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End of an Era Ray Kappe and Dion Neutra: Close of a 100-year Time in Architecture

With the passing of Ray Kappe and Dion Neutra in Los Angeles, a heroic era of architecture has come to an end. The tributary sources were two: Organic Architecture in the United States, envisioned by Frank Lloyd Wright and, in Europe, Rationalism / International Style, headed by Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Pieter Oud, and Erich Mendelsohn.  These two tributaries bifurcated into many streams, becoming a present-day “delta,” mislabeled as “Modernism.” Both sources wanted to change the world. The first one, by changing people’s mindsets. The second one, by providing how-to solutions easy to apply.

Sources: Wright, Gropius, Neutra, Mendelsohn, Schindler

Ray Kappe’s most creative segment of his productivity belonged to the first source. His houses in Pacific Palisades’ Rustic Canyon remain excellent examples of an indoor-outdoor architecture conceived as a whole. Yet, in spite of this Wright-influenced architecture, Kappe continued to evolve, both as an educator and as an architect. In the last two decades, he embarked on the challenge of creating quality prefabricated homes.

Dion Neutra’s father, Richard Neutra, although aware of the difference between the two currents from having spent some time working for Wright, belonged to the European source. Later called “therapeutic architecture” adapted to California’s weather, it remained linked to the International Style.

Milton Goldman Residence, Encino, 1951

Dion Neutra and Eric Lloyd Wright in Malibu, 2017

Kaufmann Desert House, Palm Springs, 1946

When I read that Kappe didn’t like the term ‘modernist,’ I was not surprised. “He embraced the term ‘modern’ because it represented to be current with the latest ideas, technologies, and materials.” In that sense, as stated by Bruno Zevi, both Michelangelo and Borromini were, in the 16th and 17th centuries, modern to their times.

My first encounter with Ray and Shelly Kappe, Ray’s partner in work and life and an educator in her own right, was during the mid-1980s when they invited Luigi Pellegrin to give a lecture at SCI-Arc in Santa Monica. I was then asked to be the Italian-to-English translator. During Pellegrini’s visit, the Kappes invited us for dinner at their residence in Rustic Canyon. The conversation was definitely “organic.” Following that visit, Ruth and I met the Kappes several times. We sympathized with them. We felt that we had many ideas in common.

My encounters with Dion Neutra were more recent, at Carol King’s Salon, in Pasadena. Dion, who had worked with his father on many projects was, in the last few years, embarked on a one-man crusade to save some of the Neutra buildings from demolition.

The “architectural delta” of the early 21st century is melting into the ocean of the world’s challenges: climate change, sustainability, affordable housing, infrastructure, food production, universal health and education, preservation of nature, and much more. In spite of notable self-expressions by some architects, a meaningful new direction in architecture demands now an urgently needed change of mindsets, beyond that of architectural design language, towards a new meaning of what represents life quality today.

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals for 2030

ZEVI Bruno Zevi on Architecture, Culture and Politics

MAXXI’s celebration of Bruno Zevi’s 100th birthday with an exhibition on his prolific production as a historian and critic of architecture, who influenced many of the world’s best architects of his time, poses an important question: can Zevi’s ideas, today, help young people to become finer architects in the creation of a better tomorrow? The video that accompanies this blog tries to give, through Zevi’s own words, a visual answer.

