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An Architectural Potluck


Host: Natural Histories for Los Angeles celebrated our final piece of World Wide Storefront programming with a Supper Studio Potluck featuring the Out There Doing It teams, delicious small eats by Anthony Martin of PATAO, and visual treats by Jonathan Crisman of No Style. (Dion Neutra even gave a toast.) A few days before the potluck we asked Supper Studio host Jia Gu to take a break from the prep and answer a few questions.

What is Supper Studio?

Supper Studio is a loose dinner-discussion series organized at UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design (AUD). Each evening features an invited speaker, and the evening is hosted in a variety of formats — from midnight sessions with Benjamin Ball and Eddy Sykes to a courtyard lunch with Reinhold Martin. One of the most interesting dinners we hosted was with New Zealand artist Fiona Connor, who presented a stack of unkilned bricks to the guests alongside the material research she conducted on the physical design standards of the university. Other times it follows a more traditional speaker/audience format, where someone like Jeff Kipnis invites another conversationalist and you’re sitting there listening and eating. This is nice too, because I happen to like eavesdropping on conversations.

Why call it a potluck?

The potluck is just another way to describe a collective activity — and in fact the potluck component of this dinner is not with food but with tables. The four teams designed individual segments of a long table which runs from the front entrance of the VDL Neutra House to the back outdoor courtyard, a long continuous surface on which a grid of small eats and cocktail treats are served. We’ll be serving up dishes and questions alike, but like any good host, we won’t make anyone eat or answer.

What’s the best part about getting to host a potluck at Neutra VDL?

There’s a lot of indeterminacy to this dinner which I’m excited and anxious about. We don’t know what the teams have designed, we don’t know if it will fit together or stand up, and we don’t know how the guests will navigate the obstruction of certain pathways and corridors in the VDL. We simply designed the conditions.


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Out There Doing It: Supper Studio Potluck



This Thursday, November 13, is the final World Wide Storefront event for Host: Natural Histories for Los Angeles is Potluck, featuring participants from LA Forum’s Out There Doing It series. Supper Studio hosts the evening, serving small eats by Anthony Martin of PATAO and visual treats by Jonathan Crisman of No Style. For the thirteenth rendition of Supper Studio, each OTDI team is invited to design a freestanding table as their contribution to the potluck. The individual tables form one long, collective table, an exquisite and parasitic corpse running through the length of the VDL House.

Purchase tickets here.

2014 OTDI Participants:
Erin Besler and Ian Besler
Laurel Consuelo Broughton and Andrew Kovacs
Jose Sanchez, Plethora Projects
Katya and Alexei Tylevich, Friend & Colleague

Supper Studio is a ‘loose’ dinner-discussion series where speakers come together over a shared meal for informal conversation. Each meal features experimental practitioners who are exploring the limits of architecture through a distinctly non-architectural creative or productive process, or experts who approach architecture as a starting point for experimentation into issues that transgress disciplinary boundaries.

Potluck and Host: Natural Histories for Los Angeles are part of World Wide Storefront, a Storefront for Art and Architecture project. Additional support provided by UCLA A.UD.


Migrate, Dissipate: Jose Sanchez

Jose Sanchez comes to the 2014 installment of Out There Doing It, the LA Forum’s annual series on emergent practice, wearing many titles: architect, programmer, game designer, researcher, and professor. His draws from each field and offers up a unique perspective on what gaming and open-source systems can do for design practice. He is the director of Plethora Project and partner at Bloom Games. He just finished co-organizing a successful ACADIA conference at USC. We asked him a few questions in preparation of his participation in OTDI 2014.


What’s design practice in Los Angeles today?

I’ve been in L.A. for only year but I can already sense the influence of the city in my work. My work in L.A. is not about the landscape or the physical context of the city, but rather the large amount of cultural voices that manifest themselves in the city sporadically. I don’t see one L.A. but a series of intensifications that are not rooted in a place but rather migrate and dissipate over time.

Does the urban landscape figure into you approach projects and concepts?

No, it doesn’t. My work researches the problem of design as a problem of negative entropy that can be understood at any scale or context.


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Briefly discuss one project you presented at the OTDI round table on October 16.

I shared the BLOCK project, a video-game project that I developed at the Smart Geometry 2014 Conference in Hong Kong.

BLOCK is a video game for city planning and speculation. The game is founded on ideas of ecology, establishing the interdependencies of city entities such as housing, shops, parks, and infrastructure. By allowing the player to understand how to use resources (money, waste, social capital), we can encourage entrepreneurship through the design of an ecological urbanism, allowing for new opportunities to be conceived in the city. The objective of the game is to both educate people and to generate user data for design patterns, producing the first database of a future city.



