Move Over Milan: Here Comes Dwell On Design, LA Design Festival, Little Tokyo Design Week

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Los Angeles is an engine of design, with one out of every six jobs in the region in the Creative Economy (design, architecture, art, fashion, animation, etc.) Yet, unlike other…

Los Angeles is an engine of design, with one out of every six jobs in the region in the Creative Economy (design, architecture, art, fashion, animation, etc.) Yet, unlike other design capitals — Milan, London, Tokyo, New York — the region has collectively kept its light under a bushel. There’s been nothing here akin to London’s 100 Percent Design or the Milan Furniture Fair.

Well, that’s about to change. Starting with a party tonight at The Standard, the Los Angeles Design Festival arrives with a two-week blast of design events. Among the treats dispersed across the region: a deLaB tour of Kanner Architects‘ HOLA (Heart of LA) community building at Lafayette Park (the last, and much-commended project by Stephen Kanner before his passing last year); a discussion at Atwater Village with Geoff Manaugh, Edward Lifson, Oliver Hess and Dutch design Andre Dekker about “placemaking” through installation design (arguably one of the more fertile design arenas right now, especially as the downturn has put the squeeze on buildings), and a chat about contemporary graphic design that I’ll host Thursday with Chris Do, April Greiman, and Regina Rubino at the Venice studio of Ilan Dei. Read more on Brooke Hodge’s NYT blog. And note that if you are hosting a design event — little or large — you to can promote it on the LADF web site. 

LADF essentially links under one umbrella design events that were already happening around town that coincide with the big cahuna, Dwell on Design, Dwell magazine’s annual Modern Design trade show and conference that has permanently located itself in LA, having wisely noted the design energy here (despite the turn-down in architectural production). Organized by the indefatigable Michael Sylvester, also the co-concertmaster (with Haily Zaki) of the LA Design Festival, DOD endeavors to present more than mere eye candy for unhappy hipsters (though the tastiest, and most amusing, eye candy will likely be Kohler’s ultra-luxury new NUMI loo, posing seductively, above, in Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House 22, with two humans who look too perfect to poop). The ideas part of the show will feature a keynote by William McDonough, and two exhibits honoring Japan and the vital role of its design industry, especially now, after the earthquake: Yakitate (meaning “freshly baked”) is a display of work by young Japanese designers, and SASAKI is a one-man performance art piece and fundraiser for Japan, wherein the eponymous Sasaki captures people’s heartbeats in red paint in what becomes a gigantic mural. Panel discussions will be hosted by Dwell editors Aaron Britt, Sarah Rich and El Jefe Sam Grawe. I’ll also host a discussion with architect Aaron Neubert and USC Architecture School grad Jacqueline Lee about the influence of pop-up culture and how it might animate the arts acropolis (some might say, necropolis) on Grand Avenue.

Now here is the kicker: We have a special promo code for KCRW audience for Dwell On Design
Promo code DWELLKCRW9 will save 50% on the Exhibition Plus weekend pass or
33% on the Conference Plus 2 Day Pass. Find out more here:

I should add that hot on the heels of LADF and DOD comes another freshly-minted Los Angeles-based design festival, this time the Little Tokyo Design Week. Created by Hitoshi Abe, Chair of UCLA’s Architecture and Urban Design School, LTDW showcases design ideas for the Future City by designers both here and from Japan, while offering up a forward-thinking image for the downtown neighborhood typically associated with traditional Japan. One of the very interesting sounding attractions: a first-look stateside at Daiwa’s “emergency shelter robot” EDV-01, poignantly planned by the Festival organizers before the earthquake but now even more timely.