Zevi as Zevi

 Zevi’s capacity to communicate ideas and inject enthusiasm into architects of all ages – and not only to architects – was unique. At the base of his exuberance was a passion for questioning “assumed truths.” He brought to the surface what was really meaningful of a particular place, time, culture and architecture, such as the human scale of Greece, the static space of Rome, the complexity of Gothic space, the movement of Baroque’s space and the “free plan” and organic space of the modern era. He believed that culture and politics should be intimately related, with culture leading politics and not the other way around.
While supporting the positive aspects of 20th Century ‘s Rationalist architecture – the Bauhaus’ architects, Le Corbusier and followers – he acknowledged its limits. He knew that Frank Lloyd Wright’s principles of Organic Architecture where long-lasting because based on nature and history’s essentials. His first books “Towards an Organic Architecture” and “Saper vedere l’architettura / Architecture as Space,” both published when he was in his early thirties, had a powerful impact in  Italy and around the world as well.
You can’t read Zevi’s books lying on a couch. They have to be studied. Similarly, the monthly magazine that he published during fifty years, L’Architettura, was filled with content, not about the on-going fashions, but on projects of relevance.  John Lautner once said that it was the only architectural magazine he read, and Wright himself considered Zevi one of the few critics he had respect for. When we facilitated the connection between Bruce Goff and Zevi, he published an entire issue on one of Goff’s works.

Zevi and Us

Our relationship to Professor Bruno Zevi spanned over thirty years.  To tell of the many stories that surrounded our long relationship through letters and one-to-one discussions would take many pages, but a few paragraphs can give an idea.
  • As a teacher, Zevi demanded to visit at least once all the important architectural monuments in Rome, and many other across Italy. That meant intense traveling, photographing, writing notes and drawing. We made many trips throughout Italy and across Europe together with our French friend Bernard Lege in his Citroën 2CV (“deux chevaux.”)
  • Occasionally, Zevi and his wife Tulia invited us to have lunch with distinguished guests. One of these was Carlo Scarpa and his wife, who told us about his recent visit to Louis Kahn’s office in Philadelphia. 
  • Zevi was the tutor of both our graduating theses, and  Luigi Pellegrin was our co-tutor. When we first met him, at midnight in his studio, we had a two-hour conversation. We remained in close contact with him until Pellegrin’s death, in 2001.
  • In 1971, when we made our “Wright pilgrimage” across twenty-five states, Zevi introduced us to Edgar Kauffmann Jr., then the director of the Industrial Design Department at MOMA, who facilitated for us exclusive access to Fallingwater. We spent there three days walking in and around, observing and photographing.
  • In 1975 we won the first prize for a conceptual design competition on high density in Israel. He wrote about our project in an article published in L’Espresso magazine. When we finished our first small apartment in Tel Aviv, he climbed ten floors – the elevators were not functioning – to visit us. He asked to send him photographs of it, and also of a project for a memorial in the Golan Heights which we had not won. Over the years he published several of our projects: our house in Westwood, which was the first on record to have had solar panels and a vegetable garden; and our Senior Housing project n Jaffa.
  • For New Year’s Eve of 1988, we visited Rome with our daughter Gabby, who was then eight years old. As it rarely happens in Rome, the city was covered with snow. It was a unique event. Tulia Zevi invited us for lunch.  As Professor Zevi was playful with our daughter, she shot a memorable photograph of him.

Zevi by Gabby Meghiddo, age 8, January 1, 1988,

Letter to Gabby

  • We met Zevi for the last time in 1998, when returning from a three-week workshop in Palermo between Italian, Israeli and Palestinian architects. The news of his passing, in January of 2000, reached us in Los Angeles, while on short visit at the turn of the millennium. When we returned to Tel Aviv, I wrote “Pronto Professore.” The poem was later on read at the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles by poet-actor Jack Grapes.
On writing upon his death, Thomas Muirhead wrote in The Guardian (February 29, 2000:) “Zevi was a major architectural scholar and polemicist. With his passing, suddenly everything has gone flaccid; it is a disaster.”

It is now time to go back and learn from Bruno Zevi “How to Look at Architecture.”

Copyright R&R Meghiddo, 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Seen, Done, Thought, In-the Making On Photography, Films, Architecture, and 2018 Challenges

The turn of the year offers an opportunity to summarize what we have seen, done and thought, and to program a new year. I am sharing with you selected photos we shot, films we watched and produced, architecture we recorded or selected, relevant books I read, and some thought on “The State of the World,” and what we can do to create a better tomorrow.

