This past July the Echo Park Historical Society hosted a meeting at which several architects spoke about current or recently completed projects in the neighborhood. The meeting was held in the gutted industrial space of an old building on Glendale Boulevard. The building soon will be turned into condos, and while everyone is always so appalled to hear that their favorite old bank or church or whatever is about to go condo (myself included) I applaud the trend toward adaptive reuse.
So we sat inside the great gutted barrel of a building and heard about the future of built Echo Park. If you didnít get there in time to nab a chair you got your clothes significantly dirty leaning against the wall or sitting on the floor. One of the presenters was Louis Montoya of Montoya-Turin designers. I had long admired a project I saw evolving on Echo Park Avenue in which they turned what looked like a tear-down shack into a sleek shiny new toy of a structure, which is barely visible from the street now that the front garden trees have grown in. Itís a new spot of green space and vitality just about half a dozen door south of the chrome fence I described last week in Chicken Corner. In any case, I was struck by a couple of comments Montoya made, the first being that he and his partner (in work and life) Laurent Turin were designing homes that did not have a front door: true indoor-out-of-doors spaces that were planned with great sensitivity to the specific conditions of their sites. The second comment was the most sustainable structure is one that already exists. The kinds of things everyone knows and no one thinks about.
I emailed Louis and Laurent some further questions about designing spaces in Echo Park and in general. They speak with one voice. Their responses follow in a Chicken Corner Micro-Interview.