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November 30, 2010

Over there sits the chair

On her way to Thanksgiving at Roseland, VA, Chicken Corner stopped in a Charlottesville commercial strip to buy kabocha squash (not found). Next to the bustling Whole Foods, was the modestly named Book Room, which housed the biggest pulp fiction collection CC has ever seen: thrillers, mysteries, fantasy, organized into subgenres -- the headier bookshops near the University of Virginia being located a couple of miles farther into town. And there was the chair. Chicken Corner might have sat, made a commitment, but the consequences seemed so...eerie. Better to find the trade fiction shelves, say hello to the touchstones. And stay on Earth.

November 24, 2010

The quick and the nerdiest

This is Sparkle. I intended to take a nice portrait-snapshot of this pretty, silver-feathered chicken, to show the clarity in her eyes, the bright calm way she sometimes expresses her curiosity. But the nerd in her refused to allow the cool-girl chicken to be photographed. She kept chasing the camera (an iPhone). "What me? You want to take my picture? My picture? Let me get closer then, no a little closer even. How do I look? How do I look? What do you have inside that camera anyway?" So this is what we get, a portrait of Sparkle as nerd, a young chicken in motion, getting her picture took.

November 23, 2010

EP Avenue workout


Sunday afternoon my daughter and dog and I went for a walk down Echo Park Avenue. On the way, we met a neighbor named Ryan, who had found a sturdy bar for his heavy bag outside the Food market. He let me take his picture on condition I send it to him. Then Madeleine, Chyla, and I continued on our way to Delilah cafe, where patrons were pounding back peanutbutter cupcakes and whatnots. Perhaps it was the colder weather, but the street scene up and down the avenue was markedly more subdued than last weekend, when there were tables set up in front of all the shops, a country-music party at the Echo Outpost, dozens of chess players at Echo Park Lake, everyone walking their dogs. This week, at 3 p.m. it was long shadows and quiet, making Ryan's workout seem oddly private. Our walk, too.

November 16, 2010

The doors


I have been walking past this odd little poetic structure -- greenhouse? secret closet? -- for who knows how long without noticing. Then I looked up the other day and saw it on a private walkway toward a house placed well off the street (in Echo Park). Built of old doors it makes me think of another mysterious tiny building I blogged about in September 2006 in a post titled Six doors to somewhere.

chromekiosk.jpg Whereas today's closet-sized standalone room is all glass and transparency, its secrets ethereal, the Chrome Kiosk (of four years ago) was shut tight from view, a gleaming exclamation point of mystery. Nowadays, Six Doors is in disrepair, its interior no longer hidden from view. Its secrets have fled (perhaps). Not so the little glass house.(Photo at left by Cindy Bennett.)





Eco Echo Home Tour

Sunday: Chicken Corner was a home tourist, attending the Echo Park Historical Society's Urban Sustainable Living Tour. Formerly a member of EPHS's board, she went as a civilian, delighted by this year's concept of eco-friendly adaptations for older houses. There were walls made of seashell plaster; a gorgeous floor of "reclaimed" wood; an urban farm with 17 chickens and about as many raised vegetable beds, along with an orchard, herbs, and an outdoor living room. (One of the things Chicken Corner loves about the green movement is the adaptable reuse it makes of common language, with terms like reclaimed wood and outdoor living rooms, etc.) A house on Lemoyne had a graywater system, 80 percent solar energy, and "repurposed" lumber. A different house, on Valentine Street, had gardens that were planned so that the thirstiest were planted on the lowest terraces, with the most drought-tolerant at the top of the slope behind the house.

Taken as a group, the ten lovely houses on the tour were not the neighborhood's swankiest. But they exhibit the creative spirit that is one of EP's strengths. And they argue for a statement by Echo Park's Louis Montoya of Montoya-Turin Designers that "the most sustainable structure is one that is already built." Preservation is a core issue for the Echo park Historical Society; with this year's home tour EPHS demonstrates how preservation and conservation are compatible. Old houses in a new green world!

November 13, 2010

EP Notes: House party


Saturday afternoon I went to FIx cafe for a couple of hours to be "alone" with my laptop. Before I reached the door to Fix I heard the brass sound of a live Mariachi band. Chicken Corner loves Mariachi. So I followed the music across Echo Park Avenue and up Baxter till I located the party where the band was playing. I was welcomed in. I asked if I could take a picture and the hosts warmly said yes, while the band started to ham it up for the cell phone camera, partiers getting out of the way of the shot. How to explain that I wanted the partiers in the picture almost as much as the musicians? Too bashful. Too aware of the observer's principle. I returned to Fix and my original plan. Half an hour later the band was done, the canyon suddenly much quieter. Two hours later the sun was almost down. I drove past the party, and it looked like it was just getting warmed up.