IMAGES

Showing images is the best way of “making a long story short.”

Click on: Selected Photography 2017.

Selected Photography 2017

Selected Photography 2017

The selection is personal and eclectic. Some have value as a document of an event rather than for its quality as a photograph.  The gallery includes panoramic photos, images of historical value (such as of architects Eric Lloyd Wright and Dion Neutra getting together in Malibu during Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th birthday celebration, and civil rights activist  Dolores Huerta, who coined the slogan “Yes We Can – Si Se Puede,” borrowed by Obama ; film directors, producers and actors at Q & As’ we frequented;  Richard King’s memorial and the spreading of his ashes; and some people we met. As a coda, I also added recent underwater photos sent by our daughter Gabby from the Maldives Islands, southwest of Sri Lanka and India; and a few shots of us.

“Stars” included veteran director Marcel OphulsAlexander Payne (“Downsizing,”) Kathryn Bigelow (“Detroit,”) director Joe Wright and actor Gary Oldman (“The Darkest Hours,”) Annette Bening (“Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,”) some images of nature in Idyllwild, and even a bird visiting my desk.

This year I also published for the first time a selection of photographs shot during our “Frank Lloyd Wright pilgrimage” back in 1971, when we visited over one hundred of Wright’s buildings across twenty-five states. 

http://archidocu.com/the-wright-way-2/ 

The Wright Way Photos.

The Wright Way Photos.

SELECTED FILMS SEEN IN 2017

We had a busy year watching documentaries + Q & As’ (presented by the International Documentary Association – IDA ) We also saw many feature films at the American Cinematheque,  at the WRAP, at the LA Jewish Film Festival, and at the Israel Film Festival. I share the list of some of them. They are all very good. The ones in bold letters are “must see.”

Alone in Berlin, Neruda, Hidden Figures, Gigi Gorgeous, Hell on Earth, Nobody Speaks, Dolores, Trophy, Icarus, Intent to Destroy, City of Ghosts, New York Times Op-Docs, 11/8/16, God Knows Where I Am, I Call Him Morgan, Step, One of Us, The Work, Oklahoma City, Finding Oscar, Atomic Homefront, The Rape of Recy Taylor, Under One Sun, An Inconvenient Sequel, Detroit, Columbus, I Am Evidence, Arthur Miller – Writer, Kedi, Chasing CoralBen Gurion, EpilogueCries from Syria, The Divine Order, The Final Year, MachinesFoxtrotCall Me by Your NameDownsizing, Film Stars Don’t Die in LiverpoolThe SquareHuman Flow, I Am not your Negro, Intent to Destroy, Strong Island, Phantom Thread, The Post.

Documentarians are real contemporary heroes. Many risk their lives in bringing to us images of genocidal wars, human brutality, racism, inequality, global warming, migration tragedies, political and corporate corruption, and also beauty in nature, indigenous cultures and extraordinary human beings. Most of this is produced following prolonged research, scouting, shooting, hard-editing work, meager budgets and scarce distribution.

They are a unique mix of artists-journalists working with passion, combining filmmaking excellence with the search for truth. Their work contributes to expanding our consciousness of the world we live in.

FILMS PRODUCED IN 2017

My own production this year was intense. With fifteen published titles, most of which have been published in Cultural Weekly, they exceeded two hours of film. This year I crossed the mark of sixty short documentaries. The ones published during 2017 are:

Tangoing with Paul & Amigos (12:13) A non-scripted experiment.

The Wright Way – An overture (17:21’)   The Wright Way Hint (2:36)  Both the “Overture” and the “Hint” were preliminary warm-ups towards  The Wright Way feature documentary (work-in-progress.)

Tongva Park and the Angelbird (5:33′) This open public space is the best architecture that we have documented this year in Los Angeles.

