LA-Más Executives on Non-Profit Organizations, Aiding Communities and Social Responsibility in Design

LA-Más Executives on Non-Profit Organizations, Aiding Communities and Social Responsibility in Design

The Midnight Charette is an explicit podcast about design, architecture, and the everyday. Hosted by architectural designers David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, it features a variety of creative professionals in unscripted and long-format conversations that allow for thoughtful takes and more personal discussions. Honesty and humor are used to cover a wide array of subjects: some episodes provide useful tips for designers, while others are project reviews, interviews, or simply explorations of everyday life and design. The Midnight Charette is available for free on iTunes, YouTube, Spotify, and all other podcast directories.

On this episode of The Midnight Charette podcast, hosts David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet are joined by Elizabeth Timme & Helen Leung, Executive Directors of LA-Más to discuss their organization, maintaining non-profit status, aiding communities through policy and architecture, social responsibility in design, and more.

LA-Más is a non-profit urban design organization that helps lower-income and underserved communities shape their future through policy and architecture. We envision a world where city growth is equitable and self-directed — where the best local solutions are brought to a city-wide scale.

This podcast episode is available on The Midnight Charette's website, iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and all other podcast apps.


(14:31) Elizabeth on the benefits of a non-profit architecture organization.

  • We were writing policy [and] understanding all the different scales architecture could operate if we weren't at the service of capitalism directly: It opened up all of this potential for an engagement and a meaningfulness in the work that we all were taught should be there, but we weren't able to practice it out of school.

(15:29) Elizabeth on pairing architecture and policy design.

  • Shaping the policy around planning has so much more implications than building one building. But, if you build one building and you prove that something is a good idea, then you can get things done in policy, not otherwise foreseeable. The two things were linked and had this wonderful relationship that I was excited for.

(25:33) Elizabeth on ‘fake’ community involvement.

  • There's this asinine conversation around community engaged design processes […] There are numerous organizations that I find very frustrating and transparently pretending to do something they're not. They have binders of mosaics that the community has participated in, or murals, which I find to be a sign of disinvestment. They’re cop outs. They're really a transactional way of involving someone and making them feel heard and included.

(30:12) Helen on community engagement.

  • There is a way for community to be an engaged that is different than the typical process and I think that there is a range of the level of transaction, feedback, and involvement. What we're doing has a very specific approach. [. . .] We do get lots of little bits of information, nuggets of gold, and [we] weave that into a broad thesis that it is as inclusive as possible.

(44:30) Elizabeth on Los Angeles’ housing crisis

  • The notion that we are changing, subverting, redefining the vision of Los Angeles to accommodate more people is radical and necessary. I think it's really important that these homes reflect the kind of diversity of the character of the city, but also a vision for a future where more people can live here… and that's really an ephemeral point, the one that we don't get to talk about 90% of the time because people aren't going to pay for that.

(48:47) Elizabeth on architectural renderings.

  • I wish there were more [architects] capturing where LA is now, rather than these glossy towers or hyper-articulated, high-density, Thom-Mayne-guided development projects. […] I find more often than not, architects are taking a back seat in the relationship of supply and demand where someone comes to us and says, “I'm demanding from you a rendering for a five story tower.” I wish architects were using their creative and critical skills to represent a Los Angeles that is in need of help.

(52:34) Helen on a cross-disciplinary approach

  • This notion that a developer on their own, a planner on their own and architect on their own, an organizer on their own, can do any of these things undermines the potential of this cross-disciplinary approach where people with money, land, policy-making capacity, design sensibilities [unite].

(01:08:20) Helen on Architects’ involvement in projects.

  • It's a shame that today too often architects are brought in after the vision is set: [Architects] are really just doing transactional design [where] after the design is done clients are like, “Goodbye. We're going to value engineer what you designed because all we really care about is getting to a certain price point.”

About this author
Cite: The Second Studio Podcast. "LA-Más Executives on Non-Profit Organizations, Aiding Communities and Social Responsibility in Design" 13 Aug 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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