November 4, 2010

Pound gets new green prize

The North Central Animal Care Center, more commonly known in these parts as "Lacy Street" has won several prizes for an addition designed by the architecture firm of Elysian Valley/Echo Park resident Tracy Stone (who is a friend of mine). The shelter now has a new one -- the American Institute of Architects, Architectural Foundation of Los Angeles' Design Green award. Chicken Corner is pleased as punch that a design that provides an airier, healthier environment for the animals is simultaneously a better shade of green.

According to the L.A. Department of Animal Services press release:

Los Angeles Animal Services' North Central Animal Care Center was recognized by the American Institute of Architects, Architectural Foundation of Los Angeles with a Design Green award. The Design Green award is a competition to honor projects that integrate exceptional design with new high performance standards for sustainability, LEED certified for their effectiveness while redefining architecture. The City's North Central Animal Care Center which is a certified LEED gold building, has also received:
American Institute of Architects Design Award; "Best Green Building" award by California Construction Publications for McGraw Hill Companies; "Community Impact Award" from the Los Angeles Business Council; and "Exceptional Achievement Award" from the Southern California Development Forum.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa offered his congratulations: "The North Central Animal Care Center has been one of the City's premiere examples of sustainable design," he said. "I congratulate the Department of Animal Services, the Bureau of Engineering and the design team of Barton Choy and Tracy Stone for their multiple award-winning accomplishments."

After the jump, a Chicken Corner micro-interview with Tracy Stone:

Chicken Corner: What was the timeline (your involvement) from start to finish?

Tracy Stone: We started design late in 2001 or early 2002 as the first of the shelters to move forward using the Prop F Animal Bond Program funding. We got hung up during design on an issue regarding Methane gas (the site is on an old landfill created during construction of the Pasadena Freeway, and there is some small amount of methane created by the decomposition of the landfill materials under the surface.). Once that was cleared up, the project started construction in August 2004, was substantially completed in 2006 for the official opening ceremony, but the official completion date is 6/15/07. The project received LEED Gold certification officially in January of 2009.

As an aside to all this, when we went out to bid in 2004, the bidding climate was pretty crazy - there was a worldwide shortage of concrete and steel due to the construction of the Chinese Olympic buildings and prices were sky-high. In order to conserve funds for the rest of the shelters, the Department of Animal Services and Bureau of Engineering decided to "cut" the project in half, and to only build the proposed addition, putting the renovations of the existing building (including upgrading the spay/neuter clinic, the medical facilities, the cat and reptile holding areas, and the addition of a community room, volunteer areas, etc) on hold.

Chicken Corner: In what way did your addition/renovations change the building(s) from previously?

Tracy Stone: The addition expanded the animal holding areas dramatically - the existing building had (I think?) around 64 kennel runs.

The expansion to the shelter, including the addition of 170 outdoor dog kennels, various assorted small animal, bird and reptile holding facilities, a detached behavioral assessment room, and new training yards, has transformed the facility from a bare-bones warehouse for animals to a sustainable community center focused on facilitating successful adoptions. The animals can now be assessed for temperament and behavior issues, trained by volunteers in the large training yards, and then showcased for adoption in the new landscaped exterior kennel areas.

We tried hard to give the shelter a positive and delightful character that would invite people in, entice them to spend time at the shelter, would use "retail ideas" to display the dogs (like placing the small dog and "puppy kennels" along the main path with raised benches to encourage people to sit a while with the animals) and to make the 'green features' obvious so that they would help to educate people.

Chicken Corner: What are the green elements of your design?

Tracy Stone: Sadly, some of the most innovative were eliminated when the project was cut in half. However, the remaining features include the use of solar panels as roofing over the kennel walkway areas. These panels, clearly visible from below, provide about 95% of the power used by the facility, and replace other materials that would have been used as roofing. The primary curved wall is clad in salvaged lumber - and I think it may be one of the only animal shelters to feature wood so prominently! We provided views and access to daylight for the one small building we built (we even provided a dog-height window for views!). The HVAC equipment is very efficient - the whole facility in general operates at about 60% less energy than other comparable new buildings.

Chicken Corner: How does your design improve the lives of the animals?

Tracy Stone: First of all, by moving the animals outside, the shelter is able to keep them much healthier during their stay. The animals now have lots of access to daylight, to sunlight, to views, and are subject to much less noise than in an enclosed kennel. There are lots of small "get-acquainted yards" so that potential adopters can get to know the animals. The training yard and the behavior assessment building allow staff to identify and to work with adoptable animals to reduce the 'return-rate' on adopted animals. And hopefully, the pleasant environment encourages people to come to the shelter and to adopt animals since it is not ideal for any animal to live in a shelter. We also worked hard to give each aisle an identity through color and plantings and image (on the art glass) so that people could find their way back through all the aisles to an animal that they are interested in.

