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Arts and Entertainment

Tacos, Nail Salons and Mini Malls at GOOD Design LA

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The Neighborhood Map hanging in GOOD's offices on Melrose (Photo by Emily Lerman for LAist)

GOOD is the model for the future. Or at least it should be. On Thursday, December 18, as part of their GOOD December events, they hosted GOOD Design LA. The room teemed with people full of energy and a love for Los Angeles. GOOD embodies the magic (and good) that occurs when a solid group of people with a passion for innovative and forward thinking, and problem solving come together with the ultimate goal of “giving a damn” (their tagline); and changing the world. As an avid reader and supporter of the magazine, the event at the GOOD space brought to life the names and faces behind GOOD’s fresh ideas and questions. GOOD succeeds overwhelmingly, in engaging people in what is good, and the GOOD Design LA event did the same. One attendee said he was there because his friend dragged him to a previous event at which time he had never heard of the magazine. Sure enough he was at the next event.

GOOD's own Casey Caplowe and Alissa Walker introduced different individuals who were all part of LA’s design world. GOOD assigned each speaker with a different LA issue, including Tacos, Traffic, Ugliness, Water and Pollution. Their responses offered insight about the topics while serving up unique yet seemingly feasible solutions.

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TACOS: So how do we solve the taco truck issue (covered extensively here on LAist)? Enrico Bressan of Artecnica said we need to identify the value opportunity of street vendors and find away to combine this with a service that benefits the community while also generating income for the vendor (such as recycling, curbside cleaning etc). Most interestingly was the introduction of a centralized social network that both street vendors and patrons could use. It would bring street vendors together when they were in need of services while also creating a dialog among patrons who want to know when and where they could track down some greasy taco goodness. It sounded like a craigslist meets Facebook/Yelp for taco truck land.

TRAFFIC: Frances Anderton, of KCRW's DnA and Dwell magazine tackled the traffic issue. Obviously a heavily discussed topic with many proposed solutions, Anderton took an interesting stance by placing the problem (and solution) in the context of childhood obesity. What’s the link? One way to address the traffic problem would be to encourage more children to walk or bike to school. In the last ten years, she said, the percentage of children to walk or bike to school has decreased dramatically (90% to 10%). What’s the reason for this drop? For the most part, schools are still located about the same distance from homes. The effect of this decrease can be seen, unsurprisingly, in an increase in childhood obesity. The solution? Anderton says it requires a change in our design of life while making people in LA feel more comfortable walking and biking on the streets. With 25% of morning traffic consisting of parents driving their kids to school, such a change seems feasible. Anderton addressed some of the arguments against allowing children to walk/bike to school citing fear of abductions as one. Based on her statistics on the small amount of actual abductions that occur, it seems ironic that the same parents who are so fearful of childhood abductions would also consider the much more likely effects that obesity, or even the extremely poor environmental state will have on their children in the long run. Anderton used a humorous approach at times and her own experiences walking her 4-year-old daughter to school to address this issue and since much of the audience did not have children, she concluded by explaining the need for increased education and participation to make people feel safer walking, biking and taking public transportation. This is especially important while we wait for many of these planned public transportation projects to come through.

GOOD's Melrose window front designed by panelist Barbara Bestor. (Photo by Emily Lerman for LAist)

UGLINESS: Barbara Bestor, the woman behind Intelligentsia Coffee, the Paper Magazine Pop-Up Store and the GOOD Offices on Melrose continued the discussion by addressing the "ugliness" issue in LA. "Everyone should experience strange beauty everyday" she began. Another huge fan and lover of the city, Bestor explained her obsession with mini-malls that are so characteristic of LA. She focused on their aesthetic potential by using mini-malls as art installations. She highlighted some current projects, one where she created a window displays in a mini-mall restaurant. Even her own office on Hyperion in Silver Lake, exemplifies this transformation from ugliness to art; she painted "OBAMA" across the outside of the hot pink building and outlined the letters in Christmas lights. Her discussion was particularly timely and relevant given the recession; it's time we focus on redevelopment projects, like the Watts Project, she says, since we no longer have funding like we did in the past. What does she need to make this vision a reality? "Someone who owns a mini-mall!"

WATER: Astrid Diehl from Silver Lake's Materials & Applications addressed LA's water shortage. She highlighted the fact that LA is currently constructed in such a way that as soon as water comes in during the few short periods of rainfall, it immediately leaves. Fittingly enough, she happened to be speaking during the week long rain spell. We need to let our water sink into the ground, and not back into the oceans! One way to start would be the construction of green roofs. "Slow It, Spread It, Sink It!" she concluded.


Geoff McFetridge literally illustrated his point with a real-time video of a hand painted nail salon sign. (Photo by Emily Lerman for LAist)

POLLUTION: The most unique and interesting presentation was by renowned graphic designer Geoff McFetridge. A resident of Atwater Village, McFetridge "got out of his car one day in Atwater, stopped and never left." That was twelve years ago," he added. Faced with the issue of pollution, McFetridge examined this in a visual context and discussed the "old" and "new" rhythms of LA. The old being what he says we see when we looked down the street and saw "nail salon, check cashing store, liquor store, nail salon, etc." The "new" rhythm? "Yoga studio, cafe, pilates studio, baby store, Coldstone" (personally, I think Pinkberry is doing more of such infiltration). Regardless, McFetrige clearly favored this bleakness created by the "old" rhythm. He used nail salon signage to illustrate his point and highlight the loss of character that accompanies ugly vinyl signs. He would prefer a hand painted one, and who's to argue? "If you can paint nails, can't you paint a sign?" Exactly. McFeteridge went even further by playing a video of him painting a nail salon sign in real-time throughout his presentation. And of course by the end, the sign was complete. While it is difficult to sum um his presentation in one word (except for maybe "nail salons") he left the audience with a good thought to ponder and now, no nail salon sign will go unnoticed.

In the spirit of change, problem solving is about engaging the community to find practical solutions to day-to-day and lifestyle issues and the GOOD Design LA did just that. Hopefully there will be many more similar events to come.