Sunday, July 17, 2011

Artsy Summer: LTDW

Hitoshi Abe is the chair of UCLA's department of Architecture and Urban Design. Since he came a few years ago, my office has worked with him on design forums and events having to do with Japan. Little Tokyo Design Week is his brainchild, conceived two years ago; it came to life this weekend in an extravaganza of artsy and Japanese-y events with the theme of "Future City," to "celebrate the power and energy of cutting-edge design and technology."

I opted to attend Saturday's symposium, entitled, "Ultra Exposure," instead of the Beauty CULTure exhibition over on the Westside, in fear of "Carmageddon" (which proved unfounded despite ALL the hype), and found it at once enlightening, engaging, and entertaining. I enjoy architectural discourse but admit that it's quite abstract -- or, rather more simply, highfalutin' (as in: the future is invisible; traces of presentness; utopia vs. dystopia; the spectacle of the spectacular, etc).

Luckily I got to go to the VIP reception at the JACCC Japanese Garden, where I got to talk a bit to one of the speakers, whose paper I found fascinating.  He spoke about the Japanese and loss of ideals and purpose, which created a postwar society that's mostly based on economic and material gain.  I think there are a lot of truths to that argument and find it interesting that a Japanese would make such a sweeping statement about his own national identity.  I also agree that the 3/11 earthquake and current recovery efforts will truly shake that staus quo and that a new Japan will emerge from the rubble.  I usually wouldn't approach someone, but speaker or professor or architect or whatever, a person is still a person, so I gathered up the pluck and started talking; it was a neat experience.

Various exhibits were housed in container pods throughout Little Tokyo. I only went to one: Tokyo/LA Houses, upon the recommendation of one of my co-workers. It was a showcase of residential architectural design that included photographs, floor plans, and models of a lot of different homes -- from large spaces in the Palisades overlooking the ocean to homes in Venice to small-scale homes in Tokyo, to a tower-shaped home in the woods to a bi-level cut into the side of a mountain. It was all glorious -- as in, one day I hope to live in such a space!

When the sun went down I met up with M+M (who had driven up from SD to see Les Miserables with some friends) and we all went sake tasting. I had a few interesting, new-to-me beers, including Echigo red ale and stout and Coedo's sweet potato beer. By the time we were done with the sampling of 10 or more beers and sake, we were ready for karaoke: always a good way to end an evening out in Little Tokyo. I tried my hand (voice?!) at Taylor Swift and Jason Mraz songs but also kept it to the regular standbys, Mr. Brightside and Dancing Queen.

A productive evening on all counts (professional, academic, social, vocal) -- with another busy day ahead!  Good thing I get Monday off.

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