The task in this international design competition was to design a Temple of Laughter dedicated to the spirit of human achievement. The temple could be sited anywhere in the world. The sponsor suggested that the temple should defy gravity, and that its designer should create a new building type through the structure of the temple. After exhaustive research into philosophical dialogues on laughing and laughter, Architect Randal Jay Ehm set out to select a real site. Since the greatest source of laughter in the modern world comes by way of movies and television, the most appropriate location became obvious to him -- Hollywood, California. To meet the sponsor’s criteria for a gravity-defying structure, Randal designed a cable-stayed structure with dual-masts, which is at once cantilevered and suspended, and which represents a double paradox. From our predesign research came a clear understanding of the close relationship between tragedy and comedy. The plan of the temple was then developed from an abstraction of the infamous Shakespearean masks that represent tragedy and comedy.
Dichotomy also plays a large part in the generation of laughter, so the site landscape was scarified to represent tragedy with a barren rock environment on the west side, and to represent comedy through a lush, forested landscape on the east. The rift between the two was referenced through the creation of a "seismic fault" along the adjoining boundaries. A shrub that has apparently sprung to life as a seedling from the adjacent, dead tree is representative of the regeneration that comes from death. The comedic landscape, while representing life, still features tree stumps and fallen trees as a reminder that death is inevitable.
Los Angeles, California
The purpose of this international design competition was to promote the public awareness of Battered Wife Syndrome through design of a violent crime victim’s memorial. The project site is the parking lot south of the LA Criminal Courts Building where the OJ Simpson murder trial took place. The site is also a part of the Los Angeles Mall, a rectangular open area with some interesting spaces, but with no clear connection between them. This design proposes to connect all elements of the Civic Center Mall with a continuous stream of water. The “River of Tears” runs from the large pools of water at the Department of Water & Power to the west down to the easternmost edge of the project site, culminating in the “lake of sorrow” whose marble edifice, facing City Hall, reads, “STOP THE VIOLENCE.”
Competition entrants were asked to find the heart of LA, and to redesign the master plan of downtown LA. In this scheme, a broken heart straddles the River of Tears. Walls of the chasm along the river are faced with an outer layer of clear glass and an inner layer of broken mirror, representing the shattered lives of victims’ survivors. As visitors deposit quarters in the space between layers, the mirror is covered with donations to benefit victims’ charities while the overhead canvas awnings inch ever closer together, ultimately “mending the heart” of Los Angeles and helping to heal the hearts of survivors. The ruins of the old State Office Building are filled with gravel, then interspersed with dark gray figurines which represent the victims’ lost souls. An orange grove south of the SOB offers food to the needy, along with a reminder of life’s regeneration to site visitors and the orange’s importance in the settling of Los Angeles.
Baldwin Hills, California
The focus of this international design competition was The Village Green, an historic housing project. Designed in 1942, the village is a fine example of cluster housing grouped around a central green. In recent years, the once-peaceful Baldwin Park neighborhood has given way to the harshly urban South Central LA. Crime runs rampant, while the residents of the Village Green and other middle-income housing in the area must fend for themselves. In “The Fence,” participants were asked to consider the idea of fences and fencing on a philosophical level. We designed a “Dinosaurganic Fence,” so-named because of its organic form and because the site is centered over a Prehistoric bog. The fence has seemingly bubbled up from beneath the Earth’s surface.
This image depicts the Dinosaurganic Portal, a secured entry point along the sculpturally-dynamic Dynosaurganic fence.
The Battle fence concept was designed for the eastern edge of the Village Green, a 1940s-era housing development which was surrounded over time by South Central Los Angeles' criminal element. The Rodney King riots occurred adjacent to where this fence would be. Steel bars decay along with society, while flowering vines draw the fence into an even more organic state. The design embodies chaos and destruction, but when overgrown with flowering vines over time, it will come to represent healing while the steel below continues to decay along with modern society.
San Diego, California
On an invitation from San Diego Union-Tribune for a feature article on architect-designed dog houses, Randal Ehm created this organic concept. Beef bones serve as the primary structure of the sun porch with old newspapers forming the canopy. An old brick wall from an abandoned dog pound with sodden roof above provides weather protection, and a fire hydrant offers a familiar service point.
Old meat bones support the newspaper roof for this whimsical dog house design.
No dog house is complete without it's very own fire hydrant, which waits dutifully in front of the old, decaying brick walls of an old dog pound.