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Dear DNA friends,

Hope you are doing well. I was, until I got wind of the possible demolition of a Los Angeles treasure. Read on for that story or hop straight to all the fun Design Things to Do.

Trouble in Paradise

In a region brimming with health and wellness attractions, one of the loveliest tonics is Beverly Hot Springs, the spa at Beverly Boulevard and Oxford Avenue in Koreatown, atop an artesian well that pumps out 250,000 gallons of hot mineral water daily. The baths attract working people and Hollywood celebs. No less an authority than the editors of Goop “love to come and soak in the hot and cold therapeutic mineral-water pools” at BHS.

For a couple of blissful hours you can take leave of the office or trafficked streets, and wallow in warm waters in a faux grotto, low-lit and quiet but for a bubbling fountain, for $45. You can also add pricier treatments like “bodycare,” delivered by expert Korean masseuses who slather your body with crushed cucumber, warm mud, milk, and oil, while giving it a good pummeling.

But the main attraction is the soft, alkaline waters. This spring was one of many in the region that held "sacred, spiritual and healing qualities” for Native Americans, writes Patt Morrison. It was then “discovered” by oil drillers in the late 19th century, became a source of hot water for locals until the city put in water mains in 1915, after which it was bottled and sold as “Wonder Water.” In 1984, reported the LA Times, Yang Cha Kim, a doctor of Oriental medicine, and her husband, Chang Bum Huh, a weightlifter for Korea in the 1964 Olympics, bought the site and turned it into the thermal spa, now owned by Eddie Huh.

Now it appears that this restful oasis, and Korean-American cultural treasure, is to go. The spa is to be torn down, and the water source capped, to make way for 101 units of housing and retail from developers Manhattan West, with architecture and landscape by Irvine-based M3 Architects and Brea-based SQLA. It seems the project had been working its way smoothly through approvals and just recently caught the attention of devotees of the spa, who have been raising awareness online. (This Letter of Determination, a first step to building file:///Users/francesanderton/Downloads/Spring_letter-1.pdf –– makes many mentions of the 70% density bonus enabled by the low-income units, no mention of the spa.)

To be clear, increasing the supply of housing in Los Angeles is essential and this project promises 15 dwellings for very low-income renters. It is possible Beverly Hot Springs is seen as a dispensable luxury, or just another spa among many. But it is perplexing that the developers will not incorporate it or at least the property's geothermal waters into its retail offerings and amenities for residents. If that does not fit with their plans, one wonders if it would be possible to pipe the waters to another spa owner or better yet to a public facility for all to use.

This gusher is nature’s gift to Angelenos, and ideally would be central to community life as with spas everywhere, such as the geysers of Iceland, the Onsen of Japan, or the mineral rich waters in my hometown of Bath, England, named for the resource enjoyed by locals from Roman times to today. 

I have reached out for clarification about the status of Beverly Hot Springs, from the owner, the developers, the architects and the district councilman Hugo Soto-Martinez. The developer told me he did not want to discuss it. A spokesperson for Soto-Martinez said he does not comment on private developments, though if the spa goes they plan to commemorate it with a plaque. The project has not yet been fully approved, however, and it is being appealed. Next comes a PLUM Hearing, yet to be scheduled. Here is a Council File with documentation on the project, including the appeal application.

Meanwhile, the LA Conservancy is taking notice. Adrian Fine, Senior Director of Advocacy, says they have been hearing from concerned citizens. "While it’s not a historic building, it certainly is a unique and rare environmental resource as well as cultural tradition and form of intangible heritage," says Fine.

So enrich your summer staycation with a trip to Beverly Hot Springs. It might not be there for much longer.

308 n oxford avenue 3A seven-story building with 101 apartments is proposed for the Beverly Hot Springs site.
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Design Things To Do

Two Takes on the Cityscape
An Evening of Urbanism + Unearthing a Black Aesthetic
Helms Bakery District, Thursday, July 27, 5:30 PM - 8:30 PM (including reception)
Join me for two fresh takes on the cityscape this Thursday evening at Helms Bakery District.

