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Live Long And Prosper above the doorway at The UCLA Nimoy, photo by Robin Bennett Stein-1

Dear DNA friends,

Theaters are closing, movie houses are going dark. But one performance space aims to “live long and prosper," with some help from Spock.

Before launching into this month's fun Design Things to Do, including a talk with "Take my Picture" Gary Leonard, let's celebrate the opening of the UCLA Nimoy Theater, formerly The Crest Theatre, now revived with support from Susan Bay Nimoy, widow of Leonard Nimoy (who passed in 2015) and a filmmaker, actress, and philanthropist.

Behind a jewel of a facade on Westwood Boulevard, south of Wilshire just yards from The Hammer, lies a building with an only-in-LA history. It was established in 1940 by Frances Seymour Fonda, wife of Henry and mother of Jane and Peter, as a live performance space. Then it became a single-screen movie theater where Angelenos could watch wartime newsreels. In the postwar years, over the course of multiple ownership changes, the Crest ran first-run foreign films, then independent Hollywood films and horror flicks.

In the 1980s, Pacific Theaters and Disney purchased and remodeled the theater, and here’s where it turns into a meta-design story, and becomes the period when the Nimoys developed a special connection to the venue.

The original building was conceived “in an austere Moderne style” by architect Arthur Hawes, per the LA Times, but the late theater designer Joseph Musil, famed for the fabulous restoration of El Capitan, decided to add period sizzle to the building. He created a themed Art Deco Revival makeover with, notes the LA Conservancy, an “intricately stepped façade, the auditorium cyclorama depicting Hollywood circa 1939, an elaborate sunburst light fixture, hand-painted ceilings in the lobby, and etched-glass lobby exit doors.” The 230-foot-long cyclorama, rendered in fluorescent paint by scenic artist Bill Anderson, depicts such vintage locations as Rick’s Restaurant, Cafe Trocadero and RKO Pantages steeped in klieg light and swarming with behatted patrons. Following the renovation, the theater opened with a hit movie: Three Men and a Baby, directed by Leonard Nimoy.

In 2008 this theater was designated a historical landmark. Now, the murals have been restored by a team at UCLA that has rehabilitated the Musil-designed art deco elements, and enlarged the entrance lobby to include a new bar, and, over the entry doors in jazz age font, Spock’s Vulcan blessing, “Live Long and Prosper.”

A portion of the restored cyclorama in the UCLA NimoyA portion of the restored cyclorama in The Nimoy; image courtesy CAP UCLA

There’s something very optimistic about this re-opening, at the very time theaters and shops on thoroughfares and in malls in Los Angeles grapple with a decline in attendance, compounded by the pandemic. The Nimoy is one of three theaters operated by CAP UCLA (UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance); the others are Royce Hall and downtown’s Theatre at Ace Hotel, formerly the lavish United Artists Theatre. It joins Royce Hall, The Broad Stage, and Geffen Playhouse on the Westside.

For Edgar Miramontes, Executive and Artistic director of CAP UCLA, this is not a glut, it is an opportunity! He told me he embraces the flexibility to “be a bit more adventurous with emerging, established and also local and international artists,” and to think broadly, along with his colleagues in the arts, about the civic role of theater.

“It makes us think about the deepening of community ties with other presenters, with other performing arts centers, so that we can continue to lift up the artistic culture and ecosystem that has been completely eroded over the last couple of years. To me, the future is thinking about interdisciplinarity and how... it ties into our social fabric.” 

The Nimoy opens its 2023-24 season on Sept. 23 with Grammy-winner and poet J. Ivy. Click here for details and tickets.
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Design Things To Do

Opening Thursday, September 14
Derrick Adams: Come As You Are
Gagosian Beverly Hills, 456 North Camden Drive, Beverly Hills
September 14-October 28, 2023; Opening Reception: September 14, 6-8 PM,
When Alison Rose Jefferson released her important book Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites During the Jim Crow Era, it came with a captivating front cover image: the profile of a Black swimmer emerging, disembodied, from vivid blue water and sky. It was by the Baltimore-born, Brooklyn-based artist Derrick Adams. This summer Adams created a playful installation intended to provoke reflection on the once desegregated playgrounds in the nation’s capital in America’s Playground: DC (2023).

