Networks, Connections and a Sound Booth for Sonic Trace

Written by

Last month we launched a competition to find a designer for a portable Sound Booth for KCRW’s new radio project, Sonic Trace. Hear about the winning design from Anayansi Diaz-Cortes, Eric Pearce-Chavez, David…

Last month we launched a competition to find a designer for a portable Sound Booth for KCRW’s new radio project, Sonic Trace. Hear about the winning design from Anayansi Diaz-CortesEric Pearce-ChavezDavid Greene and Hugo Martinez. Also, a look at infrastructure, both solid and air. Sam Lubell will talk about Metro’s choice of Gruen and Grimshaw to master-plan Union Station; and Andrew Blum takes us on a tour to the center of the Internet. We’ll hear about Dwell on Design, and Screenplay, with Jenny Wu.

Banner image: La Burbuja by Mat-Ter

A New Plan for Union Station

Gruen Grimshaw

L.A.’s growing public transit system includes new plans by Metro to develop 38 acres of land surrounding Union Station into a mix of commerce, housing, terminus for the regional connector and—potentially—the high speed rail. Metro has been searching for a master-planner to come up with a vision for the site and invited a group of six high-level teams, including Italy’s Renzo Piano and Britain’s Norman Foster, to compete for the project. Yesterday, Metro planning staff posted its recommendation for the master-planner, a choice that has to be approved by the board later this month. It’s the team of L.A.-based Gruen and British firm Grimshaw, designers of the Fulton Street Transit Center in New York. Sam Lubell, editor of the West Coast edition of The Architect’s Newspaper, talks about why this challenge is being faced in cities around the world, and how the winning team is a good choice for Los Angeles.


Journey to the Center of the Internet


Design and technology writer Andrew Blum was working away at his home in Brooklyn one day when his Internet connection was lost—something that happens to all of us more than we’d like to admit. It got him thinking: Where does the Internet come from? What does it look like? It lead to a ’round-the-world quest to find the tangible form of this ephemeral new infrastructure, and a book called Tubes: A Journey To The Center of the Internet. Blum discusses how he got to that “center, by following the paths of glass fiber-optic cables, carrying high velocity pulses of light underneath our streets and oceans.


The Sonic Trace Competition

Slide show of all submissions for the Sonic Trace sound booth competition
Click to view FULL SCREEN, then SHOW INFO, this way you can view information about the submissions and the architects and designers!

Last month we launched a competition to find a design and designer for a sound booth for a new show of stories from Mexican and Central American immigrants being created by Anayansi Diaz-Cortes and Eric Pearse-Chavez. The conditions were tough: a tight budget, tight deadline and the designer had to build the project themselves. But still we got lots of interest and by the end of last week, many solid proposals. The jury of KCRW staffers included DJ Raul Campos and our engineer David Greene, who admits he had his eye on practicality.


We found ourselves torn between equally delightful options but in the end we were drawn in fact to a “sphere of silence,” a bubble, or, in Spanish, La Burbuja (shown above), a silvery orb that would open up in sections like a chocolate orange to reveal a womb-like recording space inside. The concept was for a “non-place”, in which the interviewee would be suspended in time and space, while passersby would see themselves reflected in a mirrored globe both dematerialized and opaque. Designer Hugo Martinez explains why he submitted his powerful design along with his strong personal reasons for taking on this project.

Martinez, who is also a contractor, will get to work building his Bubble. He’s convinced he can realize his silvery bubble on time and on budget; we’ll track the process and keep you posted. You can also see his design and all the others on display starting this Friday at Dwell on Design, the modern design show at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Sonic Trace is being created in partnership with Localore, a national initiative from the Association of the Independent in Radio.


Knitting a ‘Screenplay’ for Dwell on Design


The annual Dwell on Design show always features plenty of modern design favorites for the Dwell audience—a redesigned AirStream, affordable prefab, futuristic bathroom-ware. You’ll also see a custom-designed installation called Screenplay that will greet you at the entrance. The creation by the firm Oyler Wu is a very unusual “wall” or “screen” plus a seating area and it exemplifies a trend among some LA architects—finding a way with material and craft to realize a highly complex pattern or shape created in the computer. Screenplay is a passion project, involving a team of willing collaborators working for weeks to hand-loom this object in a backyard in Silver Lake. Oyler Wu principal Jenny Wu speaks about the project against a backdrop of enormous sunflowers, a bulging lemon tree, and the sounds of songbirds and roadworks, as five people are busy, unfurling silvery rope and winding it into complex knots and layers around a metal frame.

Screenplay close

Screenplay is just the latest example of installations by some LA architects who are creating striking effect through this kind of blend of tomorrow’s and yesterday’s skills. Is there an irony in reverting to traditional crafts to realize virtual concepts? You can find another example of this kind of experimentation at Pasadena Museum of California Art, in an installation by the firm Layer. That is all part of a two-week bonanza of design events under the umbrella of the Los Angeles Design Festival. To find out more about the Los Angeles Design Festival and Dwell On Design, check out our list of highlighted events and installations.

  • Jenny Wu: Architect, Oyler Wu Collaborative