February 28, 2012

Thanks from James Rojas

by: James Rojas

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Below is a letter of thanks from James Rojas, who traveled here from LA to speak at the Latino Urban Form lecture last week. I thought his insights and perspective of our city were absolutely delightful so I decided to share his letter with you as a post on this blog.

Thanks for your hospitality exploring Phoenix!  I have only been to Phoenix a few times but the more I visit it the more in like the city. The casual positive vide reminds of my childhood LA.

Phoenix is a great place because everyone cares about the place. In LA, everyone cares about themselves and not about place. Therefore nothing gets done because there are to many chiefs in the kitchen.

The trip started out with lunch at Barrio Café where I ate great white pozole, which I have never had in LA! The murals behind the restaurant were vibrant and created a strong sense of place.

After lunch we drove around the clean, empty streets of inner city Phoenix.  The ram shackled bungalows contrasted greatly with the beautiful purplish cactus and green Palo Verde trees.

The Clarendon Hotel where I stayed had a hip Mex/retro vibe because of it’s bright colored stucco walls and simple lines. It was also a quick walk to light rail which I took to downtown and the Phoenix public market.

At the (Downtown Phoenix Public) market I bought the sweetest tangerines created by the Arizona sun!  The variety of food trucks and fruit vendors made it a vibrant place and a perfect venue for the Latino urban form presentation. Latino urbanism is how people retrofit the existing environment for their needs.

The presentation started at dusk, 6:00 p.m. It was great to present with distinguished colleagues, Prof. Daniel Arreola and architect Kevin Kellogg. I remember reading Prof. Arreola’s work on Housecapes while at MIT 20 years ago. It was inspiring to see so many non-Latinos interested in Latino urbanism.  Kevin and I met through a mutual friend while I was at MIT and he was at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design again 20 years ago!

After the lecture I met up with a friend for at tour of Phoenix. We visited the Arizona Biltmore and Hanny’s bar and restaurant.

Thursday morning I gave a lecture at the Sagrado Gallery & Boutique hosted by the Phoenix Revitalization Corporation (PRC). This was a great venue because as an artist I enjoyed the artwork on the walls and my work is interdisciplinary because I combine art and urban planning. I use art as a community engagement tool.

Later that day I met with Kathleen Bartolomei for at tour of south Phoenix. We had lunch with a sharp, young Latino developer named Feliciano Vera. It was great to hear about his work and we also talked about mutual colleagues.

After lunch we meet with Kirby Hoyt from Funk Lab. Funk Lab is a great space that captures that unique indoor/out door use of space. We talked about multi-cultural and multi-generational neighborhood projects.

I would like to thank Women Design Arizona (Tiffany Halperin) and Blooming Rock (Tazmine Loomans) for hosting me.  I also look forward to working with you all in the future.

Photo Credit: James Rojas presenting at last week’s Latino Urban Form lecture at the Downtown Phoenix Public Market. Photo by Anna F. Miller.

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