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‘Mining and celebrating LA’s idiosyncratic cultural veins’: Button Mash and The Oinkster in LA by Design, Bitches

The oinksterdesignbitches 2 jpg

Button Mash and The Oinkster, shortlisted for the Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture 2016

Shortlisted for the Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture 2016

By the time Forbes had declared Los Angeles’ Silver Lake as ‘America’s hippest hipster neighbourhood’, most of its true ‘hipster’ residents (struggling artists, musicians, independent businesses and the like) had been driven out by stratospheric rental prices.

This poisoned chalice has since passed to the bordering neighbourhoods of Echo Park and Atwater Village – hip neighbourhoods on the up, with the latter bringing what LA Weekly refers to as ‘gang-adjacent thrill and low-rent chill’.

ButtonMash Designbitches2

ButtonMash Designbitches2

Source: Laure Joliet

Interior of Button Mash

Theoinkster designbitches

Theoinkster designbitches

Source: Laure Joliet

Interior of Button Mash

Designbitches The Oinkster

Designbitches The Oinkster

Exploded axonometric of Button Mash

It is this melting pot of architectural types – including pre-war LA gems – ethnicities and cultures that Rebecca Rudolph and Catherine Johnson (who both formerly worked in Silver Lake) call home. Their studio, Design, Bitches (being a wry and award-winning response to the American Institute of Architects’ LA competition  ‘Architecture is ______’), sits in the heart of what they refer to as a paradoxical ‘ugly beauty’, their philosophy being one that proudly embraces even the most questionable LA car wash.

‘The LA Times perhaps best described the work of the studio as ‘pragmatic punk’, mining and celebrating LA’s rich cultural veins’

Working in such a context makes labels and comparisons tempting, but in citing influences from Comme des Garçons and Alexander McQueen to Rachel Whiteread and the local World 8 video game shop, Design, Bitches are clearly about more than one-hit-wonder urban acupuncture. To permit one label, the LA Times perhaps best described the work of the studio as ‘pragmatic punk’, mining and celebrating LA’s rich cultural veins while maintaining a dedication to the city and its idiosyncratic neighbourhoods.

Theoinkster designbitches3

Theoinkster designbitches3

Source: Laure Joliet

The Oinkster

TheOinkster3 designbitches

TheOinkster3 designbitches

Source: Laure Joliet

The Oinkster

Theoinksterplan Designbitches

Theoinksterplan Designbitches

The Oinkster floor plan

It was two such veins – burger joints and video-game arcades – that fed The Oinkster and Button Mash, restaurants in Eagle Rock and Echo Park respectively. Both cram in cultural references without sacrificing visual or formal clarity. For The Oinkster think gingham picnic blankets, Vans sneakers and food-truck culture; for Button Mash: skateboards, boomboxes and a dash of film noir. Aptly opening on 21 October 2015 (Back to the Future), Design, Bitches pictures Button Mash as a timeless Elysian drift.

The practice appears to have absorbed from its surroundings a remarkable agility in hopping between visual references and architectural types. If a spirit of pop-culture playfulness reigns in its restaurant projects, the studio’s smaller housing and studio projects are remarkably pared back, inciting a celebration of its LA context rather than an insular obsession with ‘hip’ design.

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