Meet the Co-Chairs
You have both been a part of SDAF for a while. What made you decide to co-chair this year’s PKN?
Larry: Good question! I have been a PKN speaker going back probably more than a decade. And, after having been a speaker quite a few times, both at the San Diego Architectural Foundation and a couple of other PKN’s around town, a couple of people at the foundation asked me to be a moderator for a PKN event. And that was about eight years ago, maybe seven, and we had a good time! So for a while, it became a thing that I would moderate whenever they couldn’t find another person (sometimes they brought in celebrity moderators, radio personalities, and some good people who wrote for the San Diego Reader and various other great moderators.)
But I was the backup, and it worked out. I tried to be funny, and I think we had fun! So, anyway, that’s how I got into it, and I got to know PKN as a community outreach tool. I like how it touches on different aspects of design and the nature of cities and communities. It’s a valuable event.
I recently spoke with David, a member of SDAF’s Board of Directors, about becoming a board member. He said that would be great and that they needed a co-chair for PKN events. So, I said, let’s do it! We met and talked, and both agreed this was a good project. We’re excited to start up again now that we’re (hopefully) emerging out of the pandemic. I’m excited to see what we can put together in the future!
David: Yes, I was the one that talked Larry into speaking at a PKN so many years ago. I think it may have been one of our first events. I had a minimal idea of what I was doing at the time, and I had never met Larry. Someone told me that he was this fascinating professor at SDSU that had a good handle on Latin American Urban Studies. I spent a quarter in college studying urban design in Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina, so I knew that Larry and I would get along.
At the time, very few people knew what PKN was, so I think when I reached out to Larry to ask him to speak at one, I’m sure he wondered who is this guy and what is this weird event he is trying to do…and who gave him my number! Nevertheless, I successfully talked him into it, and yes, we hit it off very well. Larry was a captivating speaker, the crowd loved his presentation, and I asked him back again and again. Since he never said no, and became a crowd favorite over time, it made great sense for him to start moderating.
The rest is history, Larry and I have become good friends over the years, and now the fun continues as we are now planning these things together.
Last year PechaKucha Night had to be canceled because of the COVID virus. What does this year’s in-person PKN event look like?
Larry: When I came in as co-chair with David, I said to him, “Let’s try some experiments and do some things a little bit differently.” One idea I had was to try to get some live music started before the event begins. Because what happens? People come into the event space and maybe get some food, a glass of wine or something, and then everybody’s standing around. It’s a lot of fun, and people know each other – many designers, artists, and people in this world that we’re all in, we all know each other. So I thought it’d be cool to have a little music in the background – make it a festive occasion!
We’re also thinking about finding new and interesting locations. For example, the South Bay, which is between downtown and the border, is a unique San Diego area. It would be incredible to represent Latino and communities of color. PKN has reached out to those communities before, but we want to continue doing that and finding additional locations.
The third thing that I felt strongly about was finding different speakers from various backgrounds. David mentioned to me jokingly that he hasn’t always been successful getting women to speak. So I pushed to include more women speakers. Three women are speaking at the upcoming June 10th PKN event, and we’re incredibly pleased about that. We’re hoping to get a variety of speakers from different backgrounds for future PKN events.
David: I like that Larry has new ideas for the program; I think they will only improve it. People in the AED fields are looking for creative social outlets in their lives, and unfortunately, there are very few of these types of things in this town. PKN is precisely that, and I think that’s why it has become so popular for the” creative class.” The cool thing is that Larry’s an eccentric gentleman with incredible ideas and gets it! I think his contribution will put future events over the top, and I’m looking forward to it!
In what way does the PKN program benefit the San Diego Community?
Larry: Well, in several ways! It’s a fun, entertaining way to introduce people to essential issues in urban design, architecture, the built environment, sustainability, creative arts, public art, and so many things that are going on in that region that many people don’t know about. The idea of PKN is to make it an accessible, easily digestible format – 20 images, 20 seconds per image.
It’s not easy to get up there and do your thing in such a packed venue from the speaker side of things! It’s a challenge for the speakers to say something in such a short amount of time and do it entertaining way. I think the audience appreciates that, and it doesn’t take a lot of concentration from them. It’s a fun way to be introduced to a new set of ideas!
David: Additional to Larry’s points, PKN gives everyone the ability to be heard in a large crowd setting. Often, only a small group of voices is heard in every society. These are the celebrities, the famous, the highly opinionated, or the wealthy. PKN gives the mic to anyone that has something to say and wants an opportunity to say it to an audience. There are a few rules. No promotions, nothing vulgar or offensive, and no politics or religion. Pretty simple. And the great thing is that each PKN presentation is short and sweet, so in total, the event runs 6 minutes and 40 seconds, to be exact. So, if what one presenter has to say is not of interest to someone in the audience, the next one will be coming up quickly. That’s the beauty of the program.