Architecture + Cinema + Hollywood (29:52) Renzo Piano’s Academy Museum under construction provided an opportunity to link the museum’s content with the Hollywood context and with architecture.

Idyllwild Idyll (9:12) “Back to nature,” this documentary includes the little-known Pearlman Cabin designed by architect John Lautner in 1957.

Netflix Night (2:55’) A not-scripted documentation of my first visit to Netflix.

Normality “Lo-Normali” /(4:56’) It summarizes the documentaries I shot in Israel during 2016.

Radio Day Unabridged (26:11) and  Radio Day (16:43) Both the full version (“Unabridged,” which includes questions on Israel) and the short version are the result of a radio interview hosted by Nancy Pearlman, to which I added visualization later on.

Architecture in a Nutshell (9:20’) An introduction to principles of architecture.

Human-Made Plastic Ocean (3:55) A Plastic Ocean premiere in Beverly Hills. See full cast.

Hanukkah’s First Candle (40:32) The lighting of Hanukkah’s fifth candle in a Greater Los Angeles home was not only the place for the gathering of people from many backgrounds and areas of the the city, but also for the screening of “Never Again is Now,” a new documentary telling a unique story of survival in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation, and sending a message about the danger of raising antisemitism in Europe and elsewhere, including the United States.

Mormon Temple Visit (1:51) A brief first visit to the secluded Mormon Temple in Los Angeles.

Food for Thought (2:58) Farm Urbana, as presented in “Food for Thought,” proposes practical solutions to help the rapidly growing urban population’s access to fresh food close to home.

FILMMAKING PLANS

The Wright Way, my first feature documentary, is on the way. It is to be a cry-out documentary about how some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ideas and principles can help to inspire and appeal the young generation to create a sustainable future of livable cities and human settlements. Not a biography, it looks at Wright with fresh eyes and will suggest alternative scenarios for the future of the human environment with a sense of urgency.

ARCHITECTURE

Although 2017 has produced many new projects, I found most of them dominated by “acrobatics,” infatuation with 3-D renderings, and little concern confronting an urgent agenda towards sustainable quality mass-production, to narrow the gap between population growth, decaying cities, climate change and poverty. The production of Organic Architecture was practically zero. I chose to produce a short documentary on one of the exceptions, the  Tongva Park in Santa Monica (see “Tongva Park and the Angelbird” listed above.)

The exception is  Snøhettaan international architecture, landscape architecture, interior design and brand design office based in Oslo, Norway and New York City with studios in San Francisco, Innsbruck, Singapore and Stockholm. A major new building  has opened in the south of France, framing a huge replica of one of the world’s most important examples of prehistoric cave art. Called Lascaux IV, the new visitor complex recreates the appearance and atmosphere of the caves in Montignac where the 20,000-year-old Lascaux paintings are located, but which have been closed to the public for over 50 years.

The examples that follow have been produced by committed architects and designers: Brooks + ScarpaSnohettaWhitaker StudioEric RosenPatkau Architects,  Thomas Heatherwick, and Herzog & de Meuron.

CHALLENGES

World politics had been dominated by the ascent of Trump to power. He is a symptom that denotes a sick society suffering from branding brainwashing, widespread ignorance of the world’s reality and dogmatic beliefs, all of which have been brewed during the past half-century.

Solutions will demand both talking and action, such as:

  1. Containment of Trump until 2020 through the rule of law. All other alternatives are worse.

  2. Awareness of reality as-is. Documentarians have much to say and show on this.

  3. Action-oriented assumption of responsibility, particularly by millennials.

  4. A vision of a better world in healthcare, housing, justice, the urban environment, closing the gap of inequality and much more.

     The UN goals for sustainable development are quite detailed about 17 areas of challenge.

