Every year hundreds, sometimes thousands, of Vaux’s swifts make a nightly stay a few blocks from our Downtown Los Angeles office. The migrating birds bed down for the night on their way from the Pacific Northwest to Central America for the winter. The birds are known for roosting communally in hollowed-out trees, but in Downtown LA they roost in old, brick-lined chimneys—the brick offers a secure grip for the birds while clinging onto the walls (see photo).
If they return in late September this year – and we hope they will – you might spot them around nightfall as they swirl around in the air and then descend, all at once in spiral, into the chimney-bird-hotel for the night.
For more information on Los Angeles wildlife check out SoCal Wild where you can learn more about the Vaux’s swifts, or learn how to volunteer and help survey the local population of bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel Mountains. Also coming up is Bird LA Day on May 7, 2016, when the Ace Hotel hosts Birds & Beer, a 21 and older event on their rooftop bar, when attendees are invited to speak with National Park Service bird experts, perched with a bird’s eye view of the city.
In this excerpt from my 2012 short film, Olympic & Western: A Primer on the Typographic Order and an Argument for its Proper Usage in the Built Environment, I wonder about the color chosen by Metro for the then-recently-completed Expo Line, spanning from Downtown Los Angeles to Culver City.
The color in question – Pantone 2985 – seemed to be way too close in hue to the established color used for the Blue Line – Pantone 285. Imagine the confusion of winding up in Long Beach instead of Culver City. Someone finally noticed the absurdity of the similarity of colors between the two lines. Metro solved the issue by adding a distinct “E” to all Expo Line signage in mid-2015. However, with Phase 2 of the Expo Line opening up early this year, the train will go to the beach in Santa Monica, perhaps deserving a new name.
The solution should be obvious: the train to the beach should be color coded and called the Tan Line.
Photo by Heejae Lee
Whether it’s unexpected plants blooming across the city or new art pieces and murals popping up across building corners, Los Angeles provides never-ending opportunities for discovering a new perspective. In the search for the unseen and overlooked, I find creative inspirations that directly translate into my work as a designer.
Photo: Heejae Lee
For example, I recently came across an unexpected act of urban intervention, a crosswalk signal altered into a wholly new experience. Although I use crosswalks daily, I admit I barely take notice of crosswalk signal buttons. But Spanish designer Alfredo Adan saw an opportunity to reconnect pedestrians with infrastructure: Adan is altering Los Angeles city crosswalks into “Walk Bumps”, a “Fist Bump to Cross” experience that turns the mundane into a humorous physical interaction.
Over the weekend I attended CicLAvia, the citywide community bicycling event advertised as the “Heart of LA” ride. And as I traveled along Spring and 1st Street by bicycle, I began noticing and appreciating the same streets I pass by every day by car with a whole new perspective. Citywide coalitions/events like CicLAvia are valuable because it gives people an opportunity to interact with LA’s urban landscape in a way you’d never notice when traveling by car. And just like the Walk Bump installations, CicLAvia shakes our expectations and perspectives, reminding us even in the known and recognizable lies opportunity for the novel if we only take the time and effort to look with fresh eyes.
Click infographic to preview full size.
I stand at our office window at the end of the day, watching autumn’s golden light descend onto the city. Even in the daytime hours, I can view from my perch the patterns of angled light and shadow against the buildings and sidewalks – nature’s quiet pronouncement of a new season at hand. However, when I step outside the unwelcome heat reminds me summer has her own calendar. The city emanates our area’s lingering heatwave. The Southland’s record breaking temperatures puts many of us into hibernation mode, as we escape to our air-conditioned offices, homes, or shopping centers in hopes the heatwave will finally end.
“Any day now,” I tell myself. “Soon.”
It’s no surprise discussions about the heat leads to the hot-button topic of climate change. While a surprisingly significant portion of Americans remain unconvinced about the subject, scientists have reached a consensus about global warming. Scientists turn to historical data on climatic patterns to understand the precipitation and temperature changes we are experiencing today. Nature, as it turns out, has been recording environmental changes for us.
The tree rings of old trees provide dendroclimatologists (the climate scientists who study trees) with up to hundreds of years of data, cycles of dry and wet seasons recorded into a concentric database of wood. Dendroclimatologists study the pattern of wide and narrow rings to measure extreme weather cycles of heat and drought, including their frequency and length. This information, and layers of other historical data, are fed into forecast models for anticipating future possibilities, including drought, and water management.
The debate on climate change does not end with people’s acceptance or denial. I am fascinated by the question amongst “believers” about whether human activities have contributed to this condition. Studies have examined the natural cycles of the earth’s temperature and scientists cannot explain the warming trends of the last 50 years based upon natural causes alone.
We are told however that it is not too late for action on climate change. But if the debate is being shaped by culture versus science, can we close the cultural divide in time to develop solutions that will make a difference to the planet?
All photos: Calvin Abe
Yesterday, I decided to drive over to the industrial area of Downtown Los Angeles, near East LA and the City of Vernon. My office is now located in the central part of Downtown LA after our move from Culver City almost 2 years ago. I can easily say we definitely work in an urban environment. Culver City feels suburban in comparison now.
There is so much residential construction and future developments being planned in LA today it’s hard to keep track of everything that is happening. Try walking the streets of Downtown LA now and you’ll experience a renewed energy, youthfulness, and urban diversity that was long absent (the food is great also). However, walking the industrial area after work, I found a wonderful peacefulness and quiet. I can imagine this area becoming the next urban residential enclave in the next 50 years. Just dreaming…