A Bridge to the Imagination

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The iconic 6th Street Bridge has to be rebuilt, and the City has announced a worldwide quest for a visionary designer. Hear about it from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Gary Lee Moore andAlex Ward.…

The iconic 6th Street Bridge has to be rebuilt, and the City has announced a worldwide quest for a visionary designer. Hear about it from Mayor Antonio VillaraigosaGary Lee Moore andAlex Ward. Plus, James Rojas and Jay Griffith on lessons from a cardboard arcade; Michael Boyd on taking chairs back to the basics; and Charles Phoenix, Ambassador of Americana, on being retro in the age of Instagram.

Banner image: Arial view of the existing 6th Street Viaduct, looking north along the LA River. Photo courtesy of the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering

Redesigning LA’s Sixth Street Viaduct


The Sixth Street Viaduct, connecting Los Angeles’s downtown to the neighborhood of Boyle Heights, is a historic structure designed eighty years ago by Merrill Butler of LA’s Bureau of Engineering. But the structure is crumbling and has to be rebuilt. For a long time it has seemed as if city engineers were going to replace it with a utilitarian but boring structure. Then last week they announced an international competition to find a designer who can build something really imaginative. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa offers his thoughts on why the city opened up the challenge to a wider audience. But what should the bridge look like? Advocacy groups likeFriends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR) are pushing for an ambitious design. Alex Ward, architect and chair of FOLAR, describes his vision for the new bridge. It’s not unusual for cities to use competitions to attract innovative and high-level public architecture. Gary Lee Moore is LA’s City Engineer and explains how the City of LA plans to select its designer for the $400 million project. More information is available at the competition website.

6th street

The view of the bridge from 6th Street. Photos courtesy City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering 


Design Lessons from Caine’s Arcade


Caine at his arcade, photographed by filmmaker Nirvan Mullick

You’ve no doubt seen a popular video for Caine’s Arcade that ran circles around the web last week. Beyond inspiring an amazing good luck story for the internet age, Caine Monroy’s now famous cardboard arcade also offers up an essential design lesson, says urban planner James Rojas. James is an urban planner who runs workshops where he helps people envision design solutions using models of cities made of found objects. He sees similarities between his workshops and Caine’s work. Then landscape designer Jay Griffith passes along his recommendation for a children’s toy from an interview eight years ago.

Caine’s Arcade from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.

caine crowds

Crowds gather at a flash mob to support Caine’s cardboard arcade. Photo by Nirvan Mullick

rojas kids

James Rojas introducing one of his models to a group of students at Union Station


Contemporary Updates of Modern Masters


Michael Boyd is a musician, designer and collector in Modernist furniture and architecture. He recently decided to design his own variant on chairs and tables created by the 20th century Modernist masters he loves. Later this month, he will display his Plane series at Edward Cella Art and Architecture Gallery in the Miracle Mile. Frances met Michael in his Santa Monica studio and he showed her some of his 50 pieces—elegantly Spartan forms made of such materials as wood, steel and jute. The goal, says Boyd, is to draw on timeless design.





What Does the Instagram Sale Mean for Retro Culture?

charles phoenix

Photograph of Charles Phoenix by Chris Haston with Instagram “Nashville” filter.

Last week saw an astounding billion dollars being paid for an app that can give a retro look to camera-phone photos. Instagram, a small startup, was bought by tech behemoth FacebookCharles Phoenix, a cult figure who collects and builds performances around actual retro photos of Americana, helps to process the cultural significance of the Instagram deal. Charles has a few shows coming up next month like his Big Retro Slide Show at MOCA Grand Avenue and his Disneyland Tour of Downtown Los Angeles, and he gives his thoughts on Instagram and how the trend for retrofying snapshots compares with what he does.


Frances’ vintage Bugs Bunny sweater from a flea market photographed by Charles Phoenix with Instagram “Earlybird” filter.