BOOKS

From the books I read during 2017, the ones that I found the most relevant are:

Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari

Internal Ecology, by Darío Salas Sommer

No Is Not Enough, by Naomi Klein

TEACHING

Scheduled to give a six-week class on “How to Look at Architecture” at the Skirball Cultural Center and at OLLI/CSULB,  the classes will include the screening of architecture documentaries I made, to convey visually a better understanding of the importance of good design in our life.

"How to Look at Architecture" class at the Skirball Cultural Center, Jan. 16 - Fe. 20, 2018.

“How to Look at Architecture” class at the Skirball Cultural Center, Jan. 16 – Feb 20, 2018.

The Wright Way Hint A Teaser of a Future Documentary


h4>How can Wright’s ideas and principles help a young generation to create better livable cities and human settlements? This is the central question that motivated me to start the production of a feature documentary, The Wright Way, as a transformational film that may benefit people of all cultures around the world. I know that when young people begin to study Frank Lloyd Wright, a better future will be invented based on the laws of nature, which includes human nature.

Wright’s iconic works should not be turned into objects of worship, nor should his writings become a dogma. After studying Wright in depth, his ideas should be challenged to generate new ideas. By learning from history and from Wright, a new generation of designers willing to transform the world can get inspired to create original organic architecture from the city to the private dwelling.
Having visited many of his works, including less famous Usonian houses, and having met with some of his best followers, The Wright Way Hint “hints” at the production of a feature documentary that may contribute to a needed global transformation.

TRANSFORMING THE WORLD

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, 2016,

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, 2016,

In 2016 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution of 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. They included:

1. End poverty; 2 . End hunger; 3. Ensure healthy lives; 4. Ensure inclusive quality education; 5. Achieve gender equality; 6. Ensure water and sanitation; 7. Ensure sustainable energy; 8. Promote sustainable decent work for all; 9. Build resilient infrastructure, sustainable industrialization and foster innovation; 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries, 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change; 14. Keep oceans, seas and marine resources sustainable; 15. Protect and restore terrestrial ecosystems; 16. Promote peace and justice for all; 17. Strengthen the means of implementation.

It is an ambitious wish-list out of which architecture can play a vital role (Goal #11.) If adopting Wright’s organic architecture principles, the result could extend a sustainable life on Earth well beyond 2030.

Frank Lloyd Wright, c. 1957.

Frank Lloyd Wright, c. 1957.

WRIGHT IDEAS IN A NUTSHELL

 Like Galileo, Newton, Darwin and Einstein, who discovered laws of nature, Frank Lloyd Wright formulated principles which have affected design throughout the ages, from the Nuraghe of Sardinia (1900-730 BCE,) to the Katsura Imperial Villa (1624,) to Fallingwater (1939.) Although he was as prolific a writer as he was an architect, the reading and studying his ideas has remained confined to few scholars. His language is not easily accessible, his books are rarely put in the schools of architecture’s “must read” list. How can one overcome these obstacles while young people’s span of attention is getting shorter and shorter?

What are Wright’s essential ideas?

Nature is the architect’s principal school. The creative possibilities of form, color, pattern, texture, proportion, rhythm and growth are all well expressed in nature.

The building grows out of the landscape as naturally as any plant. Its relationship to the site is so unique that it would be out of place elsewhere.

Materials are to be used based on their intrinsic nature: strength, color, texture. One material is not to be disguised as another.

A building should convey a sense of shelter, refuge, or protection against the elements. Its inhabitants should never lack privacy or feel exposed and unprotected.

Space: “The reality of the building does not consist of the roof and the walls but the space within to be lived in”, said Wright, quoting Lao Tzu. The interior space determines the exterior form. Interior space is not packed in boxes called rooms; rather, space should flow freely from interior area to interior area. An area is never fully comprehended when viewed from a single point, but it must be slowly experienced as one moves through space.

The human body should be the only scale of a building and its furnishings.

Each building has its own grammar, its distinct vocabulary of pattern and form. All parts of the building, from the smallest detail to the overall form, speak the same language. The grammar may be completely different for two buildings of similar functions.