Why do you think it’s important?
Larry: As someone who’s been an educator, I think it’s essential. I’ve always wanted to take my game outside the university and deliver it to a larger audience. I’ve written many op-ed pieces for publications and journals over the years. I asked myself how I can translate this set of ideas to a broader audience? Well, PKN is a way to do that. It’s getting people who are doing fascinating work that maybe other folks don’t know about, put it out there, and have a little bit of fun along the way – you have a big crowd of people in celebration mode! It’s a way for people to get together and experience community and an enjoyable way to get people to think about cities and where they live. It started in Japan and spread all over the world.
The fact that we’re hosting a PKN event in San Diego is a credit to all the creative folks who’ve supported this for a long time, and I’m happy to be part of it!
David: PKN is one of a kind in San Diego; it’s an outlet for the creative types who likely spend hours in their workspaces planning, coordinating, building, etc. PKN is our opportunity to get out, see what’s happening with others in our industries, get inspired, and be a part of our community. This type of event is rare in San Diego. I think everyone who attends PKN appreciates this opportunity to take a break from the long hours of the things that we do during our work weeks.
David: To add to the history, PKN was started in Tokyo in 2003 by a Danish and English architect team (Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham) practicing in Tokyo. They opened a nightclub in a basement in a downtown neighborhood. The club was called Super Deluxe, and they did this as their “night-time job.” PKN was always Thursday night at Super Deluxe. Crazy enough, this spread worldwide like a wildfire and is now in over 1200 cities.
What do you want to see come out of this event?
Larry: What I’d like to see is to jumpstart the idea of PKN community events and for people to come back out and begin to think about how we can open up and start being out in the world again supporting our communities. But at the same time, I am aware that on June 10th, we’re still inside the cutoff, and we have to take precautions. We will be asking people to wear masks in the building. An open-aired outside patio exists there, so people can go outside and probably take their masks off. People will have to continue to be vigilant, though.
But I hope that this is the beginning of getting back out and doing live events because it’s different. You can hold PKN as a Zoom event, but it’s just not the same experience that way. It’s the crowd’s energy when someone’s presenting, and people are having fun laughing and enjoying themselves. The images are more significant than just seeing them on your screen. I would say that’s really what this hopefully will be – a celebration of PKN and being out in community events like this.
David: I hope that everyone has fun, people engage, share, and connect to some new ideas, concepts, or creative projects through this. A friend that studied at Cal Arts in Los Angeles told me that Walt Disney created Cal Arts because he believed that artist usually worked in silos in their particular industry. Still, if you brought them together in one place where they could all study and collaborate, amazing things would happen. I believe that this is true today, and PKN is one event that brings us all together. On June 10th, we will be bringing together artists, architects, builders, sculptors, photographers, and the like. People will share and connect and hopefully walk away with a new perspective.
What is your favorite part of PKN?
Larry: Sometimes, it can get pretty noisy at PKN’s because people drink, talk to people, and have fun. But when the speakers are really good, there’s a buzz in the room, and the crowd quiets down. They get more excited to hear the next speaker. And the speaker has their own experience. That’s what I like – when the speakers are engaging, and people are listening and enjoying it and having fun. That’s an exciting moment for me.
David: PKN is like the prize at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box – you never know what you’re going to get, but you nevertheless can’t wait to get to it. Unlike Cracker Jack’s, you’re never disappointed. Every PKN is so different. We like it and strive to keep it that way. My favorite part is watching it unfold and see what happens.
Co-Chair/Emcee. Lawrence Herzog (Ph.D.) is a writer and lecturer in the Department of Urban Studies & Planning at UC San Diego, Professor emeritus of city planning in the School of Public Affairs at SDSU, and author/editor of 11 books on urban planning, design, and global/cross-border development, most recently Global Suburbs: Urban Sprawl from the Rio Grande to Rio de Janeiro (Routledge, 2015).
Co-Chair. David McCullough is a graduate of the nationally-ranked Landscape Architecture department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and formed McCullough Landscape Architecture (along with his wife Catherine) in 1999. As Principal Landscape Architect, David oversees all aspects of the design and production of all projects, many of which have earned awards and recognition in national publications.
We’ll see you Thursday, June 10th at 6 pm at Bread & Salt! Please know that COVID rules require everyone to wear a mask, and the limit will be 50% capacity inside. Late arrivals might not be allowed inside once capacity is reached as there is an interior limit of 150 registrants.