process-DesignChristine Vroom at work. Image from Christine Vroom Interiors.

Tree Power!
Inglewood Cathedral: Paintings by Lucas Reiner
Arcane Space Gallery; November 17- December 17, 2023
Opening event Saturday, November 18 from 5 – 7:30 PM
Never underestimate the power of a street tree –– as the City of Beverly Hills found out recently when it tried to tear down a stretch of ficus trees; and as the people of South LA felt as they tried to save 71 mature magnolias and pines that were reduced to stumps back in 2012. Why? To make way for passage of the space shuttle Endeavour to the California Science Center, via Westchester, Inglewood, and other parts of South LA, a stunt that delivered amusement for a few hours while costing the community its tree canopy for years. South LA then lost more trees to make way for the Crenshaw light rail.

So it is nice that an artist has elevated the street trees of Inglewood. Inglewood Cathedral, opening Saturday, November 18, at Arcane Space Gallery in Venice, is a solo exhibition of paintings by Los Angeles and Berlin-based artist Lucas Reiner. 

Art critic Shana Nys Dambrot explains in the catalog essay that after making a suite of 67 monoprints inspired by the “majestic trees flanking Ferraro, Italy’s San Benedetto church,” Reiner realized that his Inglewood neighborhood’s trees “held the same shapes, and the same power." So these woodsy friends "are foregrounded to become the subject for a kind of devotional portrait, suggesting an expanded, empathic vision of urban nature as resilient and sacred.”

Also on show, Trees in Los Angeles, an 8-millimeter, black-and-white film by Reiner and editor Heather Seybolt.

Click here for details.

Lucas PCFRONT (1)Inglewood Cathedral paintings by Lucas Reiner celebrate misshapen street trees.

Don't Call Me Ugly! A Fresh Look at Modernism
LA Conservancy tour; Saturday, November 18, 2 PM
With few exceptions (Westin Bonaventure!), DTLA buildings from the 1960s and ‘70s can be hard to love. Think Bunker Hill Towers (1966), the Union Bank Plaza building (1968), or City National Plaza (1972), hermetically sealed boxes whose facades are unremitting grids of concrete or soulless walls of reflective glass.

But the LA Conservancy thinks these buildings may be misunderstood. Decide for yourself by joining their tour of “tough-to-love” buildings of downtown Los Angeles.

The second of two tours takes place November 18.

Click here for details.

WestinBonaventureHotel_ARGWestin Bonaventure Hotel, 1976, designed by John C. Portman, Jr. Photo courtesy LA Conservancy

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What I'm Digging

Sheep Shearers

With so much sad and bad news to process currently, it’s cheering to read this little WaPo story about "lamb mowers" –– the ​​”amazing grazing solution pioneered millennia ago,” now making a comeback on suburban lawns across America. Sheep keep grass nicely cropped, and naturally fertilized with sheep pellets, reports Michael J. Coren. Interestingly, he points out that sheep do an even better job than the lovable goats that help prevent fires by clearing brush in our state. Sheep are "more gentle grazers than goats or horses…and leave about four inches of the blade: just the right height.”

Screenshot 2023-11-06 at 2.06.30 PMSheep on the White House lawn in 1919. (Harris & Ewing/ Library of Congress)

Decoding the Florentine Codex 

Take a moment to read about the Florentine Codex, an illuminated manuscript about Mexican Indigenous life at the time of the conquest, created by Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún and a group of Nahua elders, authors, and artists. Now it has been digitized by the Getty Research Institute with a huge team of collaborators, and nearly 2,500 hand-painted images are tagged and searchable. The LA Times' Carolina Miranda explains the amazing 500-year journey of the Codex, as well as the complexities of interpreting its “logograms” (in which a symbol represents a word). “Without someone who is familiar with [the Nahuatl language] or with colonial iconography, it’s impossible to understand these images,” Bérénice Gaillemin, an anthropologist and art historian, tells Miranda, adding that new technologies like AI could never have decoded the Codex.

Florentine CodexOne of the 2500 images in the Florentine Codex

Not Real Art?

A few weeks back, my friend Scott Power, co-creator of Not Real Art, sat down at Helms Bakery District with famed street artists Prime and Man One for a chat about the birth and evolution of graffiti in L.A., peppered with personal recollections. “[Cholo writing was] my stepping stone into the arts,” Jose “Prime” Reza tells Scott. “It has opened my eyes with regard to what it is and what it was used for.” Now you can catch the convo on this podcast. Fun and illuminating.

That's it for this week's newsletter. Thank you so much for reading it, and hope to see you at some of the events.

Yours as always,


PS. Subscribe to the newsletter here, get back issues here, and reach out to me on

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