Ornament, when used, it is to be developed as an integral part of the material, not applied.

Simplicity in art is a synthetic positive quality in which we may see evidence of mind, breadth of scheme, wealth of detail and with the sense of completeness found in a tree or a flower.

Furniture should be built-in as much as possible.

Sculpture and painting are to become elements of the total design.

MODERN, CONTEMPORARY AND ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE

What became labeled as “Modern Architecture” or “Modernism,” originated in Europe of the 1920s. Walter Gropius’ BauhausLe Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe’s ideas, based on constructive social programs, provided with a machine –like  with no decoration and easy to learn slogans, such as “less is more,” ribbon glass windows, all-white rectangle walls, and building on piloti. They influenced the design of thousands of architects around the world, some with positive results, many with catastrophic effects of massive housing and urban sprawl lacking identity.
Wright’s work, although classified by historians under the umbrella name of “Modernism,” refused to be categorized in any one architectural movement. His master-teacher, Louis Sullivan, who pioneered the use of steel for office building, had coined the concept of “form follows function”, later on modified be Wright as “form and function are one.” Simplicity for Wright was an end-result of chiseling out the unnecessary, not a point of departure.
 For most young architects eager to start building their own projects, it was impossible to learn Wright’s principles and ethic code without studying in depth his writings, analyzing his drawings and visiting his buildings. Most chose the shortcut.
 In the 1960s the term “modern” was substituted by the more inclusive term “contemporary.” It included hundreds of art and architecture languages and grammars. Some were authentic, some were progressive, like “High-Tech,“ some were regressive, like “Post-Modernism,” many were trendy, and some “stararchitects” indulged in building acrobatics having little to do with people’s needs. “Contemporary” implied a freedom of expression that many interpreted as “anything goes.”
 The Italian Website ADAO (Friends of Organic Archirecture) (http://www.architetturaorganica.org/architetturaorganica/HOME.htm ) shows links to many organic architects, such as John Lautner, Carlo Scarpa, Bruce Goff, Bart Prince, Kendrick Bangs Kellog, Robert Harvey Oshatz, to name a few, their numbers remain a small fraction in comparison to all what is being built.

A ONE-HUNDRED YEAR AGENDA

 At a philosophical level, the quests of Dario Salas Sommer’s Moral Physics, Yuval Noah Harari’s New Human Agenda, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Organic Architecture, interact as “a cosmic vision beyond ever-changing creeds or viewpoints that have until now divided human beings according to their geography, their culture or their ideas.” God / Nature / Truth / Unity / Existence  / Being / Whole become interchangeable words implying the working and interacting together as a whole. The time is now. As the world’s population grows to a likely ten billion by mid-century, twelve billion by 2100 and possibly 30 billion by 2200, planetary management that crosses borderlines and governments become indispensable.

In addition to all said, mixed-use and multi-functionality are integral components of a sustainability agenda. While mixed-use juxtapose multiple functions (housing, commerce, education, )  multi-functionality makes possible the multiple uses of the same space, and the multiple-use of a same component: a stairway as structure, a column or beam as a container of ducts, a wall as container of storage, a roof as an edible garden.

Proximity between living space and working space are part of the sustainability agenda. Working space can be: a. within the dwelling unit; b. adjacent to the dwelling unit ( see Price Tower); c. Within walking or bike distance from the dwelling.

Mobility is integral to both human needs and to sustainability, yet it demands a total revision of how it works. It consists of three categories. A. Emergency access (firemen, ambulances, police, rescue from disasters.) b. Public use: air mobility and public transportation of multiple kinds: trains, tramways, air tram cable cars, moving conveyors, buses, taxis (with drivers or driverless,)  hot air balloons. c. Private: bikes, skateboards, cars, trucks (owned or rented.)

Organic architecture needs to awaken from its long sleep. It requires reinterpretation without falling into nostalgia or an imitative expression of Nature. Although nature remains the most important source of inspiration, it is to be interpreted, not copied.

