Cal Poly Pomona Architecture Students Produce Chavez Ravine Project with Neutra VDL House

By Anais Hernandez, April 26, 2022

Neutra VDL House has launched a new exhibition in collaboration with Atelier LANZA Architects titled “A Table for Hundreds”, where architecture students from Cal Poly Pomona present the history of the Chavez Ravine through various creative mediums.

“A Table for Hundreds” is an exhibit that tells the story of hundreds of Mexican Americans who were forcibly displaced and evicted from their homes, due to a residential complex project that the Los Angeles City Housing Commission was planning to build. ‘run with the help of Richard Neutra and Robert Alexandre.

CPP architecture students enrolled in the Neutra VDL Docent program had the opportunity to study and participate in this project led by two architects, Isabelle Abascal and Alessandro Arienzo from Mexico City-based architecture firm LANZA Atelier.

Abascal said that “as a Mexico-based studio, we wanted to work with something related to the Mexican American community…we wanted to focus, not on one of Neutra’s well-known hits, but on the one of his, say, failures in trying to expand the knowledge we have about his lifelong career and interests. We worked via Zoom with Cal Poly students for four months, I believe, and they did a lot of research and production of exhibit materials.

Courtesy of Leilani Gonzalez

The students researched this topic and created various visual representations that symbolized the historical event of the Chavez Ravine. Their mission was to produce an artifact, model, photograph or interview that showcased the complexity of this story and its history.

The Chavez Ravine came about after architects Neutra and Alexander signed up for a housing project where they would design homes in the communities of Bishop, La Loma and Palo Verde. Unfortunately for the architectural duo, the housing project failed and all three communities were sold, displacing hundreds of families from their homes. In time, this same property became the infamous Dodgers baseball stadium.

The purpose of the workshop and the project was to preserve the memory and history of the three communities. This exhibit consisted of a long table that accommodates artifacts, models, and photographs curated by the students. “A table for hundreds” is a long table that navigates through the interior of the VDL house and the outdoor garden and is a tribute to the ravine of Chavez.

Neutra VDL House director Noam Saragosti said that “the architects we invited were very ambitious. They both taught students how to make and source some of the materials we received from a construction company. The students were involved in the whole process. So they learned all kinds of different skills and learned about this story and how to produce an exhibit. »

The students produced artifacts that represented the communities. Some of the artifacts were fruits that symbolized the cultivation of crops, power telecommunication lines, embroidery, and a typical traditional house model.

Leilani Gonzalez, a fourth-year architecture student, created a house model inspired by photographs taken during the displacement of Mexican Americans to bring her idea to fruition. The majority of the items used to generate the mustard yellow house contain items found in traditional Mexican homes.

“This (artifact) is as close to a real home performance as you can get. Being Latin American, I wanted to bring my own home to it. For example, the conchas (sweet bread), the image of ‘la Virgen’, these are elements that make us who we are as a culture and I wanted to represent that,” Gonzalez said.

Another Neutra docent, Veronica Arevalo Peña, created a cross-stitch embroidery depicting the three neighborhoods where Mexican Americans lived before being displaced.

“I guess the inspiration and the main reason I wanted this to be depicted is that we’re desensitized with a lot of tragedies happening – you can only understand so much through pictures,” Peña said. . “Seeing an object helps put into perspective how these communities, you know, were destroyed and how these people were moved just to create Dodger Stadium.”

Karina Arias is also an architecture student. For her assignment, she produced an interview with her grandparents, who lived in the area during Chavez Ravine and are avid Dodger fans.

“I hope that when people go to this exhibition they are aware that these kinds of stories are still happening. So just because it happened in the 1950s, we still have a displacement of communities of color across Los Angeles. So hopefully this exhibit will be like a wake-up call for a lot of people about, you know, the history of communities of color in Los Angeles,” Arias said.

The campus community can visit their website to visit or find out more about the Neutra VDL exhibition “A table for hundreds”.

Image selected by Anais Hernandez

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