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A pagoda by the outdoor swimming pool at Yamashiro. Photo by Frances Anderton.

An electric Jaguar fit for a prince 6 MIN, 45 SEC

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, looked stunning, but how about their Jaguar?

Following their marriage on Saturday the newlyweds stepped into a silver-blue 1968 Jaguar E-Type that glided off, without making any sound at all -- because it’s electric.

This was a vintage Jaguar restored and converted to e-power, a model launched in 2017 and called the E-type Concept Zero.

The adapted car has a state-of-the-art powertrain, modified instrumentation and facia, LED headlights and a 40kWh battery that can achieve around 170 miles on a single charge.

It can race from 0-62 mph in just 5.5 seconds, topping the original E-type by about one second.

So could this be the answer for those who love yesterday’s automobile styling but want to meet today’s energy concerns?

Geoff Wardle is Executive Director of Graduate Transportation Systems and Design at ArtCenter College of Design.

He joins DnA to explain why this converted classic made sense for Jaguar and for royals, and how any vintage automobile (including American muscle cars) can be electrified in the same way -- depending on how much you have to spend.

“If you've got an old clunker you could probably convert it into an electric, battery electric vehicle for between five and fifteen thousand dollars. But it probably wouldn't go very far before it started to spark,” Wardle said.

The conversion of the royal Jaguar is reported to have cost around $400,000. What about the sound of power however?

Knowing that revving up the engine is part of the pleasure of driving a sports car, car companies, says Wardle, now add artificial noise into the cabin or to the exhaust system to make e-cars sound sportier.

So is the next stop an autonomous E-type?

Wardle says that while he could imagine enjoying driving an electrified E-type Jaguar, “why would I want to drive a sports car without driving it? The whole point of sports cars is for the driving experience.”

The newly married Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, leaving Windsor Castle after their wedding in a silver-blue 1968 Jaguar E- Type Concept Zero. Photo courtesy of Kensington Palace twitter.

Geoff Wardle, ArtCenter College of Design (@artcenteredu)

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At Venice Architecture Biennale, U.S. Pavilion exhibits “Dimensions of Citizenship” 6 MIN, 47 SEC

Every two years the global architecture community descends on Venice, Italy to get a taste of what’s current and future in architecture.

This year’s Biennial organizers are Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Irish firm Grafton Architecture, perhaps best-known for their remarkable 2008 University Campus UTEC Lima which demonstrates that brutalism is alive and less brutal.

Their theme for the Biennial, which takes place at the Arsenale complex of former naval shipyards in the ancient Italian city, is “Freespace.”

Their manifesto defines Freespace several ways, among them the “generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture's agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself.”

In the gardens surrounding their curated exhibition will be pavilions by 60 or so countries.

Mimi Zeiger, an LA-based architecture critic and writer, is co-curator of the U.S Pavilion, whose theme is “Dimensions of Citizenship.”

Zeiger joins DnA by Skype from Venice, during an installation that involved bringing everything by water.

“When you're planning an exhibition and then you get into the logistics of it, you never knew that your catalogs were going to come on a boat and be unloaded in a canal and then put on a cart and hand-carted to the door of the pavilion. So it's a little bit of the 21st century meets the 19th century,” Zeiger said.

She also explains “Dimensions of Citizenship”: a series of exhibits of maps, models, videos and renderings that illustrate “things from the scale of the body... all the way to the scale of the cosmos with stops along the way for the city, for the nation, for the region, for the globe.”

These themes are explored in installations by seven teams -- Amanda Williams + Andres L. Hernandez, in collaboration with Shani Crowe; Studio Gang; SCAPE; Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman; Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Laura Kurgan, Robert Gerard Pietrusko with Columbia Center for Spatial Research; Keller Easterling with MANY; and Design Earth.

Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman explore “Nation” with Mexus, its name a combination of Mexico and the U.S., a giant map focused on the Tijuana Watershed, and representing a “transborder commons -- where we can have free exchange or a free flow of ecologies and rivers or flow of people,” Zeiger said.

Many people visit the Biennale during its four-month run to learn about where architecture is headed.

At the U.S. Pavilion you won’t necessarily find buildings, at least as they are conventionally understood, explains Zeiger.

At the scale of the citizen, for example, Amanda Williams, Andres Hernandez and Shani Crowe, an artist who has created hair sculptures for Solange, “have created a steel structure which is then hand woven with braided cord. So this piece is very metaphorical, very poetic, very tactile.” It is a form, Zeiger explains, “but it may not be a form that you've ever seen before.”

Braid study (2017), Shani Crowe. From: Thrival Geographies (In My Mind I See A Line), Amanda Williams + Andrew L. Hernandez, in collaboration with Shani Crowe. Courtesy of Shani Crowe

Mimi Zeiger, architecture critic and curator (@loudpaper)

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Identity in design: is Yamashiro kitsch or cultural appropriation? 13 MIN, 59 SEC

If you live in LA, you’ve likely heard of Yamashiro, the faux Japanese temple built into the chaparral-covered Hollywood hills.

But this location -- to many visitors an innocent and charming example of LA’s love of stage set architecture -- did not play so well with Los Angeles Times reporter Frank Shyong.

He tells DnA, “the temple is -- in the Japanese context -- a place where people think about their relatives and have quiet reflective moments. And so when we in America take these parts of these cultures, we should also think about what their contexts were.” Shyong recently published a fascinating meditation on the “authenticity” of Yamashiro, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

He asked whether it should be considered within the framework of “cultural appropriation” and he called it, quote, “an inauthentic fantasy of Japanese culture that has generated profits exclusively for non-Japanese people.” He added that longtime businesses in Little Tokyo meanwhile face displacement.

As part of DnA’s series on identity in design we discussed these arguments -- with Frank Shyong; Eve Epstein, Hunker VP of Content; and Eric Avila, historian and professor at UCLA.

We asked each of them, how should we evaluate objects and buildings that mean different things to different viewers?

Epstein says she feels a personal connection to the hybrid building, due to her own heritage as child of a Japanese mother and Jewish-American father.

On one hand she says she understands the concerns of cultural appropriation, whether in architecture, fashion or movie casting; on the other she says there is room for “camp” and for keeping a sense of humor when appropriate.

“The truth is that America is always interpreting somebody else's thing. We were bound to be getting stuff wrong from the start.” She adds, “I don't think there's anybody who comes to Yamashiro and doesn't come away having a pretty good feeling about Japanese architecture and culture.”

But should the National Register reflect the hidden, sometimes darker aspects to a building?

Yes, says Avila, and points out that at the time Yamashiro was being built, “Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants were facing a wave of hostility that surfaced through a variety of laws that were passed to restrict Japanese immigration and also to prohibit land ownership among Japanese people in California.”

Shyong suggests preservationists could focus on ethnic communities as well as ersatz ethnic buildings.

How about paying more attention, he asks, to buildings such as “the 100 year old French hospital that was Chinatown's only hospital” and has a “fascinating history of transitioning from French to Chinese to pan-Asian as Chinatown and that surrounding area has changed?”

Or what about the restaurant in Chinatown where “the first dim sum was served? I think if we considered Asian American or Chinese American food history a part of our history, then that’s something worth preserving too.”

A view of Yamashiro’s interior courtyard. Photo by Frances Anderton.

Edmon Rodman, Writer and historian
Frank Shyong, Los Angeles Times (@frankshyong)
Eve Epstein, VP of content for Hunker
Eric Avila, UCLA (@uclaurbnplnning)

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