Instructor: Go Hasegawa, A.UD Visiting Professor

A House in Los Angeles: beyond the dilemma of modernity vs. the vernacular


This studio will focus on the idea of “proto-type-ology” through the design of house in Los Angeles.

“proto-type-ology” -- Between Case Study Houses and the Dingbat
When we think of a quintessential Los Angeles house, the first images that quickly come to mind are those of the famous Case Study Houses of the mid 20th century, which were designed as ideal prototypes for a new society. And even though we remain totally fascinated by those ambitions we also know that those beautiful houses did not broadly succeed in generating an enduring Los Angeles house typology.

A contrasting example is the ‘Dingbat’, a ubiquitous vernacular multi-family housing type comprising a simple, 2 or 3 level, plastered wood frame box raised on pilotis allowing “tuck-under” street-front parking. The modest typology is also a versatile one, with myriad examples of specific variations to the universal idea depending on the situation. And yet despite its prevalence it is difficult to say who, or what started the ‘Dingbat’ and what its prototype might be.

And speaking of prototype and typology, there is a sense that the terms are commonly thought of as mutually exclusive, that they represent totally different ideas. Indeed, as a rule of thumb, architects may even be separated within two categories that see the ideas as oppositional. One category represents the aspiration of modernity in architecture and its desire to break with the past, while the other represents an interest in understanding and evolving its genealogies. Of course there is an in-between category of architects, that pays attention to the both poles, but in reality establishing compatibilities and reconciliations is a difficult one.

With this in mind, the studio will begin with “proto-type-ology” as its hypothesis. The aim is to challenge us to think in a continuous feedback loop between the architectural prototype and typology, beyond the dilemma that squares modernity against the vernacular.

A House in Los Angeles

In this studio each student will choose one site in Los Angeles among those existing of either Case Study Houses, or generic Dingbats. The site selection must be a conscious one and it should be made with the idea of exploring an opposite approach and tendency to that which already exists. So, for those students who choose a Case Study House site, the project friction will be between architectural typology and the vernacular, and for those who choose a Dingbat site, the project friction will be between the prototype and modernity - these are difficult pairings that defy the conventional relationships to their host sites and identification of their possible mutualities will not be a simple task. Moreover, students will be required to rigorously develop the concept of “proto-type-ology” in her, or his, own specific way. To these ends we will discuss ideas of modernity and the vernacular in our time, and how we might hybridize those ideas. We will also need to illustrate a new image of life in Los Angeles, which would necessarily be substantially different from that of the mid 20th century.