Los Angeles is bracing for "Carmageddon" this weekend, but at least one big event is accessible via eco-friendly Metro Rail. Bypass the traffic and take the train to Little Tokyo Design Week, an event that'll inspire you to rethink local food systems, eco-friendly disaster relief and green travel.
Little Tokyo Design Week showcases new design and technology that links Japan with Los Angeles. The four-day event centers on programs and exhibits at the Geffen Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Japanese American National Museum, and Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. But it also includes "container exhibits" — 15 or so interactive mini-galleries in steel storage containers place temporarily throughout the public plazas of Little Tokyo.
I took a walking tour of these container exhibits during the preview yesterday. My favorite? The "Food Futures" exhibit, put together by Victor Jones at the University of Southern California. Slip off your shoes and walk in — and you'll feel like you've entered into a cool minimalist exhibit where grains of rice drip down from the ceiling, each held up by a delicate string. These grains — along with the rice on the floor that will give you a nice foot massage — actually graph out a chart showing global food production and population growth data over a 50-year period. The exhibit draws a relationship between population growth and agricultural systems, considering everything from climate change to food science.
Environmentalists and minimalists will also want to check out the Daiwa House Exhibit Box, which has a prefab emergency disaster vehicle. This boxy structure — built to shipping container specifications for rapid deployment — is basically an off-the-grid, self-sustaining home. The structure, which lifts into a two-story home, is tricked out with its own water supply, composting toilet, solar panels, a lithium ion battery, and a hydrogen fuel cell — as well as a wastewater treatment system and satellite communication system, so it can operate for a whole month.
Toyota's alternative energy vehicle display's also on view, as well as many other fascinating design and tech works, from a moving photojournalistic exhibition documenting areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan to little model homes showcasing the latest in eco-friendlier small-scale residential design.
Little Tokyo Design Week officially kicks off tonight, with events ranging from the usual panels and talks to an L.A. neighborhood design workshop, to an outdoor film screening of "Tonari No Totoro" ("My Neighbor Totoro"), a Little Tokyo Design Week Bar Crawl, and of course, an afterparty on Saturday night. Get the full schedule at Little Tokyo Design Week's website.
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