How do you “host”? 

My “hosting” can be understood as a playground. My practice the Plethora Project combines design work, with online education, game design, and open-source repositories, inviting a community to engage and discuss the ideas behind the research. My hosting can be understood in a literal sense because I have an active community of roughly 1,000 video views a day, all of them from the teaching material I have developed.

I consider hosting, and nurturing a community around the work, an essential part of the design work I do, as my interest in innovation comes with a quota of skepticism, thinking novelty will only emerge from a larger accumulation of thinkers.



Hockey, Judo: Erin Besler & Ian H. Besler

Between exhibiting, teaching, designing, writing, and make films, husband and wife team Erin and Ian H. Besler cover a very fluid mode of expression. They’ve come to the 2014 installment of Out There Doing It, the LA Forum’s annual series on emergent practice as a pair with a unique perspective — L.A. transplants from Chicago, and young professionals deeply embedded in academia. We asked the team a few questions in preparation of their participation in OTDI 2014.


What’s design practice in Los Angeles today?

We have a complicated relationship with practice: Erin had hockey practice for most of her life, and Ian had baseball practice and judo practice (briefly). It seems like practice makes sense for goaltending, as in Erin’s case. But when you don’t actually have a fixed position on the field, as tends to be the case with little league baseball (and judo, for that matter), there’s really no meaningful distinction between practice and game day. So maybe we could say that design practice in Los Angeles today is somewhere between judo and hockey.


Does the urban landscape figure into you approach projects and concepts?

The actual urban landscape itself doesn’t figure into our projects and concepts as much as representations and abstractions of it do. We probably spend more time looking at Google Maps and the ways in which others have represented the urban landscape in their work.


Briefly discuss one project you presented at the OTDI round table on October 16.

We presented one project at the OTDI round table. It is a video that’s titled Descriptions and it involves voice actors describing movie company logos. UCLA Associate Professor Jason Payne has said that the video is: “So well-done in its dead tone and technique as to be upsetting.” Rene Daalder said that it was “quite interesting,” or, maybe he just said “interesting.” It was over the phone, so we don’t have the exact transcript.

How do you “host”

Teaching is important to our practice — and we both have an incredible amount of student debt — so, academia provides us a host and is also the site where we are hosts.

Erin is currently hosting at the MAK Center’s Mackey Garage Top with her exhibition, The Entire Situation, which is on view until October 29.

Wet Horizons, Domestic Landscapes

Film: Luis Callejas, LCLA office

On October 11, Host: Natural Histories for Los Angeles opened the exhibition Wet Horizons in the Neutra VDL House. The installation by Medellin architect Luis Callejas was made in collaboration with architect and textile designer Charlotte Hansson.

The main piece of Wet Horizons is a pair of silk curtain-like drawings printed with site plans of several of Callejas’ projects, each one centered on a body of water. Knowing that these drawings would be layered against the view of the Silver Lake reservoir, Callejas and Hansson said that they “turned oceans into a river.” They connected each of the speculative projects from around the world into a single watery site across the 15 meters of silk: a lagoon park in Venice, Italy; an array energy generators along the Persian Gulf; lighthouse that illuminate the border between Colombia and Nicaragua in the San Andres Archipelago; islands in Kiev turned into parks (created before the current political unrest in Ukraine, however foreshadowing it, perhaps, since the text identifying the islands alternates between Ukrainian and Russian.)


Southern California is in the middle of its worst drought in recent history. Water and all things foggy, humid, damp, or wet increasingly is a luxury. Outside the windows of the VDL penthouse, the water in the Silver Lake reservoir dropped below normal levels, exposing a concrete basin. As water evaporates, what we think of as a lake is revealed to be what it really is: a piece of water infrastructure, a simulacrum of the natural environment.


During the days leading up to the Saturday night opening a different kind of reenactment was taking place inside the Neutra VDL House. The production of the silk textile drawing—hung on the house’s existing curtain track—required a simulation of domestic life through activities such as sewing and ironing not seen in the house in decades. As a host, the house is welcoming, not benign. Acted out in the context of an architecture already embedded with mid-century values, simple tasks seemed almost uncomfortably retrograde as performed by Hansson and caught on video by Callejas. Wet Horizons, then, provokes a question: How do the private scale enactments of domestic ritual change and reframe the territory of landscape architecture?

Following the Saturday night opening, an intimate conversation between Callejas, Hansson, and Wonne Ickx of Productora took place over coffee and bagels on Sunday morning in the VDL courtyard.