Chicken Corner: Could your design be replicated easily/cost-effectively by other shelters?

Tracy Stone: Certainly the ideas are easily replicated - exterior kennels, intermingled with plantings, dappled sunlight on the walkways, fountains for pleasant sound, etc.

[As for completing the project as originally planned, money is being sought that] would be used to refurbish the spay and neuter clinic, improve cat and reptile holding areas, create a volunteer staffing area, and a new community room, among other program features.

November 2, 2010

Strange bird


Martin Cox captured these images of a Canada goose-mix that flew in to Echo Park Lake with its flock. "There is a hybrid goose flown in with the Canadas!" Martin wrote on Sunday, noting that the odd-duck (so to speak) of the group played a leadership role when it came to getting fed bits of multigrain sourdough. Read Martin's report after the jump.


Martin emailed Chicken Corner that he had been walking with his husband around Echo Park Lake at sunset:

A flock of Canadas were sailing like a flotilla between the floating islands, one looked odd, not its silhouette, nor its behaviour which was entirely in line with Canada goose etiquette, but it was near white.
Even from the bank we knew something was odd, it was not the pure white of the domestic geese, nor did she have their lumpy proportions. Only the head seemed, how to say it, fatter, then regular Canada geese.
With an increasing interest and awareness that the daylight was fading, we raced back home for camera, binoculars, and bread. Luckily the flotilla headed towards the boat house, and some multigrain sourdough brought the whole fleet, and another Canada flock in toward the bank.
I was able to get a few pictures with the nonprofessional camera, which insisted on flashing, of the ghost goose who took a lead role in the flock, and indeed seemed the least fearful of them all.
I looked up "hybrid geese" on the internet later and was amazed at the extraordinary varieties and colour combinations. Our best guess was Canada goose mixed with the all white domestic goose of greylag goose variety.
She was still on the lake with her flock [Sunday] morning.

Chicken Corner would like to welcome the Ghost Goose to Echo Park. At the lake, GG will find lots of odd ducks and geese of mixed backgrounds, some from very far away, originally. Pretty ducks that are a cross between wild and domestic. The same goes for the people in the neighborhood surrounding.

November 1, 2010

Echo Park once was Reservoir #4

lake1.jpgOn Thursday evening, Chicken Corner fluttered downtown to a free ALOUD cultural-cartographic conversation that had been "sold out" for two weeks prior. It took some finagling, but I managed to get into a corner in the back to hear Glen Creason and D.J. Waldie talk maps, and four days later the event is still working in my thoughts -- in the map of my mind it has earned a site -- while Creason's book, Los Angeles in Maps, has been migrating around my house in the way only a very compelling book ever does -- doubly remarkable for the fact that it's an oversized book with color plates. I tend to look at those on one place. Some readers may remember the exhibition of Los Angeles maps at the Central Library that preceded the book.

At the Central Library's Taper Auditorium, it was a vibrant crowd -- history nerds, cartography nerds, Echo Park residents, writers, artists, creek freaks, friends of the Los Angeles River, secret-aqueduct enthusiasts, an elderly man in pink pants and jacket. Creason, who is a history deptartment librarian at Central as well as author, looked at the audience at one point and said he hadn't seen so many librarians in one place since the last time [someone] bought free pizza for the staff.

One thing that struck me from the beginning of the event was the hunger of Angelenos to understand their geography, in cultural as well as topographic terms. As D.J. Waldie points out in his preface to Creason's book, the collected maps erase the myth of Los Angeles as a megalopolis that simply sprawled without forethought (for better or worse). In the early days, before cul de sac neighborhoods, subdivisions were envisioned with a great deal of intention.

Some tidbits: Echo Park once was called Reservoir #4. Our present-day freeways were mapped along trade routes that had existed since at least the early 1700s, some for centuries prior. Early land surveys were done by two men, two horses, and one rope. In 1871, a map was drawn, proposing "Lines of Alterations" to Lover's Lane. The books is crammed with such gems.

Of course, any discussion of modern L.A.'s early days is likely to wander over to Angeleno Heights (which Waldie on Thursday declared had been a "failed" suburb, because not all of the lots sold and not all of the planned houses were built). When the old map of Angeleno Heights was projected onto the large screen, Chicken Corner was pleased to see the name Angeleno spelled with an "e" instead of an "i." She has a horse in that race.

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