Opera on the Rooftop Parking Long Beach Operas production of Les Enfants Terribles on the rooftop of the 2ND&PCH Shopping Mall

The Long Beach Opera did it again! The production of Les Enfants Terribles at the rooftop parking of the new 2ND & PCH Shopping Mall follows a long list of avant-garde creations by this cultural institution. It includes, among many others, productions such as Orpheus & Euridice (at the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool,) The Diary of Anne Frank (in two parking garages,) Fallujah (at the Army National Guard Armory,) Frida (at the Museum of Latin American Art,) and the Piazzolla-Ferrer’s Maria de Buenos Aires (at the Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro.)


In architecture, “adaptive reuse” refers to the repurposing of an existing structure for new use. I can see here an analogy. Following the steps of former LBO director Andreas Mitisek, LBO’s new director, James Darrah, created a fantastic spectacle amid a pandemic crisis by repurposing a parking area for an opera performance. 


Jean Cocteau wrote the Les Enfants Terribles novel in 1929. It is the story of two siblings, Elizabeth and Paul, who isolate themselves from the world. Growing up without a father and a bedridden mother, they live through several dramatic episodes that end up in tragedy. Out of this story, Philip Glass created an opera. Its representation by the Long Beach Opera is an out-of-the-box creation. 


The parking roof was laid out, including ten screens, speakers, projectors, and theatrical lighting. The music could also be listened from the 89.1 FM radio station in the car. Most of the vehicles were parked on the edges, at Covid-safe distance one from the other, while at the center were three pianists directed by Christopher Rountree, the lighting and sound control equipment, and the wardrobe.  


While the public was acceding the area, projected pre-recorded videos were seen on the screens. During the performance, a cameraman recorded close-ups of the actors, singers, and dancers, which were simultaneously projected over the screens. The performers moved between the cars, creating a completely immersive experience. 


This event reminded me of Luca Ronconi’s production of Orlando Furioso in various Italian and foreign town squares (such as Spoleto and Milan) during the 1970s. It then shattered the theatrical structures built up over centuries and brought theater back to the streets and city life settings. This production, besides its qualities, sends a powerful message for the rethinking of post-pandemic architecture and urbanism. 

Architecture and the Politics of Ideas Bernie Sanders Ideas Illustrated and its Meaning for Architecture

The world is at a critical moment. Architecture by itself can not generate the many solutions that is able to offer without a politically supported global plan. Enlighted and moral leadership are badly needed.

Thomas Jefferson’s Checkboard Towns

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City, 1935


“The only safeguard Democracy can have is a free, morally enlightened fearless minority. Fear is the real danger in any democracy.”

                                                                                          Frank Lloyd Wright

“Change does not depend on us (architects;) change depends on you (the people.)”

                                                                                         Luigi Pellegrin

Luigi Pellegrin’s ZEN Neighborhood, Palermo, 1970

Why “Architecture and the Politics of Ideas?”

Frank Lloyd Wright believed that architecture was a crusade on behalf of human civilization rather than a mere profession. In this sense, Thomas Jefferson was an architect, and so were Mahatma Gandhi and David Ben-Gurion.

Bruno Zevi thought that architecture and political ideas are indivisible, so much so that, at one point, he became a member of the Italian Parliament (Radical Party, 1987-1992) and a co-founder of the Liberal-Socialist Action Party in 1998.

Donald Trump’s ascension to power sounded a screeching alarm. It echoed the rise of Fascism with Mussolini, the ascent of Nazism in the early 1930s, and Fascist-Communism as led by Stalin in the Soviet Union and by Mao Tze-Tung in China. It echoed George Orwell’s 1984: “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. Big Brother is Watching You.”

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren bring leadership qualities that could help to invent the future with a wide vision and with greater optimism. Their cabinet may include people like Kamala Harris as Attorney General, John Biden as Secretary of State, and other intelligent politicians, such as Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, Marianne Williamson, Pete Buttigieg…It could include a still-to-be-found “new Daniel Patrick Moynihan.” It may also include a Republican such as John Kasich.

Why Bernie as number one? Because he thinks like a statesman. His broad agenda fits not only America’s long list of needs but also a world starving for leadership and direction. Climate change, sustainability, inequality, the arms race are not just American issues; they are global. If approaching them creatively, the planet could be transformed positively beyond anything we can think of today. Architecture could then play a pivotal role.

Stranger Things

'>Netflix Night IDA's "Awards Spotlight" Night at Netflix, in Beverly Hills

IDA’s “Awards Spotlight” event at Netflix’s quarters in Beverly Hills, organized by Amy Jelenko , was out of the ordinary. The spectacular staging was part and parcel of the panel’s presentation. While we listen to stories behind the scenes of four accomplished documentarians – Brian McGinn (Amanda Knox, Chef’s Table,) Ava Du Berney (13th,) Greg Whiteley (Last Chance U) and Ryan White (The Keepers) – moderated by IDA’s Executive Director, Simon Kilmurry,  the eye wandered through a multitude of lights, sounds and shapes. The catering added delight to the senses.

Documentarians are an extraordinary mix of artists-journalists with a passion for the truth, no matter how bitter that may be. Quite frequently they risk their lives to get the footage, of which a small fraction is distilled through long days of editing. A sample story was provided to us by John McDonald, director of “Mule,” now in post-production. Pilar Galvez also had interesting stories related to her Latin-American background. To observe a group like this in that kind of atmosphere was more than unusual: it was surreal.