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LAist Interview: Jade Chang, Metropolis Magazine

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Jade Chang, 29, is the West Coast Editor of Metropolis, an architecture and design magazine that’s based in New York City. Her job is to search for stories in LA and throughout the West Coast. One of her most recent features takes a fascinating look at the set-shop of Warner Bros. studios; right now she is currently at work on what she calls "a secret project" and she is always on the lookout for new and interesting ideas to explore.

We came to know her in an only-in-LAist way: when we mourned the sold-out status of the Sing-a-Long Sound of Music at the Hollywood Bowl last month, Jade appeared in our inbox with a clever challenge that earned us our tickets. (Incidentally, we had a blast!) Since LAist by proxy introduced Jade to us, let us introduce Jade to you.

How did you come to work for Metropolis?

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After working at a dot-com and not becoming a millionaire, I started writing for various magazines and newspapers. My sister was in architecture school and interning at Metropolis - she introduced me to one of the editors there, Karen Steen (who just came out with a great book on the Crystal Cove cottages). I started writing for them and three years later, when they were looking for a West Coast editor, they asked me if I'd be interested.

What has been your favorite story to work on about LA?

I'm awful at choosing favorites of anything. I like stories that take me to unexpected places, or that end up being about something completely different than I originally intended. On the other hand, I wrote an article about mini-malls a couple of years ago that I still really like and still get occasional emails about from mini-mall lovers or haters.

Have your learned about or discovered anything about LA through your work that has been surprising?

I think it's the other way around - you stumble across surprises and secrets everyday just living in this city - eventually those come out in stories.

Where's the best place to write?

As nice as I try to make my home office, I still get the most work done in coffeeshops. There's just the right amount of distraction to keep me focused.

Is the architecture of LA easily defined? What are its hallmarks?

You could say that LA is defined by modernism or by Spanish Mission-style buildings or by stucco and you wouldn't really be wrong. The laist logo has City Hall, the Capitol Records building and the Disney Concert Hall in its logo, and those, in their singularity, seem to define LA architecture as much as the ranch-style tract homes in the Valley. But for me, and LA architecture buffs will probably disagree, it's the buildings like the Chateau Marmont and the apartments on Rossmore (El Royale and others) that tell me I'm in LA. They're very golden age of Hollywood - a 1930's set-designer's idea of grand and French. I especially love the ones in the seedier pockets of Hollywood that are starting to decay.

What is your favorite building in Los Angeles, and why?

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I love the Bradbury building for its Victorian vision of the future and its Ouija board legend, Union Station for its sense of being outside of place and time, and the DWP building for perfectly embodying what it is.

If you could live in any neighborhood or specific house in LA, where/which would you choose?

In the not-yet-renovated Griffith Observatory – I’d sleep up in the telescope room.

How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?

My family moved here when I was nine – I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, went to the opposite end of the country (upstate New York!) for college, and have been back off and on ever since. Right now I live in West Hollywood, right near Book Soup, but am always considering making a break for the coast (Venice) or downtown LA.

What's your preferred mode of transportation?

The car, the feet, the bike, the train - I like all forms of forward movement.

How often do you ride the MTA subway or light rail?

Not often enough.

What's your favorite movies that are based in LA?

Chinatown. Or, Boogie Nights + Punch Drunk Love - the yin and yang of the San Fernando Valley.

Best LA-themed book(s)?

The Crying of Lot 49.

Share your best celebrity sighting experience.

A couple of years ago I was looking through magazines at a newsstand on Sunset Blvd. Next to me was a defeated looking, 40-something man in sweatpants, a baseball hat emblazoned with the name of some movie and dark sunglasses. He was buying a big stack of trades and I thought to myself, "Poor guy, he's still trying so hard to make it in Hollywood." I bought my magazines, went to the coffee shop next door, and happened to sit right next to the same guy. He took off his sunglasses, turned towards me, and smiled. It turned out that the guy I thought was some striving dreamer always talking about his non-existent production deal was actually - Kevin Spacey.

In your opinion, what's the best alternate route to the 405?

La Cienega.

What's the best place to walk in LA?

Urban: Broadway in downtown LA. Anti-urban: The canyons - all of them.

It's 9:30 pm on Thursday. Where are you coming from and where are you going?

Usually, buying coffee so that I can stay up and finish an article that was probably due two days ago. This lazy, indulgent summer, 9:30 might find me right in the middle of a dinner party, opening another bottle of wine and settling in for a good night.

If you could live in LA during any era, when would it be?

A few hundred years from now - I want to know what happens next!

What's your beach of choice?

El Matador. But if you don't want to drive that far, the no-name stretch between Santa Monica and Venice is surprisingly okay.

What is the "center" of LA to you?

LA doesn't need a center - that's why it's the city of the future. We have a thousand centers and none at all.

If you were forced to live in a neighboring county,which would you choose? Ventura County is a wussy answer.

San Bernardino County - deep in the desert.

Los Angeles is often stereotyped as a hard place to find personal connections and make friends. Do you agree with that assessment? Do find it challenging to make new friends here?

People are friendly everywhere you go. If you come to LA expecting everyone to be shallow and silicone-filled, you'll soon find yourself jostling in line at the Roosevelt, cursing the city and secretly hoping to get a glimpse of Lindsay Lohan. If you come to LA knowing that people here are as amazing and as awful as people anywhere, you'll be open to meeting the good ones.

What is the city's greatest secret?

Its many different seasons.

Drinking, driving. They mix poorly, and yet they're inexorably linked. How do you handle this conflict?

Very poorly.

Describe your best LA dining experience:

I'm at the start of my most ambitious dining experience - my sister and I are going to eat at every restaurant on Olympic Blvd. in Koreatown. So far we've had very spicy soup and scorchingly hot squid. Best: Back in my restaurant reviewing days I had the chef's tasting menu in the shadow of the Central Library at Café Pinot - gorgeous in every way. That, or any grilled pork banh mi sandwich. Yum!

What do you have to say to East Coast supremacists?

Go away and stop driving up our housing prices.

Do you find the threat of earthquakes preferable to the threat of hurricanes and long winters?

Absolutely! Earthquakes are exciting - the ground shifts, there's a strange, heavy crackle in the air - whereas long winters are just months of ugly coats and dirty snow. I've never experienced a hurricane, but I'm sure they're preferable to long winters, too.

Where do you want to be when the Big One hits?

On a helicopter, watching the city shake.