Visiting Rick Cortez at RAC Design Build in Elysian Valley




The NELA River Collaborative project builds upon the growing momentum of efforts already underway to transform the Los Angeles River into a "riverfront district" and to create a focal point of community revitalization. For more information visit www.mylariver.org

Youth Voices student producers have been busy collecting pictures and interviews that capture the stories of their neighborhood. Students were encouraged to do this on their own, seeking out, scheduling and shooting their own interviews, as well as take part in interviews that are part of the larger Departures Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront project.

On this day the students from the Los Angeles River School had an opportunity to visit the RAC Design Build Studio and interview the founder and principal architect, Rick Cortez.

RAC Design Build Studio
RAC Design Build Studio

RAC, located in Elysian Valley, is a "full range Architectural design studio and custom fabrication shop that specializes in both custom residential and commercial architectural design, as well as construction, construction management, and extensive custom carpentry and metal fabrication abilities."

RAC Model
RAC Model.

A key objective for RAC is to be "sustainable and eco-conscious by salvaging when possible, re-using when efficient and to be economical and prudent with design decisions proven in construction sites." This philosophy extends to the choice of locating in Elysian Valley -- a mixed-use industrial and residential neighborhood with a deep history tied to the L.A. River. Now as the River goes through a city-wide revitalization process, so the neighborhood is also at a crossroads of change. RAC, like other local businesses and residents, is positioned to make sure this process addresses the needs and best interests of the neighborhood and the environment.

Mr. Cortez giving students a tour of the workshop
Mr. Cortez giving students a tour of the workshop.

The students were given a tour of the studio by Mr. Cortez. He shared the history of the studio, as well as the creative reasons behind the design of the space. The entry area of the studio is a kitchen, unusual for a business but key to setting the mood for a different and more friendly experience for clients and guests of RAC. This is followed by a large open space where all the designers can easily interact on one side, and a workshop on the other side where the manufacturing of building and design materials takes place. Outside of the main building is an open air patio that looks out onto the River and the bike path.

RAC outside patio
RAC outside patio.

The students were curious about Mr. Cortez's education background and how he decided to to become an architect. Mr. Cortez was open with the students, telling them he wasn't a high performing student, but once he found that not only was he good at working with his hands but that he also enjoyed it, he knew the direction he wanted to go. He explained that it was in his high school shop class where he began to connect to his passion for building and design.

Youth Voices student producers set up for an inteview
Youth Voices student producers set up for an inteview.

After the tour the students set up the equipment to prepare for the interview. With help from Departures Associate Producer Alvaro Parra, the students positioned two cameras and the sound equipment that would best capture the spirit and work of RAC and Mr. Cortez. Questions ranged from why choose Elysian Valley as the location for RAC, to what are his hopes for the future of the L.A. River.

Interviewing Mr. Cortez
Interviewing Mr. Cortez

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