The Night Before Layoffs


Twas LA in a downturn and all through downtown,
Not a crane was stirring; no foundations in-ground.
The scaffolding covered the buildings with care,
In hopes that the financing soon would be there.

Eli Broad was asleep, on his piles of money
With $30 million for MOCA nestled close to his tummy.
And Gail Goldberg was snoozing, so was Mayor Villaraigosa,
Telling staffers to wake them when all this was over.

When on Bunker Hill there arose such a clatter,
Louder than NIMBYs in the Republic of Santa Monica!
Upon this disturbance the journalists swooped,
If only to prevent bloggers from getting the scoop.

The electronic billboards gave off such a glow
That the luster of iPod ads was on objects below.
When what should our wondering eyes next detect,
But a hybrid Lexus, and eight starchitects!

With a little old driver, his head so white and hairy,
We knew in a moment it must be Frank Gehry!
They set right to work, like industrious elves,
And swore to build Grand Avenue all by themselves!

Now, Thom! Now, Renzo! Now, Eric Owen Moss!
On Richard! On Norman! On Hadid and Koolhaas!
“Yay,” cheered the starchitects, building wall after wall
“We don’t need those developers to help us at all!”

But Frank’s not the only LA designer forced to improvise
When met with an obstacle that’s left funding dry
We hear Shepard Fairey’s in such a bad way
He took down all the Obama posters and sold them on eBay

How bad is it really? Well, here’s a start:
Eames Demetrios is selling Charles and Ray stamps as “original art”
Murakami’s moving to LA to become Kanye’s bitch
And Julius Shulman can’t retire until he’s 126.

From SCI-Arc to CalArts, USC to Otis,
Design schools are hurting for funds, as you’ll notice.
Actually, Art Center had no problems at all,
Until Richard Koshalek tried to build his own Disney Hall.

Christopher Hawthorne became AEG’s biggest rival
When he declared LA Live as dead on arrival.
But now with the downturn he’s forced to be nicer
So the LA Times doesn’t lose them as valuable advertisers

We know the LA Forum has a new home in Hollywood
But they’re renting it hourly to “friends” in the ‘hood.
The Wolf Prix-designed high school with that stuff on its side
Will be opening on the weekends as a new water slide

Philippe Starck quit design this year, declaring it through
Meanwhile six million more Katsuyas are coming to a city near you
Sure SBE seems recession-proof, launching bars and hotels
Truth is they’re outsourcing all jobs to the cast of The Hills

Murray Moss’s two LA locations are under such financial stress
He’s launching a knock-off store called Moss: Baas for Less.
After the auction at Christie’s with no big cha-ching,
The Kaufmann House will be home to The Real World: Palm Springs.

Speaking of TV, the design shows? They’re doomed.
Project Runway will now be called Sewing with Heidi Klum.
Top Design will no longer feature designers matching wits
But instead focus exclusively on Kelly Wearstler’s outfits.

Now celebrity designers, that’s one place that’s not lacking,
Lindsay Lohan designed a line of leggings that has financial backing.
And look at Brad Pitt, he’s the most famous designer in history!
He Made it Right in New Orleans and made it with Angelina Jolie.

Yes, we’re seeing “imaginary design” as the hot new trend,
Like the safe, “unbuilt curves” of Ed Roski’s football stadium.
Or debating the “possibility” of the Subway to the Sea’s limits;
It’s cheaper, more fun and you don’t need any permits.

Now don’t get upset, we don’t thrive on such doubt,
(But without all this drama there’s really nothing to write about!)
We’ll end on a high note, no point in dismaying,
May next year be your best ever, and all your clients be paying!

Thank you so much to everyone who came out for last night’s de LaB at GOOD December! It was by far one of the most incredible events I’ve ever been a part of…just being in that room with so many of my LA design writing heroes was a rare and truly transformative experience.

Full report to come, but right now, enjoy the poem, and pass it around to those who weren’t there. And thank you again for a fantastic year…Haily and I hope to see plenty more of you in 2009!

Update: Links to blog reports, plus all pieces read by our fantastic speakers have been posted at the de LaB page!

This entry was posted in advertising, building, creating, designing, Good, partying, reading, speaking. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Timothy

    This is awesome. I just moved to LA so I only get about 1/2 of it but it’s on point. de Lab sounds great would love to check out the next one.

  • Eric Heiman

    Alissa, this is awesome. I’m thinking poetic verse is the way to go with future design criticism.

  • Alissa

    Hey Timothy, thanks so much, I should probably link all the references to people can read more! And you can sign up for the de LaB emails here (or just check the site):

    And Eric, yessss! Do you think John Walters will go for a Dezign Rhymez column?

  • Eric Heiman

    If John’s game, count me in, too! Jeremy Mende and I will provide some musical accompaniment on guitar and drums.

  • orhan

    alissa you are terrible for leaving nothing for us to write about los angeles!
    i love it.;.))

  • Zach

    Dear Alissa,

    Your poem was really awesome
    and it certainly made me think,
    why with so much great design in our country,
    the design of our economic system must stink.

    Although that was probably too many syllables,
    It strikes me as pitiful that we can’t do something more,
    So will all these economic stimuli really help me
    give more money to my favorite stores?

    Or does it really matter?
    Is history just one big ugly ab-ex paint splatter?
    With the hipsters gettin’ down to the sound
    of our society hitting the brakes but still hitting the ground.

    Design for the other 99% is great
    but what about the 80% of the 1% whose fate
    is looking slightly more grim
    because of some investment bankers’ whim?

    We designers and writers have an obligation,
    as critical thinking is part of our daily occupation,
    to muster up our best armaments
    and hope for payment in, well, karma-mints,
    or something to that effect,
    no it won’t be our fattest check.
    But maybe, just maybe, like you said in your piece,
    the holidays can bring us, instead of a Juicy Couture fleece,
    enough money to get by and help enable at least,
    some semblance of social and economic peace.

  • Alissa

    Zach emailed that to me and I demanded that he post it here for all to see. As he said in his note to me, and I agree, the only thing that’s going to get us all through this is laughter. Thanks again, Zach. You can join our band/spoken word collective we’re forming (right, Eric?).

  • Archikvetch

    This inspires me to get back out my rusty pen and write anew. I use to write for the LA Weekly back in the day on design and architecture, and always wondered why people didn’t find architecture funny. I called a Frank Gehry building a “primitive hut on a stick” and was shunned. Maybe Wofflin was wrong and comedy is the last phase of an art movement… Keep rockin! GREAT poem and the event sounded swellegant. I thought that John Chase did write about that story in Glitter Stucco? Or not…

  • Alissa

    Archikvetch, I think your name alone makes architecture funny! Thank you so much, and please do join us for the next one. I hope to see your Gehry bashing somewhere soon!

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  • http://http// jeff (

    Alissa, this is awesome. I’m thinking poetic verse is the way to go with future design criticism.

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