Many moons ago, I was the founding editor of the design blog Unbeige, a job that I did on the side while running the gallery solo. I loved writing that blog and learned so much and met so many amazing people during my brief tenure there, but (surprise!) it was hard to write regularly and keep the gallery going. It was so hard to let it go, and I subsequently watched with suspicion and envy as it evolved in the hands of others. Alissa was one of the editors who I had to (grudgingly at first) admit did the role justice, building on the beloved thing I’d created and making it even better. It was also hard not to feel a strong kinship with another person who loves ice cream and bright colors as much as I do. Her editorship of Unbeige was the first act in what’s evolved into an impressive and inspiring career as a journalist, a role that’s inextricably intertwined with her campaign to make being car-free in LA (seriously) an achievable alternative. Her infectious energy and enthusiasm for design has always had a decidedly populist bent, and she’s got a knack for bringing a fresh perspective to stories that have seemingly been covered to death. She’s also an unbridled optimist who channels her anxieties about the environment and the future of our cities into “We Can Do It!” rallying cry that makes citizen-activism feel effective and enjoyable. – Jen + 20x200
5 Perfect Picks
1) Golden State Freeway/San Fernando Pass; from Los Angeles 02.12.04, by Michael Light
LA's freeways are some of the most utilized, despised, controversial, misunderstood, and underappreciated design objects on the planet. Michael Light has managed to make them beautiful.
2) Untitled 1 by J. Otto Seibold
Something about this reminded me of the colors I saw on a recent trip to Mexico City, all wrapped together into a single house. This is pretty much my dream home. The striped room is my bedroom.
3) Vegetables (from the series Meanwhile, Farmers' Market Farmers), by Wendy MacNaughton
Wendy is a good friend and I am such a fan of this series, Meanwhile, which was turned into a book about San Francisco. How she is able to capture the exquisite interactions of our contemporary street life makes her one of today's great urban anthropologists.
4) Black Box, by Sarah McKenzie
This piece managed to capture both the complex webs of temporary infrastructure required to build our cities as well as the sense of drawn-out drama that slowly unveils itself at every construction site.
5) 125 Swimming Pools, by Jenny Odell
This felt like flying into Burbank airport and skimming over all the tiny swatches of aqua in San Fernando backyards. I guess when I get close enough to the ground to see all the pools, I know I'm home.
5 Q's + 5 A's
1) What's your favorite museum?
I have to say that for a place to spend the day I'd choose LACMA, both for the art inside its buildings and for its delightful urban campus filled with public art accessible to all. Plus they have some amazing cocktails which makes all art even better.
2) Most coveted coffee table book?
Currently on my coffee table is the Charley Harper book by Todd Oldham. The colors, the patterns, the thoughtfulness that goes into every detail. If I could wear this book, I would.
3) You've got $5M to spend on one piece of art. What would it be?
Chris Burden's Metropolis II for my daughter to learn about skyscrapers, engineering, and autonomous vehicles.
4) If you could be reincarnated as an artist, who would you want to be?
Sister Corita Kent. She taught people how to see LA.
5) What would your top spots be if you were planning a transit-themed walking tour of LA?
I went ahead and made this for you! My transit-themed tour of Downtown LA includes great public art, architecture, urban design, and, of course, ice cream.
The 411 on Alissa Walker
Alissa Walker writes and speaks about design, architecture, cities, transportation and walking for many publications and events. She is the urbanism editor at Gizmodo and her work has appeared regularly in Los Angeles Magazine, the LA Weekly, Dwell, Fast Company, GOOD, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as on the KCRW public radio show DnA: Design and Architecture. In 2010 she was named a USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellow for her writing on design and urbanism, and in 2013 was named Journalist of the Year by Streetsblog Los Angeles. Alissa lives in a Dodger blue house in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles where she throws ice cream socials, tends to a drought-tolerant garden, and relishes life in L.A. without a car.