Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Silver Lake's Michael Maltzan Architecture at the Museum of Modern Art

Exhibition entrance at MOMA

From December 2010's Los Feliz Ledger:

Silver Lake-based architect Michael Maltzan’s project for downtown’s Inner-City Arts is front-and-center at New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s (MOMA) exhibition Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement. Running now through Jan. 3rd, the show presents 11 architectural projects from around the world that bring well-designed buildings to underserved, often impoverished communities. Although limited in scale and budget, the projects highlighted have had positive wide-reaching effect in terms of social, political and economic transformation.

The Inner-City Arts project began in 1993; Maltzan was commissioned to remake a former auto body shop on Skid Row into a new home for an after school arts program. He incorporated the body shop’s roll-up doors, making an aesthetically pleasing space that allows seamless movement between inside and outside. For the children who come to the center, the space’s openness is in direct contrast to the more institutional type buildings they typically occupy throughout the day. The building is purposefully all white and meant to enforce a sense of optimism and possibility for the future.

Over time, the now one-acre complex (a micro-city of creativity) has evolved from its modest beginnings. At MOMA, the exhibit maps the project’s evolution and includes a full-size model of the current building, design elevations and a wall-sized architectural photograph that shows Inner-City Arts in context, just east of downtown—an unlikely location for ambitious architecture of this caliber.
“It’s in an area of the city, which is anonymous for most people,” said the architect.

One of the tenets of modern architecture is the idea that architecture can advocate and partner in social change. Maltzan believes that while architecture should aspire to be progressive, the question of change is more complex.  “Change at times is good and is at times bad but it is always inevitable. It takes ambition, focus and hard work to make society in a more progressive way; architecture can be an agent in that way,” he said.

Maltzan and his firm have also received acclaim for two other socially conscious projects built for Los Angeles’ Skid Row Housing Trust, and the firm is now in the final stage of drawings for a third mixed-use effort for the Trust, the Star Apartments. For those that may miss the exhibition in New York, a comprehensive view is available on the museum’s website.