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UCLA cityLab’s Dana Cuff on Los Angeles and Architecture

From her introduction to iconic design as a child, Dana Cuff’s Los Angeles life has been bracketed by stellar architecture. Among early sightings-- Gregory Ain’s Mar Vista Tract. You can see its philosophical traces in some of the projects that Cuff generates and nurtures today as Director of cityLab at UCLA. Cuff founded the institution in 2006 to focus on the challenges facing our 21st century metropolis.

But, Cuff’s first memorable moment in architecture is rooted in an ordinary childhood activity. And, that’s where we begin this interview Cuff about her Los Angeles firsts, lasts, and favorites, in honor of her recognition as the 2015 AIA|LA Presidential Honoree for Community Contribution award.
Celebrate Dana at the 2015 AIA|LA Design Awards, Thursday, October 29, 2015. Purchase tickets here

AIA|LA: What was the first Los Angeles building (and relevant architect) to influence you?
Dana Cuff:
The Bullocks Wilshire ([designed] by the Parkinsons) is the first building I remember seeing in Los Angeles when I was a kid and we would come into the city to shop for school clothes. 
It seemed so sophisticated and grand. Soon after I saw the Ain houses in Mar Vista, where I realized for the first time what a difference architecture could make even to the most everyday buildings.

Name a Los Angeles person, place, or thing that inspires you today and tell us why (as briefly or in as great detail as you wish).
Having just seen the Frank Gehry retrospective at LACMA, I have to say that it is incredibly inspiring to see such abundant evidence of a prolific, creative career that spans more than fifty years already and demonstrates that Frank has yet more to offer — in Santa Monica, on Sunset Boulevard, and now the LA River. 

Favorite book or website/blog or Instagram feed?
Here’s what is on my reading table at the moment: Felipe Correa and Carlos Garciavelez Alfaro's Mexico City: Between Geometry and Geography, Lisa Lowe’s Intimacy of Four Continents, and Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. Each takes space, culture, and history to be definitively entwined.

What's the thing you'd most like to change about Los Angeles in the future?
I’d like to increase opportunities to build well-designed affordable housing, starting with backyard homes like the cityLAB BIHOME prototype.

What should never change in this city?
In Los Angeles, what should never change is the completely free and open access to our most desirable space: the beach. 

Where is your favorite place to go in LA?
Right now, I like to go to an Expo line station and ride into downtown, walk to dinner, and look at this whole new LA that is unfolding.

Last updated: 26-Oct-2015 11:57 AM
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