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Photo: Luis Torres




Mania, Mutants: Katya Tylevich and Alexei Tylevich

Between the two of them brother and sister duo Katya and Alexei Tylevich cover some expansive territory: design, criticism, art, architecture, film. They’ve come to the 2014 installment of Out There Doing It, the LA Forum’s annual series on emergent practice, as Friend & Colleague. The collaborative effort highlights their ability to write beautiful prose and stage art projects that draw on their Eastern European heritage and hypercontemporary life here in Los Angeles. We asked the team a few questions in preparation of their participation in OTDI 2014.


What’s design practice in Los Angeles today?

Design practice in L.A. is manic. There’s a lot of energy expended in different directions, much of it productive, successful, and experimental. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but it’s probably fair to say that L.A. design is most comfortable on a human scale, rather than a metropolitan one. L.A. seems particularly adroit at getting the residence right, and all that’s attached to a residence (interior design & objects, the indoor-outdoor connection, and then the construction of little enclaves or neighborhoods around the residence). There’s constantly work being done to make individual vibrant parts of Los Angeles more readily connected to one another, so that the city functions more like an (enormous) healthy body, rather than a number of limbs held together by duct tape and barbed wire. Then again, that’s kind of what makes Los Angeles so palatable, isn’t it? All those flailing limbs. Design practice in Los Angeles is much more than can be described in this one answer, but let’s just agree that designers have their hands full.


Does the urban landscape figure into you approach projects and concepts?

Our point of view originates from an urban setting, but the subjects we elaborate upon can include suburban, rural, or unclassifiable landscapes. For example, our project Happy Nothing draws on news stories originating from all over the former Eastern Bloc (urban, rural, and creepy settings alike). We react to those news stories with the creation of an original fiction and an original image — almost always, we draw from the landscapes of our original sources. That being said, the two of us can’t escape our urban position, and don’t really make a point of trying to do so. Even when we set our sights outside of the urban landscape, we’re always a bit biased toward the city.


Briefly discuss one project from what you’ll be presenting at the OTDI Round Table on October 16.

The project we’ve been working on longest as Friend & Colleague, and the one closest to our conjoined hearts, is Happy Nothing. It’s an ongoing website, a book, and a traveling, growing exhibition. We have a strict work process: For each installment of Happy Nothing, we agree on a single news item originating form the Former Soviet Union, then without any further consultation, Katya writes a 250 word fiction and Alexei creates an original image in response to this news item. We bring the fiction and visual together like an exquisite corpse, and make it the central purpose of our project. We also leave the original news item as a “source” for people to view, if desired. In part, this project is our way of commenting without regurgitating. Happy Nothing creates new fictions out of old news.

This year, we were invited to apply a similar approach to a series of “postcards” we created for the Competing Utopias exhibition at the VDL House, which seamlessly outfitted the Neutra House with Eastern Bloc, cold-war era everything (furniture, kitchenware, clothing) from the Wende Museum. We reacted to six rooms of the exhibition with the creation of six fictional narratives and images, which were printed as postcards and handed out to viewers upon arrival to help them navigate this real/unreal setting.


How do you “host”? 

Some of our projects are certainly parasitical, feeding off of old news or existing objects (artworks, architecture) to create new mutants. We’ve described a few such projects already — Happy Nothing, and our work for the Competing Utopias exhibition. Another project befitting of the “host” title is Word Bites Picture, in which we invite select contemporary artists from around the world (people like Todd Hido, Vito Acconci, Michaël Borremans, and others), to submit artworks to a group show, in which all of the didactics are 500-word fictions written by Katya in response to the individual works. We have exhibited this ongoing project in New York and L.A., and it also exists as a book. As a “host,” this project is infected by the artworks that drive it, even though the end results are those original, mutant relationships between the different artworks, between the artworks and the fictions, and between the fictions and the fictions.



Hustling, Archiving: Laurel Consuelo Broughton and Andrew Kovacs

The 2014 installment of Out There Doing It, the LA Forum’s annual series on emergent practice, brings together designers, architects, writers, and filmmakers from across Los Angeles’ cultural landscape. Fellow Worldwide Storefront participants Laurel Consuelo Broughton and Andrew Kovacs each have their own endeavors, Welcome Projects and Archive of Affinities, respectively. In a fateful pairing, they’ve teamed up for Gallery Attachment and OTDI. We asked them a few questions.



What’s design practice in Los Angeles today?

 To ask about design practice is to ask about a very broad arena of production. Our day-to-day constitutes many different activities — writing, teaching, exhibiting, hustling, archiving, documenting, capturing, collecting, looking, seeing, hearing, talking, making, reading, thinking.


