Carren's Pitch

Life by Design


Civil Rights Apostle

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

Last month, I got the chance to write about one of the most fascinating figures in graphic design in LA history, Sister Corita. A nun and an activist, Sister Corita drew from mass media, literature, and religion and mixed them all in beautiful ways, drawing out messages of hope at a time of great upheaval in American history. So glad I got a chance to share this extensive exhibition of her work in Pasadena. 

Text by: Carren Jao
Edited by: Avinash Rajagopal 
Published: July 2015, Metropolis

A new masterplan for the LA River...or at least, a revised one. It's big news for the city, but the problem is, not a lot of people were in the loop. Is it the way to go? I don't know, but I do know that the dust this kicked up only emphasizes how important the river is becoming to the city. 

Text by: Carren Jao 
Edited by: Carribean Fragoza
Published: 20 August 2015, KCET

Concrete-based hydrological architecture is part of the L.A. riverscape. | Photo: Magda Wojdyra/Flickr/Creative Commons
The Los Angeles River isn't just a waterway wrapped in concrete. In the decades since tons of gloomy gray matter was poured over this wild river, it has morphed from a derelict, forgotten watercourse, good only for film shootings of dystopian futures and rebellious countercultures, into a symbol of hope yet to be realized.

As with many things yet to take on solid form, the Los Angeles River has become a symbol, for all the things that Los Angeles might become in the next few decades. It has become a mirror of everyone's dreams. As such, it has birthed a fractured and multi-layered vision of what the Los Angeles River could be.

If you need further proof of the LA River's symbolic power, look no further than the recent brouhaha over the Los Angeles Times exclusive, which revealed that local starchitect Frank Gehry has been tapped by the Mayor's office and the Los Angeles River Revitalization to rebrand the river. [read more]


Comeback Story

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

When a piece of the past is recovered, it's like a precious memory has been remembered. Here's a piece I did on the Hollyhock house, a beautiful dwelling and a neighborhood spot that has re-opened to the public this year! Best of all, I wrote it for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, whose work has saved many of these beautiful pieces of America's past.

Text by: Carren Jao
Edited by: Meghan Drueding
Published: May 2015, Preservation


Solving Animal Gridlock

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

Humans aren't the only ones with a traffic problem. As urban life extends, it sometimes impinges on the established transportation routes of some beautiful creatures. Here's my piece on the bestial traffic jam in Los Angeles. 

Text by: Carren Jao
Edited by: Nancy Miller
Published: August 2015, Los Angeles

LA has a native plant shortage and a wealth of projects that require exactly this type of plants. What to do? A creative solution being proposed now is a network of nurseries that will not only provide native plants, but green jobs for the city. 

Text by: Carren Jao
Edited by: Yosuke Kitazawa
Published: 23 July 2015, KCET

Image: Grown in L.A./Mia Lehrer + Associates
One key feature in every Los Angeles River-adjacent project is the use of native plants. It's a good feature, but hardly anyone ever stops to wonder, "Where does Los Angeles get all those plants?" It turns out, sometimes those native plants are shipped from San Diego, or even as far as Oregon. It's native, in a sense, but not really.

"We need to be creating a viable, native source, locally collected native plant material intead of farming it out to these other areas," says Kat Superfisky, a project designer for Mia Lehrer + Associates.

Los Angeles has ambitious plans to restore an eleven-mile stretch of its previously neglected waterway, plus many more water conserving projects are coming online in a city gripped with drought. A key feature in all of these are native plants, which are quickly dwindling in supply, an issue we've covered previously.

Now, a widespread collaborative of federal and state agencies, non-profits, and private firms have come together to solve the Los Angeles Rivers' native plant supply problem, in an initiative called Grown in L.A. [read more]


David Wiseman's nature-inspired pieces

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

Nature is undoubtedly beautiful and capturing it is a tough challenge. Artist David Wiseman gamely meets this difficult obstacle and surpasses expectations. 

Text by: Carren Jao
Edited by: Alice Short
Published: 30 May 2015, Los Angeles Times

Wiseman at work on his installation for the library. via New York Times
Entering one of David Wiseman's immersive installations is like discovering the beautiful landscape of Narnia inside an austere wardrobe, guaranteed to elicit wonder and even a creeping belief in magic.

The Los Angeles-based designer has made a name for himself by creating painstakingly crafted pieces that range from limited-edition small objects to intricate worlds of flora and fauna, using materials as diverse as porcelain and metal. [read more]


Sonifying the World

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

It's rare one gets to be poetic, but this piece is truly a beautiful drama unfolding. Writing this made me look at the world in a whole new way. 

When Chris Chafe translates data into music, listeners sway to the beat of seizing brains, economic swings and smog

Text by: Carren Jao
Edited by: Pamela Weintraub
Published: 02 July 2015, Aeon

We might never know when the first set of thuds, thumps and taps were strung together to make music, or when people sang the first songs, but it is incontrovertible that our lives are seeped in rhythms and beats. We tap our feet. We bob our heads. We sing in the shower. Never mind that we might not even be able to carry a tune. We join in because it feels good, because music touches the deepest part of the self.

The British neurologist Oliver Sacks calls this mankind’s musicophilia. So innate is the attraction that many non-European languages don’t even have a word that translates as ‘music’. Instead, as the African ethnomusicology expert Ruth Stone at Indiana University explains, such cultures wrap singing, drama, dancing and instrumental performance into a ‘tightly bound complex of the arts’.

Even if musicians sometimes have trouble defining music, we know it is made up of sound: vibrating objects (such as the vibrating string of a guitar) push molecules outward, creating pressure waves that radiate from the source. Sound turned into music plays the human brain: it helps to ease anxiety, lowering cortisol levels more effectively than anti‑anxiety drugs. It fires the nucleus accumbens, a structure in the primitive limbic system, triggering dopamine and the same burst of pleasure as addictive drugs. And music builds social and cultural bonds – the lullabies of childhood, love songs, the rousing hymns of battle all work to nurture intimacy and cohesion in cultures around the world.

Unlike sex or hunger, music doesn’t seem absolutely necessary to everyday survival – yet our musical self was forged deep in human history, in the crucible of evolution by the adaptive pressure of the natural world. That’s an insight that has inspired Chris Chafe, Director of Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (or CCRMA, stylishly pronounced karma). [read more]

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