Harvard Design: Los Angeles began on Thursday evening, November 8, 2012, with temperatures averaging around 60 degrees, 150 GSD alumni, faculty, staff, and friends descended upon the Skybar Lounge at the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood, to kick-off a weekend of connection, discussion, and urban exploration. The star-studded guest list came from near and far, with forty-four traveling within Los Angeles and two traveling from Hong Kong– the opening night was all about reconnecting.
The weekend program began in earnest on Friday at Frank Gehry’s (MArch ’57) Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles. Brian Aammoth (MArch ’88) of Gehry Partners, LLP, kicked things off with an overview of the design process. Ron Ostberg (MArch’68 and GSD Alumni Council Chair), Martha Welborne (LF ’92), and Councilwoman Jan Perry welcomed alumni on behalf of the Alumni Council and the city. Small group tours followed.
Local Angelenos shared an insider’s view of downtown Los Angeles with walking tours led by Bill Fain (MAUD ’75), Scott Johnson (MArch ’75), Michael Lehrer (MArch ’78), and Mark Rios (MArch ’82, MLA ’82). Michael Maltzan (MArch ’88), Bob Bates (Founder ICA), and Joseph Collins (President and CEO of ICA) wowed alumni with the impact of the Inner City Arts Campus, a culturally significant project that serves as an oasis of serenity and learning in downtown Los Angeles.
The Recent Graduate Happy Hour provided a great opportunity for the younger generation to swap war stories and reconnect – Michael Hays said it was the best part of his weekend! Others connected and debated over extended dinners at two local venues. According to Jim Wilson (MArch ’93), “My favorite event, without a doubt, was the private dinner on Friday night– an experience I will never forget.”
Breakfast on the beach kicked-off Saturday’s events at the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, where Michael Hayes served as master of ceremonies. Dean Mohsen Mostafavi spoke enthusiastically about the importance of bringing this programming to California, where the second largest concentration of GSD alumni are located. He also spent time discussing new initiatives and programs that are taking place at the GSD, as well as upcoming programs. John Irving (AB ’83, MBA ’89 and GSD Campaign Chair) spoke next and delivered a provocative vision for the upcoming campaign followed by Ron Druker (LF ’76 and Strategic Planning Committee Chair), who provided a well-charted update on how the GSD’s physical space might be able to adapt to the changes happening within design education.
The morning’s panel, The Future of Design Technology, was insightfully curated by Andrew Witt (MDesS ’02, MArch ’07). It featured engaging debate about the role of simulation in design among local alumni in the sector. Finally, before lunch, Mia Lehrer, MLA ’79, graciously provided historical context for this significant beach house on California’s gold coast.
After lunch, Mariana Ibanez, Associate Professor of Architecture, presented current student work. With an impressive array of graphic images streaming in the background, she conjured an environment at the GSD today that supports intellectual provocation, diversity of thought, and productive, engaging debate.
The afternoon’s panel, The Future of Cities and Urbanization, curated by Charles Waldheim and Diane Davis, had a luminary quality. The diversity of opinions and experiences led to an animated discussion around the themes of scale, risk, and resilience in today’s cities. The younger generation was given the last word, when Corey Zehngebot (MArch ’09) fervently defended the vitality of the street in Boston. Laughter ensued as alumni, friends, and guests packed up to prepare for evening festivities.
Saturday evening, temperatures dropped to an unseasonable 40 degrees, requiring extra heaters in the courtyard of the Hammer Museum for that evening’s Big Bash. Highlights included the Hammer’s current exhibition and Dean Mostafavi’s toast celebrating the local GSD community, reflecting on plans for future global weekends, and finally embracing “the queen of green”, Cornelia Oberlander (LArch ‘47), the grand dame of Canadian landscape architecture, who regaled fellow attendees with her seasoned perspective on design today.
The weekend was a resounding success and reinforced the GSD’s global reach and ability to impact societal change through design excellence. All those in attendance saw first hand, the impact of their fellow alumni’s works during Friday’s tours. They heard the impact of fellow alumni’s thought leadership during Saturday’s panel discussions. No one walked away untouched. It was a weekend to remember, but there will be more!
Although we are often reminded through intermittent articles and newsletters about the significance the GSD has in the design world, it is not until you sit amongst those making the news that you realize the power that we as graduates have. “
--Kimberly J Everett, MUP ’98, Hong Kong
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Instigations: Engaging Architecture, Landscape, and the City
The creative imagination is not solely based on the intuitive capacities of individuals. One of the tasks of design education is to help provide the tools, techniques, and methods that enhance constructed imagination. At the same time, the modes and practices of design need to confront the challenges of our contemporary societies. The commitment to societal engagement through design excellence is at the core of the pedagogy at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. This volume celebrating the first seventy-five years of the GSD presents episodes in a rich history along with selected looks at current and future lines of teaching and research; these views reflect the constant oscillation between the pragmatic realities and the imagined yet never realized ideal that lies at the heart of design. Our aspirations are demonstrated through a series of ideas, projects, practices—INSTIGATIONS—that reflect the mission of the GSD to reimagine and construct better futures.