Does the urban landscape figure into your approach projects and concepts?

Yes, our current project was inspired by an appreciation for certain oddities we see as inherent to Los Angeles. We are currently publishing a zine called a folly is also an accident, which documents these scenarios. Some of our titles are, Bad Additions, Bad Guard Shacks, Bad Galleries, Bad Details, and Bad Architecture.


Briefly discuss one project from what you’ll be presenting at the OTDI Roundtable on October 16.

We are currently working on a project called Gallery Attachment; while we both have individual practices, the impetus here was to explore an overlap that we share of sensibilities and aesthetic ambitions. With support from the LA Forum and the Storefront for Art and Architecture, Gallery Attachment has grown in scope and will be opening on November 1. It is a full-scale architectural accumulation that will host a series of collaborative events with architects and designers here in Los Angeles. Concurrently, across the street from the site of the accumulation at Jai & Jai Gallery there will be a parallel exhibition of drawings that seek to redefine the architectural component.

How do you “host”? 

We host through different mediums some virtual and some physical. Come to our opening on November 1 at 7pm.

Gallery Attachment is located at 643 N Spring Street Los Angeles, CA 90012.


Host: A Metallic Raft on a Grassy Sea

Here in LA, the Neutra VDL hosts our project, which takes on the question of what is a “host.” Is it about talk show-like spectacle, the host body for a parasite, or about the domestic life and playing hostess with the moistest? Los Angeles has long been the host city for individual dreams and architectural ideals.

The first Host event was just over a week ago. A “dark picnic” held in the grassy meadow across the street from the house at twilight and then in the dark.

The initial impetuous for the picnic was to make a small spectacle—easily documented for World Wide Storefront opening event. The practicality was the problem that the house was being used for a photo shoot, complete with a live wolf, so we couldn’t get into the interior. So, with big nods to Superstudio, we created a supersized reflective mylar blanket (even with a light gridded pattern), which became its own extension of the VDL house—another reflecting pool in a place where was once water from the Silver Lake reservoir.

Conceptually, however, being exiled was an opportunity to make the house itself a figure—all the lights in all the rooms were turned on for the event, making it a beacon seen from our metallic raft.

Let’s hold that image for a moment.

Over the past weekend, the conference Intervention: Contemporary Artists and the Modern House took place at the MAK Center, Neutra VDL House, and Hollyhock House in Los Angeles. A panel between Mexico City-based artist Santiago Borja, MAK program director and artist Anthony Carfello, and myself (Host curator Mimi Zeiger) discussed the role of iconic houses as tourism sites. Borja looked to Marc Auge’s interpretation of tourist places as both ruins and spectacle, while the prompt reminded me to look up an older essay by Zeynep Çelik on Le Corbusier’s Journey to the East, which unpacks the architect’s travels and subsequent works in uneasy relationship to Orientalism and Colonialism. I was struck by a description of Corbu’s first arrival in Istanbul from a boat in May 1911:

“Thus we did approach by sea, like in old times, to watch all these things unfold.”

Çelik suggests that Le Corbusier’s approach is actually a reenactment of 19th Century Orientialism—prints and paintings of the city seen in plates in books. It is a rehearsed image, as was our Supersurface picnic, that anticipates the actual experience.

So, in a small way, the positioning of our picnic on our ersatz boat in our ersatz sea, was not only about making strange the very domestic act of eating dinner with friends, but also gives us a position to watch the things unfold.

Unfolding, or perhaps billowing out like a sail, next is Host’s main exhibition, which opens Saturday with Wet Horizons, an installation by Medellin architect Luis Callejas / LCLA office in the VDL penthouse. Using curtain-like textile drawings, digital projections, and models the work hopes to articulate environmental connections between Callejas’ practice and the architecture of the house itself. In short, it superimposes distant, perhaps alternative landscapes, on top the pretty classic LA views of Silver Lake.

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Opening, House


On Thursday, September 25, Host: Natural Histories for Los Angeles kicks off WWSf with a “dark picnic” on the Silver Lake Reservoir Meadow. Enough with the sunshine, bring on the noir.

Host: Natural Histories for Los Angeles explores the multivalent meaning of “host” though spectacle, parasitic opportunism, and domestic landscapes. A picnic enacts the rituals of home on a landscape—it’s both familiar and alien. A dark picnic amplifies both conditions, making the everyday strange.

Join us and bring some food for a picnic an object that glows to illuminate the meadow. Across the street, the Neutra VDL House will blaze up the night.

Your glowing object (no flames please) can be as simple as a flashlight or as ornate as a glowing sculpture or even a dish of phosphorescent algae.

Click here for more information on time and location.