The exhibition Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip Hop Architecture is the backdrop for "Unearthing a Black Aesthetic." This promises to be an extremely interesting conversation between architectural designers Demar Matthews, Principal of OffTop Design, and Kevin Sherrod, Arts and Culture Practice Area Leader at Gensler. They will consider the development of a Black architectural language, and the power of buildings as “a cultural signifier and vehicle of traditions, values, and identity for Black communities.” Presented by SoCalNOMA.

Click here to sign up.

A few doors west, I'll sit down with Urban Mystique author Josh Stephens for "An Evening of Urbanism." We'll talk about our books, about the clash of scales in LA’s cityscape, about arterial housing and how to make it more livable, and about the frustrating, fascinating challenges of “shoehorning a new city into the old.” Presented by Westside Urban Forum (WUF).

Preceding both is a reception and viewing of the exhibition Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip Hop Architecture, with reception co-hosted by  WUF + SoCal NOMA. 

Click here to sign up.

Optimized-sectionADU for Watts homeowner, by Offtop

Power Dressing
The Art of Ruth E. Carter: Book Signing and Conversation                                  Academy Museum, Saturday, July 29, 2023, 5–8 PM
Speaking of a Black Aesthetic...

Who could not have been bedazzled by the Afrofuturistic costumes, fusing traditional craft and digital invention, in the movies Black Panther and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?

This Saturday, come hear from their creator, Ruth E. Carter, two-time Academy Award–winning costume designer, when she will speak at the Academy Museum, and sign copies of her book The Art of Ruth E. Carter: Costuming Black History and the Afrofuture, from Do the Right Thing to Black Panther.

While Carter may be best known for her work on Black Panther (discussed on this DnA show), she has been a powerhouse in costuming pivotal Black movies, including Do the Right Thing (1989), Malcolm X (1992), What’s Love Got to Do with It (1993), Amistad (1997), The Butler (2013), Selma (2014), Marshall (2017), Dolemite Is My Name (2019), and Coming 2 America (2021).

Click here for tickets and information. 

Ruth E. Carter bookRuth E. Carter will sign copies of her new book.

Interstellar Fun at Wende Museum
Family Day: Space Exploration Celebration                                                                      The Wende Garden, July 30, 12:00 PM - 3:00 PM
With the summer’s blockbusters – Barbie and Oppenheimer – taking us back to midcentury America, get another take on the period with a visit to the fascinating Wende Museum.

This "Museum of the Cold War" in Culver City mounts  shows and happenings that explore the tensions, contradictions and warring creativities of the once bipolar world. There is something for every age, from David Bowie in the Soviet Union to an upcoming garden party for all things interstellar at which visitors can "engage with Space Race artifacts, as well as design, build, and launch their own stomp rocket." The clincher? Astronaut snacks will be served.

Also on show in one of the Wende's open storage displays: "whimsical" toys by celebrated East German toy and park designer Renate Müller, who designed playthings to assist children in psychiatry and orthopedics. The Wende says her creations, presented for the first time at the Leipzig Trade Fair in 1967, were "soft, yet robust and friendly, with contrasting materials that invite children to explore different textures while doing balance training, and hand-eye coordination practice."

Click here for more details.

family day space eventKids get to make stomp rockets out of plastic bottles and cardboard tubes.

Black California Dreamin'
California African American Museum (CAAM)                                                               Preview, Friday, August 4, 7:00 to 10:00 PM, with KCRW Summer Nights @ CAAM       Public opening: August 5
The scholar and historian Alison Rose Jefferson broke new ground with her 2020 book, Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era.

Now she has curated an exhibition that builds on her findings, that opens next Friday with a special preview coinciding with KCRW's Summer Nights @ CAAM.

Black California Dreamin': Claiming Space in America’s Leisure Frontier deploys historical family photographs, artworks, architectural renderings, and illustrations of contemporary public policy actions to show how "African Americans challenged white supremacy and situated Black identity within oceanfront and inland social gathering places throughout California," during the Jim Crow era. 

Click here for details.

