Thoughts From That Other Biennial, in California

Thoughts From That Other Biennial, in California

The Eco Center at Heron's Head Park, Toby Long Design

The California Design Biennial includes a well thought out spectrum of designers from the practical to the extraordinary.  Held this year at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, the fourth running of the event (which continues through October 31) has five categories: Fashion Design, Transportation Design, Graphic Design, Product Design and, for the first time, Architecture. Bravo to each curator for making every category work together. Frances Anderton, host of KCRW’s DnA: Design and Architecture radio series, was curator for the Architecture category.  Her selections address the social and community roles of building, like the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.  The large public facility, completed in 2009 by Safdie Rabines Architects, is open to hikers needing respite.

Hollenbeck Community Police Station, AC Martin

Another socially oriented project is Inner City Arts by Michael Maltzan.  Maltzan’s thoughtful design for this learning center near LA’s Skid Row creates a village-like composition of shifting geometries.  On the other side of the exhibition space is the Hollenbeck Replacement Police Station by AC Martin. The building’s staggering façade of tempered glass is a visual surprise considering its authoritative role. After leaving these projects, my eye was caught by a hanging installation of cut white paper. Bridging lace doilies and tectonics, the intricate geometric structure is a great example of art working with architecture.   It was made by Fat Fringe, a collaboration of design firm Layer and organization Materials & Applications.

In other categories I was immediately drawn to the extraordinary.  Michel Berandi’s neogothic fashion is presented by a mannequin wearing a fitted black leather outfit, a helmet and a beehive-like mass of hair. Behind the mannequin are four equally fascinating, and fantastical, prints based on the scene in front of them. In the quiet corner nearby sits the graphic presentation of design thinker Willem Henri Lucas.  Entitled, “Culture and Globalization,” it combines visual technique with data percentages; cleverly merging graphic design and education.