FORM follows FUNCTION (FfF) is delighted to introduce "FFFridays," a bi-weekly column for KCET Departures' "Land of Sunshine" blog. Each update will feature intimate portraits of people and places throughout the vast neighborhoods of Los Angeles.
For our first episode of Traces, we take a close look at a space that was once known around the world for its pivotal role in the West Coast Hip Hop movement. We spent some time speaking with MacArthur Park local Carmelo Alvarez, the founding director of Youth Break Center, Inc. a.k.a. "Radiotron."
From 1983 to 1985, Radiotron was located at 715 South Park View across the street from MacArthur Park. Carmelo opened its doors to the local youth who were being cited for break dancing on sidewalks or writing graffiti on walls. The center soon gained a reputation for being a safe space for breakdancing, popping, graffiti art, MCing and DJing during the mid-80s, becoming known as the first West Coast Hip Hop youth center.
Radiotron was also the home of the movies "Breakin" and "Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo." Not to mention the center of the first Graffiti Art Crews in Los Angeles, as documented in "History of Graffiti in LA" by Wisk, "The Other Side" by Ruben Martinez, and "City of Quartz" by Mike Davis.
In 1985, despite community efforts to save the building, Radiotron was demolished for the construction of Park View Mall. But its spirit lives on through the people who were there. Visit radiotron.org for more info.
Since Radiotron, Carmelo continues to be involved in youth advocacy and cultural programming. In the past 30 years, he has been instrumental in opening 14 youth and community-based cultural centers throughout Los Angeles, 2 in Mexico, and 1 in New York. He is currently working on his 18th venture, producing shows at the historic Stages Theater in Hollywood.
Can spaces like Radiotron be sustainable? Are there any examples today of spaces like this, and how are they able to sustain themselves? How do we balance the financial needs of business and commerce with the necessity for community-oriented spaces?
FORM follows FUNCTION is a collaborative media studio creating non-fiction, short format videos connecting architecture, people and place. As an open studio, FfF seeks to collaborate with people (architects, designers, and dwellers alike) who are interested in telling unique stories around the built environment, the places around them, and its impact on people's lives.