image of cardboard carrier

// Swap Meet
Within the first week of school I was assigned to a group that was suppose to visit and explore the neighborhood of MacArthur Park/ Westlake Station, with the design assignment of creating three different design solutions. 

After several visit, many hours of exploring the area, and talking to as many people in the community that we could we developed these three design deliverables.  

This portable storage carrier is made so for street vendors to carry their merchandise, and doubles as a space for artistic expression. Furthermore it's something that any vendor can make from materials that everyone in the neighborhood has easy access to.

instructions pamphlet

Items like old cardboard boxes and plastic bags are in excess in the area, making them ideal materials to repurpose. The carrier design also allows for the vender to pack up merchandise and leave fast. This is especially necessary because of the legality of street vending and the high police presence in the area. Selling merchandise without proper certifications is illegal (specifically anything that is consider not art), but street vendors are an important service for what seemed like an overworked neighborhood just trying to get by in life. (This prototype was accompanied by a presentation and instalation of surveys and interviews)

//Critical Reflection:

After taking part in this fast paced research project there's a few things I wished we did differently. I think Langer’s was a bit of a waste of time. This is not because it was expensive, but because we really didn't get any information or data out of it. We could have just as easily poked our heads in the restaurant and would have more than likely come to the same conclusions. Secondly, I think the surveys look visually appealing as an installation, however as a research tool I think they fail. This is mainly because the population that it was intended to create a dialouge with didnt want to use it and saw it as a threat. At this point I’m not really sure what would have been a better solution.






// Tools used
Ps
Audacity
Cardboard
Plastic bags
Xacto

//Brief

This tour plays with the idea of Los Angeles as a city of neighborhoods where our most frequent engagement with these neighborhoods is traveling through them via the automobile. The result, a sense of who or what based on traveling through (on a freeway) at 25-85 mph. For this engagement we entered these neighborhoods differently—public transport is required for at least a day. Out of this, a different kind of relationship and understanding of site, place, and people is formed, and groups are to present questions that result from their interactions through three forms of media.

Detour: Making Communities / Sean Donahue and Phil Van Allen / Fall 2016

Collaborators
Nicci Yin :: Hyejin Lim :: Naomi Sui :: Seoyoung Yoon


//Research and Process

Day 1:

Our main goal for the day was to explore as many places on the project brief as possible. Places included:

Langer's Delicatessen
Westlake Swap Meet
Mama’s Tamales
Aardvark printing
Art Division

Before leaving used google maps to plot out a general plan of locations we wanted to visit.

MacArthur Park

We started our adventure once we got off the the MacArthur/Westlake gold line stop. Immediately we saw a street full of vendors selling all kinds of things, from soap to portable phone chargers. The more we walked around the more we saw a few trends in items for sale. Most vendors were selling portable phone chargers, papusosas, other handmade goods, and phones. But after looking a bit closer we realized that most phone sellers were actually part of the California Lifeline program, which provides free cell phones to people in need.

We then proceeded to walk out of the neighborhood towards home depot, which was one of the locations we wanted to visit as an addition to our current list. Home depot was a bit of a bust. We really only saw day laborers, which wasn’t much different then what we thought we would see. However we did witness a very militant security worker riding a 3 wheel knock off segway yelling at the workers and herding them into areas that were deemed ok for them to wait in. More importantly though on our way to home depot we were exposed to an old victorian style home that was being renovated and restored. Architecture like this is rare in LA, especially in MacArthur park, where most of the original structures have been torn down to make low cost apartments. Upon talking to one of the construction guys restoring the property we got a full tour.

By this point we were rather hungry, so we stopped at Langer's for the area’s famous pastrami sandwich. We were really shocked at the prices this delicatessen was charging. Yes the food was good, but it raised two big questions. One this was clearly not a resturant that the community we met earlier would ever eat at or be able to afford. Secondly it was not a delicatessen, at least not in the sense that I know. It was more of a 50s diner aimed at a white community that was extremely absent in the area...or so we thought.

After eating our overpriced sandwiches we headed past the main drag and the Westlake swap meet, to the park. This is where we realized most of the people in the park were out of work day laborers and people that are working but homeless. We walked around the park a bit, but then soon found our way over to Aardvark printing and McMannus & Morgan Inc.

Going to McMannus was a big turning point in our research, because the current owner of the company gave us a very in depth history of the area and an interview. This included a brief history of Art Center.

At this point it was getting late and we hopped onto the metro and went back to the studio

Day 2 & 3:

We spent our second day in the studio try to come up with a design prototype that would allow us to communicate with the population that didn’t speak english. In the first day we realized that the neighborhood had people that spoke english, spanish, oaxacan (various dialects), mandarin, and koreen. We had talked to a lot of people in the arts area, including:

Aardvark printing, McMannus & Morgan Inc., UCLA Labor Center, Hola, Arts Division( Hola and Arts Division are local art organizations that serve and educate the community)

But were more interested in communicating with the street vendors, because we weren’t able to before.



// surveys

Our first design deliverable was an English and Spanish survey asking yes or no questions about the arts, how the vendors felt about the neighborhood, who they serviced, and a few other question. This prototype wasn’t as successful as we thought it would be. It did break the language barrier, but many people would not fill it out because they we were talking to a community that most likely not legally living in the US. Even if they were, they were very unwilling to interact with anything that could be recorded or collected.

After successfully talking to about a ten or so vendors we decided to grab lunch at Mama’s Tamales. We were able to talk to our waitress about the community and what it was like living in MacArthur park. She provided us with an interview, from what we realized was a very different side of the neighborhood.

Day 4:

After three days of research we started to digest our findings. The rest of the day was used to create the carrier, presentation of our findings, and install the surveys and interviews.