Both are part of what he calls an “iconography of joy, leisure, and the pursuit of happiness,” in contemporary Black life and culture. Now you can see some of his recent, distinctive paintings in a debut show at Gagosian Beverly Hills, opening this Thursday.

Come as You Are is a series of “pictorial vignettes centering the Black figure," explains the Gagosian, in compositions that “balance vivid and muted tones, flat planes and multidimensional space.” This is expressed in Be the Table (2023), below, melding the fun of a dressing up party with themes of equity and access. “The intermingling of her features with a table setting complete with cups and slices of cake, means that she no longer needs ‘a seat at the table’.”

Derrick Adams, Be the Table, 2023. Acrylic on wood. Copyright Derrick Adams Studio

Thursday, September 14                                                                                               Vertical Mixed-Use: How to Solve the Puzzle of Adaptive Re-Use                                  The California Club, 538 S Flower St. Los Angeles
There’s a lot of hopeful talk these days about converting emptied-out office buildings into housing, and in doing so achieving a two-fer: fast-tracking much-needed housing while saving the planet from tons more embodied carbon. 

Talk to developers however and they will tell you there are so many hurdles to achieving this –– including expensive seismic upgrades –– that a commercial property has to hit rock bottom value before it’s worth the owner investing in a conversion. “From Receivership to Residential,” is how one developer I spoke with described the economic reality.

Hopefully, the outlook can be more positive, and we will find out this Thursday evening, when I will talk about the updating and expansion of the 1999 Los Angeles Adaptive Reuse Ordinance (ARO), (covered on this Greater LA) with experts in the field, at an event hosted by the Los Angeles Headquarters Association (LAHQ). It is ticketed and a little pricy but younger professionals can get a 40% discount at the door.

Click here to register, or pay with a discount on arrival.

IMG_2995Could these DTLA office buildings on Bunker Hill becomes homes? Photo by Frances Anderton

Close to the Edge Closes with a Splash
ICONS: A Conversation with Legendary Graffiti Artists Prime and Man One            Friday, September 15                                                                                                            &                                                                                                                                        The Grand Finale: Symposium, Auction, and Reception
Saturday, September 16, 3-9 PM
Both at Helms Bakery District, 8707 Washington Boulevard, Culver City
It’s been a great three months! On June 22, Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip Hop Architecture opened at Helms Bakery District. Sadly, the exhibition comes to an end this weekend, but goes out with a splash, with not one but two parties. And you must come!

On Friday, September 15, starting 6:30 PM, the graffiti artist Jose "Prime" Reza, creator of the wall art for Close to the Edge, will sit down with celebrated muralist Man One for a Q and A led by arts entrepreneur Scott Power about the cross fertilization between LA graffiti in LA and East Coast hip hop.

Cost: free. Click here for details.

On Saturday, September 16th, from 3-9 PM, there is a Symposium/Cypher featuring Exhibit Designer/Curator Sekou Cooke, and architects Andres Hernandez, James Garrett, Demar Matthews, and more. That’s followed by a reception and charity auction of the artwork and models on display, also available online

Cost: $10 donation. Click here for details, and expect great beats at both events.

Prime and Man OnePrime and Man One, artists on the streets. Image courtesy Helms Bakery District.

A Wondrous World
New shows at LACMA
Even though half the site is out of commission as the Peter Zumthor-design new building emerges, LACMA is staying busy, with new shows at the Resnick Pavilion and Woven Histories: Textiles and Modern Abstraction, opening September 17 at BCAM. This hand-felted dress by local artist Andrea Zittel, below, is one of around 150 works by artists, past and present and from all over the world, that trace “how, when, and why abstract art intersected with woven textiles (and such pre-loom technologies as basketry, knotting, and netting) over the past century.” 

