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February 28, 2014
When Dwell and Volvo set out to format our discussion around the Future of Mobility at the Palm Springs Art Museum during Modernism Week last month, we studied the ways in which our cities are designed around mobility. In turn, we explored how our mobility needs affect our urban, suburban, and rural environments. In Los Angeles, for example, each and every city block, save for green space, is set on a grid around streets and freeways. Lanes extend as far as they can from the foot of the L.A. basin’s mountains to the edge of the sea (one unbuilt design from 1965 suggested a freeway extension into the Santa Monica Bay—wisely it was scrapped). However, the city is slowly undergoing changes to prepare for our mobile future, which leads us to wonder how this will affect urban architecture and design in the coming years. “We have to stop thinking in existing paradigms, and rethink new paradigms,” says architect Alvin Huang, who was joined on the panel by columnist and architecture critic Greg Goldin, Anders Tylman-Mikievich of the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center in Los Angeles, and automotive editor and writer Paul Meyers. Huang cited the mobility systems in cities such as London, whose transportation system continues to serve as a model for more gridlocked cities.

To both welcome and bid bon voyage to passengers headed into and out of LAX, artist Paul Tzanetopoulos, as part of an airport redesign led by architect Ted Tokio Tanaka, created columns of light that he calls "color therapy" for travelers. "The colors are all taken from our cultural fabric—the flags of the nations. We have many more liknesses than differences," says Tzanetopoulos, who spoke at Dwell on Design in 2013. The sculptures elevated LAX to an instantly recognizable travel hub honoring the ways in which air travel connects our world.

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Designed by William Pereira, the architect of the iconic theme building and control tower at LAX and the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco, this sweeping Googie roof was originally destined for the airport but was diverted for use at a gas station in Beverly Hills.

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Despite prefab's ability to cut down on site construction time, delivery of components is still reliant mainly on trucks—it's a pure intersection of design and mobility. It took eight flatbeds to deliver the Marmol Radziner–designed prefab house in Desert Hot Springs, now owned by Kristopher Dukes and Matt Jacobsen, who hosted a private dinner for Dwell and Volvo during Modernism Week. The topics of conversation? Mobility and design, technology, and the future.

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A 1963 design for a never-built Los Angeles monorail reflects the style of the autos, and even the houses, of the era. "Monorails are a very clever idea, because they’re really inexpensive," says Greg Goldin. "From an engineering standpoint, they're perfectly plausible, and from a design point of view they're really beautiful and quite smart."

Image courtesy of Never Built Los Angeles by Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell.

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If built, the Causeway, which designed a freeway that would be supported by man-made islands and reach into Santa Monica Bay, would have created an unusual future indeed. Image courtesy City of Santa Monica.

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Cayla Ferari and John Breznicky started selling their Lineposters depicting major cities' transit systems on the streets of New York. When simplified and abstracted just to its essential line, the London system, which architect and Palm Springs panelist Alvin Huang cites as a model for future transportation approaches, becomes a work of urban art in itself. Check out their website to see how other cities match up.

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Among the most well-known images of Charles and Ray Eames is the pair on a Velocette Motorcycle belonging to the son of their friend, Warren Kerkman, circa 1948. The couple invited design inspiration from everywhere, including the automotive world. Ray in particular had her favorites. “The Jeep, now, that's an automobile America should be proud of,” she once said.

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tzanetopoulos lax2 paiva

To both welcome and bid bon voyage to passengers headed into and out of LAX, artist Paul Tzanetopoulos, as part of an airport redesign led by architect Ted Tokio Tanaka, created columns of light that he calls "color therapy" for travelers. "The colors are all taken from our cultural fabric—the flags of the nations. We have many more liknesses than differences," says Tzanetopoulos, who spoke at Dwell on Design in 2013. The sculptures elevated LAX to an instantly recognizable travel hub honoring the ways in which air travel connects our world.

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