Bianca Wong Milano
Otis College of Art & Design
Title of Project: It Takes a Village
Studio Instructor: Linda Pollari/ Richard Lundquist
An architecturally and spiritually transformative project that celebrates the beauty of LA’s underserved community. Crenshaw Yoga & Dance encourages community healing through physical, mental and spiritual engagements while the teahouse, Sip & Sum promotes human connection and culture preservation through art and creativity.
In 1970, African Americans occupied 80% of South Los Angeles with 24 out of 28 neighborhoods. By 2010, the majority dropped from 24 to 6. Through the decades, the Black community continues to lose ground in areas once considered to be their strongholds while the culture gradually gets diluted and eventually erased. Though it has always been an uphill battle for Black Angelenos, they continue to break barriers and even built a strong foundation towards the city’s success. On that note, we must celebrate the strengths and struggles it took for them to create this lasting influence that now embodies most of LA’s culture.
For this project, my school, Otis College of Art & Design collaborated with a local initiative, Destination Crenshaw and a local yoga studio, Crenshaw Yoga and Dance. My class and I were tasked with redesigning (1) a yoga studio and (2) a vacant lot on Crenshaw Blvd. We had the opportunity to work with the owner, Ms. Young to further develop it based on her needs and desires.
“Destination Crenshaw is a transformative infrastructure project that has goals to boost the community by the end of 2022 through economic development, job creation, and environmental healing, while elevating Black art and culture. A 1.3-mile stretch of Crenshaw Blvd will be transformed from an area that has long deserved economic investment and strategic urban planning, into a thriving commercial corridor linked by architecturally stunning community spaces and pocket parks, hundreds of newly planted trees, and over 100 commissioned works of art.” -from Destination Crenshaw webpage
My vision for this project is to create a destination that celebrates the beauty of LA’s underserved community through the encouragement of community healing and culture preservation through art and creativity.
In yoga philosophy, the term “Samsara” means the continuous cycle of rebirth. It’s a state where one flows through the many states of life to battle everyday struggles and pain. This concept is a reminder that through enough practice, the ebb and flows of life can be overcome.
For the existing studio, I am creating an intimate yet communal space that will fulfill the physical, mental and spiritual needs of the Crenshaw community. I will do so by designing an inviting façade, increasing its existing circulation while creating multiple interest points throughout the space to enhance user experience.
Teahouse (Previously a vacant lot)
I am converting the empty lot next door into a teahouse that will serve its purpose as a reimagined social gathering space. As a yoga enthusiast myself, I find that sipping on a hot cup of tea is the best way to end a gentle yoga practice. More than that, in ancient Japanese philosophy, the term “wabi” means the value of simplicity. It’s a state of stillness and insight that comes from the acceptance of reality. This concept allows us to realize that whatever the situation, there is beauty to be found.
The teahouse will encourage human connection and creativity through the simple art of drinking tea. The teahouse will also be a space to host workshops from sound baths and pottery to anything that engages the senses.
Designing a pocket garden was important to me because I truly believe we are the product of our environment. To me, taking care of the community means that even the flora and fauna are taken care of. It’s simply the cycle of life, we cannot expect to heal and thrive if our environment isn’t doing the same.
Way too often we glue our eyes to screens, eventually creating a self and social disconnect. With lush native plants and an outdoor art gallery, this pocket park is difficult to miss. Not only is this garden beautiful to bask in, but most of the plants are California natives. This means that they not only thrive in our environment but they require close to no maintenance! My personal favorite part about this garden is that it is also a food garden for pollinators, so expect to see butterflies and birds! Remember, we feed the pollinators, we save the planet and essentially, we save ourselves.
The murals in this pocket garden are artworks of local artists as part of a contest that was organized by Destination Crenshaw. Each individual artist will be credited here.
#1 “Stronger Together”
Moriah Johnson (@iammoriahj) is one of the third mini mural recipients to showcase his work, displayed on a large-scale art banner along Crenshaw Blvd. His DC mural piece is entitled, ‘Stronger Together’. Moriah is a native of Los Angeles, California. He is an alumnus of Crenshaw High School and has a heart for the community. Moriah dove deep into his creative side during the 2020 quarantine as a means of escape. Through his art, Moriah hopes to provide inspiration and healing to the world.
#2 “The Flower Girl”
Rheo Smith, is one of the first Mini Mural Contest recipients to showcase her work along our Crenshaw Blvd. construction site. Her piece is entitled, “The Flower Girl” and represents the duality of women; and the Merkaba sacred geometry symbolizes well being and enlightenment. Rheo is a graphic designer and painter residing in Southern California, and graduated AI with an AA in graphic communications. Currently, she is working as a freelance artist and building her resume.
While these spaces were designed with the Crenshaw community in mind, it will attract energy beyond this neighborhood by creating a destination for all.