January 31, 2013

freeway fridays!

We live in Los Angeles California, where driving is more than a means of transportation, it’s a way of life, a means of survival in an urban landscape surrounded by ribbons of roads, surface streets and freeways. We spend a great deal of our lives figuring out the best way to get from one place to another, traveling between east side and west, driving alone in gridlock and traveling together in the carpool lane.

L-R: Rosemary passing her road test!, driving around Detroit, driving in our first car!
When we first started talking about moving to L.A. after grad school, spending that much time in the car seemed crazy! We were living on campus just outside of Detroit Michigan while we attended Cranbrook Academy of Art. Rosemary had grown up in Montreal, a city with a great public transportation system and so had to sign up for AAA driving lessons while at the same time getting her masters degree. We got our first car at the beginning of our final year at Cranbrook, those first few months of practice drives were a true test of our relationship, we explored the city together, setting out in the car without a plan. It was exciting and nerve-racking! The car soon became our little bubble of space, where we could talk or plan or fight, away from roommates and studio mates. Little did we know how this would prepare us for life in L.A.

L-R: somewhere in Texas during our cross-country road trip, Robin working on our bookshelf in our new apartment, hanging out at the beach
When we arrived here, we had just completed an eight-day drive cross-country. We were exhausted. The next few months were a whirlwind, looking for a place to live, finding jobs, making furniture, trips to Ikea and Home Depot, all while doing the most un-L.A. of things, sharing a single car. We were so excited to explore a new city together, a place that neither of us had ever lived in before, that we hardly noticed the beginning of our transition, we were turning into drivers. In fact, it took us a really long time to come to that realization. We were so overwhelmed that it truly wasn’t until our second year here. Once we had a good working sense of the city, where to find things, how to get around without a GPS, we started to realize how much fun driving could be. Not to say that we don’t still get frustrated when we’re stuck in traffic on the 10 heading east at the end of a long day, or that we’ve accepted how insanely people drive when it rains, but we understand that a good deal of our lives will be spent in the car, and so we now try to use that time more wisely, discussing dinner plans, bills that need to be paid, making phone calls. It’s no surprise then that we have come up with a good number of our design ideas while stuck in traffic somewhere or looking for parking. We are inspired by the roads we travel during our daily commutes, on our way to discover new restaurants, explore new galleries or museums.

L-R: rush hour traffic on the 110 North, Los Angeles from the air, The Californians skit on Saturday Night Live.
One Friday, a few weeks ago, we came up with the idea of Freeway Fridays. We were driving along the 110 Harbor Freeway, on our way to Randy’s Donuts, a donut place that we’d always heard about but never tried, and we were talking about how we explored the city when we first got here and how crazy it was that there was still so much of the city we’d never visited. For full disclosure, we were also talking about how we had favorite freeways (yes, the Californians skit on SNL does hold more than a little truth in it!), and how driving different freeways inform how you experience different parts of the city. 

L-R: intersection of the 110 and the 105 freeways, DTLA  as seen from the 110, Randy's Donuts in Inglewood.
So, here’s the plan, every few weeks, we’re going to choose a freeway that we have or haven’t driven before, and we will explore that part of the city. Check out the built environments of overpasses and underpasses, enjoy the architecture or snack spots or vistas that we find, and take pictures (lots of pictures!) that we’ll post on Instagram or Tumblr as we go. We will venture out into parts of the city we like as well as parts of the city we’ve never been to before. In short, we’re going to see our city with new eyes.  

January 22, 2013

Our Valentine to DTLA

We fell in love with downtown virtually as soon as we arrived in Los Angeles a few years ago. We’re fascinated by both how quickly and how slowly it seems to change amid the layers of history, neglect and steps toward gentrification. We love visiting the flower market and the garment district, riding Angel’s Flight, spending time at the Central Library, and eagerly await the return of Clifton’s Cafeteria. Eventually, we’d love to move our studio somewhere downtown, but haven’t found the right place yet. One of our favorite things, is simply to walk around, enjoying the architecture, signage, and overall built environment under the shadow of snow-capped mountains and high rise beaux art and moderne buildings.
Rosslyn Hotel neon roof signs today.
When we first started talking about what we might want to make as a valentine card, we kept coming back to the idea of working with the two neon roof signs of the Rosslyn Hotel located on buildings that sit across from each other at the intersection of 5th and Main Street. We thought that they’d be perfect, since both signs include giant neon hearts as well as well as being some of our favorite neon signs in the city. They appear overhead just down the street from one of our very favorite breakfast treats, the Nickel Diner and our favorite art supply store Raw Materials. Every time we head downtown for brunch, we can’t help stopping by for art supplies and then walking over to take a look at these signs.
Rosslyn Hotels luggage tags and postcard.

Built by brothers George and Dwight Hart in 1913 at the cost of one million dollars, the Rosslyn Hotel was designed by John Parkinson, who also designed Union Station, City Hall and the Bullocks Wilshire department store among other notable buildings. The annex building across the street was built in 1923, with a marble subway connecting the two buildings underground. In those days, downtown Los Angeles was a grand destination, and the Rosslyn along with the Alexandria, the Cecil, the Huntington and the Hayward as well as other luxury hotels, accommodated film stars, businessmen and tourists from all over.
Rosslyn Hotels postcards and a still from Harold Lloyd's Safety Last filmed in Downtown L.A. in 1923

When Los Angeles began to decentralize in earnest after the second world war, the city lost a great deal of its vast public transportation system, and slowly the downtown core lost much of its early luster. Amidst the general decline of downtown, the Rosslyn Hotel hit hard times with the main building closing in 1959. The two buildings were acquired by separate owners during the 1970s and eventually joined many of downtown’s other grandes dames as little more than flop houses and residential hotels. In the intervening years, downtown Los Angeles has seen many attempts at gentrification. For the most part, these seem to appear and disappear in fits and starts. The Rosslyn Hotels have appeared in many films, music videos and television shows. Since 2009, the main Rosslyn Hotel building has been renovated and reinvented as Rosslyn Lofts and offers a mixture of market rate and affordable income micro-lofts.
DTLA Valentine Cards, Rosslyn Hotel.

We really see our magenta and red and black valentine linoleum cut cards of the Rosslyn Hotel as our valentine to downtown Los Angeles. They’re our tribute to the history behind and the future that lies ahead of the beautiful and interesting buildings that make up the heart of the downtown core. 

January 11, 2013

getting back to work: the year ahead for RDesignsLA

As we get back to work, we have been reflecting on the year that has been and the year to come. 2012 was a pretty crazy year for us. It saw a lot of change, both good and bad. We lost some close friends and family members, we made new friends, changed jobs, and finally started our company RDesignsLA. We're really proud of the road we've traveled in the past year and are equally scared and excited to see what 2013 has in store for us. We hope that you all have a very happy, healthy and peaceful year!