Re-imagining Chinatown

By Sarah Rich / Published by Dwell
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If you are in Los Angeles this weekend (or any time before September 5), be sure to pay a visit to Fifth Floor Gallery to take part in the new interactive exhibition Re-imagining Chinatown by urban planner and artist James Rojas.

A long-time community advocate and planner in LA, Rojas has spent most of his career focused on the influence of Latino communities and culture on urban planning and design. He has launched several initiatives to promote better urban design in under-served areas of LA, and an integral part of each of his projects is to welcome the involvement of community members in the process of improving their own neighborhoods.

The upcoming Fifth Floor Gallery exhibition is an extension of his mission to create a participatory urban planning process in LA. While the space and the physical components of the project exist within a fine art context, Rojas's intention is to use art as the medium and the venue to invite a month-long collaborative public forum where Chinatown's future will be jointly conceived.




The focal point of the exhibition will be a 4-foot by 8-foot model of the downtown district (in brilliant colors somewhat reminiscent of the architectural gelatin molds created by UK duo Bompas & Parr). Rojas has set in place a number of existing elements that define the area, establishing a starting point for participants. From shelves around the display, gallery visitors will be able to pick from a supply of additional model buildings and add them to the display, helping to shape the crowd-sourced vision for the future of Chinatown.

Over the course of the month, there will be a number of events in which the community can contribute ideas and craft their own buildings for the continued development of the model. More info can be found at

Sarah Rich


When not working in design, Sarah Rich writes, talks and forecasts about food and consumer culture.

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