By Erik Luna
East Los Angeles College’s Architecture Department will be the first community college program to be featured at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, an exhibit bringing together the brightest minds in the field of architecture, this month at Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The department is exhibiting the student project on the industrial city of Vernon, which, due to the factories in the vicinity, has high levels of toxicity making it uninhabitable to most people, and the study students participated in to try and make the city greener and livable.
Architecture students Maria Mercado, Sarahi Baeza and Masae Senyoshi will go to Rotterdam, Netherlands on May 27. The Architecture Department got the chance to be featured in the exhibit thanks to the help of instructor Orhan Ayyuce, who got in contact with the people at the IABR.
“(The) Rotterdam Biennale is one of the most coveted architecture biennales in the world and extremely selective,” Ayyuce said. “I have been working with its director George Brugmans for several years now trying to turn his attention to our city… at a very intelligent level.”
With the theme of the biennale being urban change, Ayyuce and his students set out to see how Vernon, which has a working population of approximately 50,000 people and only 99 actual residents, according to Ayyuce, can change with the help of an architectural and urban design platform.
As stated in iabr.nl/en, the 2014 exhibit “claims that we can only solve the world’s environmental problems if we solve the problems of the city.”
According to Mercado and Baeza, there is the need of initial research to be conducted to gather further material for their projects on how to solve the problems of the city. Their research includes: the predominant race in the area, the average income of the residents and the type of industries located in the city.
“The idea of designing housing in Vernon, a city that we are all very familiar with, made us feel very interested and committed on producing projects that would provide a better quality of life to the community,” Mercado said.
As the IABR is an international exhibition, the projects will be published in catalogs and magazines worldwide. According to Baeza, the project took form with the collaboration of organizations and institutions such as Cal Poly Pomona University, LA Forum, US Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Vernon.
Along with garnishing international attention from renowned architects, Ayyuce said that Ivy League institutions normally seek after these types of biennales.
“It is an urban design biennale and as ELAC is sitting in the center of our nation’s most populated urban area, our students naturally have the most familiar sensibility of any architecture students in Southern California,” Ayucce said.
Ayyuce said that if the ideas expressed in these projects can come to fruition, then they can be put to use in other areas that bear a resemblance to the city of Vernon, ultimately making the world a better place to live in.