The United Earth Wheel of Synergy

The United Earth Wheel of Synergy. Copyright United Earth, 2016.

 

Observation Point - Tongva park. Copyright Rick and Ruth Meghiddo 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Tongva Park and the Angelbird A new destination and gathering place of great social, ecological, and symbolic value

Tongva Park in Santa Monica is a unique model of sustainability and Organic Architecture, sensitive to the site’s geological and human history. It was designed by  James Corner Field Operations to turn the area into “a new destination and gathering place of great social, ecological, and symbolic value.”

During February of 2016, we were invited to see a performance at the park by Elizabeth Yochim, a dancing art historian who acts in public spaces. The encounter with both the park’s design and the Angelbird’s dancing was captivating.

Angelbird - Elizabeth YochimCopyright Rick and Ruth Meghiddo 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Angelbird – Elizabeth Yochim

I began to study about the park’s history. I went to the park to shoot for the second time, but the editing was derailed by other projects and the footage remained dormant. In the meantime, When I learned that its main designer was British-born landscape architect James Corner and his New York firm Field Operations, I started to connect the dots. Corner had been one of the leading architects of Manhattan’s High Line, in collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro (the Broad’s architects) and Piet Oudulf,. It has been one of the best urban design projects since Paris’ Promenade Plantée and  Parc de Bercy.

The Tongva nation, also known as Gabrielinos (the way the founders of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel called them) were a Uzo-Aztecan-speaking people who moved into coastal Southern California 3,500 years ago. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Tongva excelled at building homes and sea-worthy canoes. A Tongva hut, or ki, was usually constructed with tule or willow reeds and resembled a large dome in its design. A Tongva canoe, or ti’at, was made of wooden planks sown together with tar or pine pitch and could hold as many as twelve people. Ti’ats were used for fishing and for transport to the islands that are now known as Catalina and the Channel Islands. The Tongva ki was very architecturally efficient because of its design, which gave the structural stability to withstand an earthquake.

American natives, California. Photo by H. A. Brooks, 1916.

American natives, California. Photo by H. A. Brooks, 1916

James Corner’s thoughtful plan based its design on the theme of the arroyo, the local geology, and the Tongvas heritage. The park is dominated by a series of winding paths and modest hills thickly planted with a mixture of native and drought-tolerant native plants. Original plants on the lot were preserved, and over 300 trees and thousands of plants were added to flush out the landscape.

Tongva Park Plan

Tongva Park Plan

Water features, as reminders of the arroyo, are potable, so that children can play in them. LED lighting reduces energy use, and materials were carefully selected to focus on non-tropical hardwoods that have been sustainably forested. Local aggregates and stone, recycled content materials, low-VOC paints, sealants, and adhesives, and soy-based anti-graffiti coatings are all components of this green symphony. A small park right at the foot of City Hall is called Ken Genser Square, in honor of the city’s late mayor. The fountain at its main entrance seems to be a favorite gathering place for seagulls.

Children Playing with Water - Tongva Park. Copyright Rick and Ruth Meghiddo 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Children Playing with Water – Tongva Park

The central public art feature by artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Weather Field No. 1, is a site-specific sculpture composed of 49 telescoping stainless steel poles aligned in a highly ordered grid. Each pole supports a weather vane and anemometer. These finely tuned instruments are designed to accurately respond to prevailing wind conditions.  Weather Field strikes a balance between the order of the instrument grid and the unpredictable response of its kinetic elements to produce its own microclimate. It is a constant reminder of our connection to both local and global conditions.

Weather Field No. 1. Copyright Rick and Ruth Meghiddo 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Weather Field No. 1
Artist: Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle

I went to shoot for the third time. I decided that the time had come to produce a short documentary that would link the park with people, with the invisible spirit of the Tongvas, and with the metaphor of the Angelbird.