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June 20, 2011

On Saturday I had the good luck to wander around the East side of L.A. on the Materials and Applications Studio Tour. Though it's always nice to see how creative types work, what was most fascinating about this tour was that each of the firms on it doesn't practice architecture in any typical way. They're just as interested in art installations as they are in slick residences. In some cases, they could scotch residences all together and only do scrappy, urbanistic work. What's more, each firm—from the design-build work of architeture outfits Oyler Wu Collaborative and Urban Operations, to the public art work of Ball Nogues Studio and Didier Hess, to the biomorphic tech work of P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S—views architecture as the point of departure for their work, not necessarily the endpoint. It was a great tour and just one of the many events taking place out here as part of the L.A. Design Festival. With Dwell on Design still to come, there's plenty of great design events right now in Los Angeles.

This design tour started out strong at Materials and Applications HQ with this hot wristband. I loved the attention to detail in the printing here and was an auspicious sign right out of the gates.

This design tour started out strong at Materials and Applications HQ with this hot wristband. I loved the attention to detail in the printing here and was an auspicious sign right out of the gates.

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Here's a view of Materials and Applications in Silver Lake as seen from their porch. The ramshackle front yard with its strong natural elements (the hedge and the pond) as well as the steel frame structure give a pretty good idea what the firm's approach

Here's a view of Materials and Applications in Silver Lake as seen from their porch. The ramshackle front yard with its strong natural elements (the hedge and the pond) as well as the steel frame structure give a pretty good idea what the firm's approach to installation, technology, and making looks like.

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Oliver Hess, one of the principals of Materials and Applications, led us through some of his firm's recent work in the studio downstairs.

Oliver Hess, one of the principals of Materials and Applications, led us through some of his firm's recent work in the studio downstairs.

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One project he discussed at length is an installation on the facade of a firehouse in Baldwin Hills. Initially, he wanted plants creeping up the facade but had to settle for these patinated metal replicas replete with LED lights. The first paper models of

One project he discussed at length is an installation on the facade of a firehouse in Baldwin Hills. Initially, he wanted plants creeping up the facade but had to settle for these patinated metal replicas replete with LED lights. The first paper models of the flowers are at the end of the table.

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Can't really say what all this stuff heaped in the Materials and Applications offices are used for, but I loved the juxtaposition of the cut metal and the salad bowl of Wiffle Balls.

Can't really say what all this stuff heaped in the Materials and Applications offices are used for, but I loved the juxtaposition of the cut metal and the salad bowl of Wiffle Balls.

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The first three stops on the tour in Silver Lake were all within walking distance of one another. Here's a portion of the tour headed up to the offices of P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S on N. Occidental Blvd.

The first three stops on the tour in Silver Lake were all within walking distance of one another. Here's a portion of the tour headed up to the offices of P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S on N. Occidental Blvd.

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Once we arrived at P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S, we were met by Marcelo Spina who showed us his firm's work in organic and more "spiky" forms. They're quite technically savvy there, and much of their design is to do with advanced computer modeling. You can see prototy

Once we arrived at P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S, we were met by Marcelo Spina who showed us his firm's work in organic and more "spiky" forms. They're quite technically savvy there, and much of their design is to do with advanced computer modeling. You can see prototypes and play with new materials on the wall behind Marcelo. A very different vibe than Materials and Applications.

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Here's a lamp that P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S did for the recent Venice Architecture Biennale. Marcelo told us about the processes—vacuum molding, bending, etc.—that go into the product.

Here's a lamp that P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S did for the recent Venice Architecture Biennale. Marcelo told us about the processes—vacuum molding, bending, etc.—that go into the product.

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We traipsed a good several blocks in the L.A. heat to get to our next destination: the home and office of John Southern and his firm <a href="http://urbanops.org/">Urban Operations</a>.

We traipsed a good several blocks in the L.A. heat to get to our next destination: the home and office of John Southern and his firm Urban Operations.

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The design-build firm specializes in residential work, but this model here is a cast for a concrete planter for a design for a park at nearby Sunset Junction. Their scheme wasn't ultimately chosen, but I liked the nearly topographic form that the cast lea

The design-build firm specializes in residential work, but this model here is a cast for a concrete planter for a design for a park at nearby Sunset Junction. Their scheme wasn't ultimately chosen, but I liked the nearly topographic form that the cast leaves behind for the planter.

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As we headed back to our cars it only took half a block to come across one of Urban Operations' projects: this pocket park on Silver Lake Blvd. It had been just a triangle of asphalt for ages before Southern and his team transformed it into a lovely lands

As we headed back to our cars it only took half a block to come across one of Urban Operations' projects: this pocket park on Silver Lake Blvd. It had been just a triangle of asphalt for ages before Southern and his team transformed it into a lovely landscape.

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You get a clue that metal fabrication is a particular skill of <a href="http://oylerwu.com/">Oyler Wu Collaborative</a> as soon as you show up. The layered, tectonic fence that surrounds their home and studio is just a taste of the kind of work that they

You get a clue that metal fabrication is a particular skill of Oyler Wu Collaborative as soon as you show up. The layered, tectonic fence that surrounds their home and studio is just a taste of the kind of work that they do in art installations and on the facades of buildings.

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Dwayne Oyler took me out back of his house to show me a graduation pavilion for the Southern California Institute of Architecture that should go under construction next week. It's an impressive model and organized around the principles that underpin knitt

Dwayne Oyler took me out back of his house to show me a graduation pavilion for the Southern California Institute of Architecture that should go under construction next week. It's an impressive model and organized around the principles that underpin knitting. Can't wait to see it finished.

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Little surprise that model-making should also be one of their strong suits.

Little surprise that model-making should also be one of their strong suits.

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The final stop on the tour was at the downtown offices of the architecture/art/design firm <a href="http://www.ball-nogues.com/">Ball Nogues</a>. Gaston Nogues was there with his son to show us around the dynamic, messy space.

The final stop on the tour was at the downtown offices of the architecture/art/design firm Ball Nogues. Gaston Nogues was there with his son to show us around the dynamic, messy space.

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This gives you an idea of the space that keeps the team hard at work. I loved all the mismatched chairs, tools scattered about, and surfeit of models and mockups. Rather the opposite of the <i>comme il faut</i> architecture offices you see in movies.

This gives you an idea of the space that keeps the team hard at work. I loved all the mismatched chairs, tools scattered about, and surfeit of models and mockups. Rather the opposite of the comme il faut architecture offices you see in movies.

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This model is a bit of Glob, a paper pulp product they mix up at Ball Nogues and then cast over balloons. The inspiration for this material, and its subsequent art installation, was paper drink carrying trays you might get to tote a quartet of Big Gulps.<

This model is a bit of Glob, a paper pulp product they mix up at Ball Nogues and then cast over balloons. The inspiration for this material, and its subsequent art installation, was paper drink carrying trays you might get to tote a quartet of Big Gulps. 

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This design tour started out strong at Materials and Applications HQ with this hot wristband. I loved the attention to detail in the printing here and was an auspicious sign right out of the gates.

This design tour started out strong at Materials and Applications HQ with this hot wristband. I loved the attention to detail in the printing here and was an auspicious sign right out of the gates.

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