Screenshot 2023-09-12 at 3.45.27 PMAndrea Zittel, ‘White Felted Dress #3’ from A-Z Fiber Form Uniforms, 2002; © Andrea Zittel, photo © LACMA

I’m also looking forward to The World Made Wondrous: The Dutch Collector's Cabinet and the Politics of Possession, an exploration of the colonial values espoused in the objects acquired by "a fictive 17th-century Dutch collector" (Resnick Pavilion, opens Sep 17), and Eternal Medium: Seeing the World in Stone (Resnick Pavilion, already open). This eclectic range of artworks and decorative housewares made in stone is set in a velvety dark installation created by lead curator Rosie Mills and The Los Angeles Design Group. LACMA has made a point of commissioning local, emerging designers for installations and in this one, LADG principals Benjamin Freyinger and Andrew Holder explain that they created “manual assemblies" of stacked cases, cantilevered tables, and hanging pads that allow objects to be viewable in the round, emphasizing stone’s “thickness, materiality, and weight.”  

Click here for details.

Eternal MediumEternal Medium; image of installation courtesy LACMA

Delightful Houses
Tuesday, September 19th, 6:00pm, Online                                                                    The ancient Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius believed that buildings should embody "firmness, commodity and delight." While the design firm Fred Fisher and Partners (City Hall East, Annenberg Community Beach House) are all for firmness and commodity, perhaps their guiding light is delight.

Next Tuesday, September 16, I will join five team members at FF&P for a virtual chat about the residential treasures they selected for a FORT: LA trail of Delightful Houses. Pour a cocktail and settle in to hear what's special about the Ennis, Herman, Hurley, Kappe, and Sturges residences and other “inspirations from architecture, art, performance, literature, and everyday life.” 

Click here for details.

Screenshot 2023-09-12 at 3.42.40 PMBuildings that "delight" these partners at FF&P. Image courtesy FORT: LA

Take My Picture Gary Leonard
Los Feliz Library 
Thursday, September 21, 7-8 pm 
You know you are at an event worth attending when beloved LA photographer Gary Leonard is there. On Thursday, September 21, he will come out from behind the lens to talk about 60 years of capturing people, architecture, construction projects, birthdays, weddings, music, art, and politics in “LA at Large.”

Leonard, who grew up in Encino and now lives in Echo Park, got his start covering the punk rock scene in LA in the ‘70s and ‘80s and went on to chronicle “just about anything happening in the city,” from the magical to the mundane. 

His talk is part of the Architecture & Beyond Lecture Series and takes place at the Los Feliz Library, 1874 Hillhurst Ave.

Free and open to the public. For more information, email the Los Feliz Library at

gary-leonard-headshotGary Leonard considers "LA at Large." Image courtesy Los Feliz Library

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What I'm Digging


I’m out of pewter spoons!
In our often bewildering modern world, it’s reassuring to know that we have something in common with people in the 17th century: they also wrote shopping lists! Check out this story about the volunteer archeologist unearthing, from under the floorboards of a historic country home in Kent, England, a 1633 list of household essentials. They included "greenfish," a "fireshovel" and two dozen pewter spoons. 

Lighting the way forward 
Props to my friend Monique Birault for her Cromolyn Collection of lamps made from the discarded packaging for the ampules of cromolyn, a medication used by tens of thousands of Americans, including Birault. A building project manager by day, Birault worked with collaborators including Evan Nie at Nielights, and the collection was recently displayed in a group show about tackling plastic waste, artistically, at The Loft at Liz’s. You can follow her story and lamps on her Instagram.

IMG-3135Salvaging chromolyn packaging by making them into lamps.

What a Corker!
While on the topic of design with a message, I LOVE this Reggio School for children in Madrid, Spain by Andrés Jaque/Office for Political Innovation, described here by the firm and recently written up in Architectural Review magazine. It is vertical “to reduce land occupation,” and “naked,” as in stripped of excess mechanical systems and materials, wrapped instead in thick cork for passive thermal protection. Plus, it offers the children a “cosmopolitical agora” of small gardens specifically made to host and nurture communities of insects, butterflies, birds, and bats. All of this, combined with its concrete arches that bring to mind Louis Kahn, and Postmodern pastels, triangles and portholes, adds up to a rare package of architectural delight and sustainability education by design.

Screenshot 2023-09-12 at 4.19.04 PMThe Colegio Reggio, designed by Andrés Jaque / Office for Political Innovation. Photo by José Hevia.

That’s it for this week's newsletter. Thank you always for reading it. Back at you soon!



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