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Long Beach: Re-Imagining East 7th Street

Design by Mario Cipresso/Studio Shift
Design by Mario Cipresso/Studio Shift

There's something to say about collaboration in any sense of the term, be it social or political, design or communal. And the East 7th Street Collaboration--a congregation of the neighborhoods of Rose Park, Craftsman Village, and North Alamitos Beach--has opted to override the City in favor of getting their vision done themselves.

This is not an easy feat since their main focus is the massive arterial that is 7th Street. And while the group knows they can't simply put up the buildings they want to see or immediately create the streets they want to create, they do know that by asking others what they want to see is the first step towards realizing a better 7th Street that is more efficiently connected to Downtown.

So they asked architects to stroll along East 7th, selecting one of 50 buildings, and showcasing how precisely they envision 7th Street.

The results were not only varied--ranging from contemporary to Classical French--but reflected the diversity of culture that inhabits Long Beach. Even more fascinating are the amount of entries from varied places: Santa Monica, Santa Maria, Fullerton, Fremont…

The winning design from Mario Cipresso of Studio Shift comes from a previous concept the architect submitted for the Anning River Aquatic Recreation Resort in Miyi, China back in 2009. Cipresso (literally) transplanted the massive building he proposed for Miyi--over 400 meters in length--and shrunk it down to size for 2700 E. 7th, making his East 7th Community Center both dramatic in flair and natural in its composition.

The design, a geometric, straight-edge silhouette that mixes metal, wood, and glass, echoes not just Cipresso's style (his Tran Residence in Los Angeles comes to mind) but also harbors a similarity to the new courthouse downtown on a smaller scale with more natural hues. His design also happened to win him both top awards in the competition.

Design by Susan Jansen.
Design by Susan Jansen

Susan Jansen, a resident of Sausalito whose classical Parisienne boutique take on a salon at 2032 E. 7th earned her 3rd place, noted that the more and more she regarded Long Beach's 7th Stret, the more and more it felt like her own neighborhood.

"The things I wanted for the buildings [I designed] are things I wanted to provide the surrounding population as if they were MY neighbors," Jansen said. "I think my designs try to incorporate all the most enjoyable things in everyday life, and make them accessible to people who frequent those buildings--or just drive past them. I love the idea of making people comfortable outside so that they can enjoy California's incredible weather. I love clean lines, organized-looking focal points."

Design by PALidstudio
Design by PALidstudio

Second place winner PALidstudio, which took on Stanley Shades at 3265 E. 7th, drew inspiration from Long Beach's shoreline, the straight lines of the canals along Naples as well as the shape of the Port complex, to bring together a colorful--though in my opinion a bit excessive--wood plank building that altered between multiple shades of blue and teal.

And whether one agrees with the aesthetic of the entries, the fact that such a variety of people see Long Beach as a viable space for good design is what remains key.

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