John “Johnnie” Rucker and friends at the beach near Bay Street, Santa Monica, California, ca. 1950. Photograph. Courtesy Konrad Rucker.


Tiki Tales on Catalina
Catalina Museum for Art & History                                                                           Through August 20, Tuesday through Sunday, 10 AM - 5 PM
In the 1930s, a Hollywood bar appeared named Don the Beachcomber that kickstarted a craze for Tiki-styling. Later, thousands of Americans returned from the war in the South Pacific with stories of exotic islands with white sands, sapphire seas, luscious plants and lovely women. Henceforth, restaurants, bars, and gardens were decked out with bamboo huts, faux-Polynesian wooden and stone statues amidst kitshy waterfalls and tropical foliage. 

The tiki scholar Sven Kirsten, author of several books on Tiki style, has curated an exhibition Tall Tiki Tales: Catalina as a South Seas Island, about the island's role as a film set in the development and popularization of tiki culture.

Set sail for Catalina and at the Catalina Museum for Art & History find a display of artifacts, film ephemera, original books and artwork as well as a “unique tropical immersive experience, meticulously designed by master tiki bar creator, Bamboo Ben.”

BTW, every Tuesday until August 20, the museum is offering a “Tiki Tuesday Admission Package.” You can even take away the fab exhibition poster, below, designed by Shag.

Click here for more information.

talltikitales_consumerposterCatch Tall Tiki Tales before it closes
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What I'm Digging

Watching: Pulling Back the Veil on The Line
It is an open secret in architecture circles that a number of Angeleno designers, most prominently the firm Morphosis, are involved with the design of The Line, perhaps the most radical of the new cities reportedly being built in the NEOM development area in Saudi Arabia under the direction of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), as part of his Saudi Vision 2030 plan to diversify the country's economy beyond oil.

The Line's concept is extreme: a combined Linear City and Vertical City for 9 million people, slashing across the desert in a single, mirrored line, made up of two facing rows of skyscrapers containing housing, work and civic places and hanging gardens. Renderings depict a SciFi canyon of delirious designs.  

The concept is that cars will have no place here, energy will come from solar and wind, water from desalination, and 95% of the site will remain untouched, left as a nature preserve and resort for outdoor leisure. (This strategy echoes a proposal for housing LA’s growing population, sustainably, floated a few years back by Morphosis principal Thom Mayne and partner Eui Sung Yi. “99% Preservation and 1% Densification” would put one million people in new housing built along the Wilshire Boulevard corridor, leaving 99% of LA untouched.)

The reality of The Line raises numerous questions, and you won't get answers to the tough ones on this 45-minute, glowing film, made by Discovery channel. But you will get some fascinating insights from MBS himself as well as several of the architects (mostly Western, mostly male, mostly of the generation that favors the "big ideas" approach to urbanism.) The film was shared on Dezeen online magazine, which has been doing yeoman's work staying on top of this project

Reading: Upbeat Environmental News
While The Line's designers promise to confront climate change with their (carbon-intensive) concrete and steel new mega-city, the French are aiming for more modest environmental gains, with a cleansing project that could truly bring joy to the lives of Parisians. Check out this story about how you will soon be able to swim in the long-toxic Seine river, in time for the 2024 Olympics.

Contemplating: Dining al fresco, on the Roof
I love summer in LA. In addition to the obvious treats -- going to the beach -- you can retreat from the heat into the dark watery (fake) cave at Beverly Hot Springs (see above.) Or you can head up, to the rooftops in downtown and around town where you can dine under the stars, gulping in the views along with fine food. Angeleno magazine did the homework and created this enticing list.

Mourning: Sinead O'Connor
As this newsletter went to press, I learned of the passing of Sinéad O’Connor. I'll never forget rounding a corner at muddy, messy Glastonbury Festival to hear her piercing, passionate rendition of Nothing Compares 2 U. What a talent. What a loss.

That's it for this week's newsletter. I hope it contains some useful info and interesting Things to Do. If you want to read back issues, click here. Reach out to me at



neon-170-kilometre-long-skyscraper-city-saudi-arabia-the-line_dezeen_2364_hero_0-1704x959 The Line

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