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IN THE EYE OF THE STORM
911 Communication Dispatch Center
Los Angeles, California














VIEW OTHER PROGRAMS
> Family Voices/Austin



Site:
911 Communication Dispatch Center--Los Angeles

Funded by:
The Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department/ Public Art Program

Outreach by:
Community Architexts (Community Outreach Services)

Design by:
BJ Krivanek Art+Design

Site, System and Concepts:
The Communication Dispatch Center is an inscrutable fortress. When we studied the operations to learn more about the technological functions and the human dimensions of the system, we became interested in the current, day-to-day community at the heart of the 911 system. Each operator--PSR (Police Service Representative)--provides the critical human connection in the network. Thus, we came to our stated objectives for this public art program: to symbolize and communicate the meaning of the 911 System and to engage the public in a performative interaction with the art.

To symbolize the meaning of the 911 System, we analyzed the relationships and interactions between the primary players: the PSR's, the public and the police. We considered the forces at play: the dilemmas (random criminal acts, natural disasters, health crises) that force people to seek help, and the services and resources (paramedics, police, hazmat teams) that can resolve the dilemmas. The players and forces could be mapped onto the plaza to suggest a sculptural organization which can further communicate certain themes and issues: an understanding of the 911 System process, finding order within chaos, and the role of technology.

Public Design Program:
We developed a public art program comprised of four categories of elements: 1) Origins/ Dilemmas, 2) The Vortex, 3) The Connection, and 4) Outcomes. Inscribed into the concrete surface of the plaza, the Origins/ Dilemmas are indexed as caller locations (police reporting districts) cross-referenced to various human crises categorized as police incident codes (459-Burglary, 246-Shots Fired, 187-Murder). The Vortex is comprised of a seemingly chaotic arrangement of elliptical columns, with dark polished surfaces to reflect the city in a malevolent way. However, when one arrives at the center of the Vortex, the chaos suddenly becomes order: all the columns emanate outward in orderly rows.

Once at the center, the public enters a slightly reflective glass cylinder from which one can see outward through inscriptions which suggest the interface between a PSR and community resources (police, paramedics, hotlines) via technology. This cylinder, The Connection, symbolizes that fragile moment when the person in distress calls the 911 System, to make a human connection. To suggest the essential anonymity of this encounter, a stainless steel revolving door panel is centered within the cylinder, with texts inscribed on both sides. On one side are questions typically directed toward callers (Did he hit you? Are there any weapons involved?) On the other side--because it wasn't possible to interview victims--we've created a collective composite story that suggests the psychological aftermath of these incidents.

People on either side of the panel can talk to each other and cooperatively interact and revolve the panel, but not see each other, thus symbolizing the anonymous yet empathic encounters of the 911 System. Finally, the public's view is drawn outward, toward the masonry wall that separates the plaza from Parker Center. Large-scale, silhouetted letterforms spell out action words (Rescue, Capture, Relief) which suggest the police department's role as a community resource.