DnA 2.0 Lifts Off With the Help of Elon Musk

Photos by: Micah Cordy

DnA has been on air for ten years. And on Monday night an amazing thing happened; the station gave the show a launch party!

KCRW is acknowledging the strength of the creative community in our audience by expanding DnA, on air, via podcast and on the blog and through public events. And we launched DnA 2.0 with a party for design and architecture friends and press at the Tesla store (they don’t call it a showroom) in Santa Monica, with guest Elon Musk.

It was a Monday night but still the place was packed — with a crowd that included architct Thom Mayne, Getty scholar Wim de Wit, A+R’s Rose Apodaca, downtown developer Tom Gilmore, KCET’s Madeline Brand, veteran graphic designer April Greiman, Art Center’s transportation design head Geoff Wardle, all four founders of Commune, Shft founder Peter Glatzer, Indiecade founder Stephanie Barish and artist Laurie Lipton.

People gathered in the white airy room (created for Tesla by a former Apple store designer; and formerly occupied by art book store Arcana) lined with Tesla product — babygros, water bottles, tees and samples of car body finishes — and, posed in the space like art installations (except that you could touch and sit in them) a glimmering red Model S and its chassis.

I suppose it could have been a bit cheesy to hold a party in a store but somehow the scene didn’t feel commercial. For starters, so many designers couldn’t contain their glee at the car itself. And then there was a buzz of intellectual energy possibly because its creator — like the late entrepreneur whose game-changing product also reaches the customer via a bright white and glass store on 3rd Street Promenade — is so extraordinary and interesting.

Despite financial and technological bumps in the roads, and intensive — at times very negative — public scrutiny, Musk, the boyish-looking founder of Paypal, then Tesla and Space X, strides on with an absolute commitment in his efforts to electrify transportation while building rockets that he believes will eventually lead to interplanetary life.

He leavens this with a whacky teen boy sense of humor, doing things like programming old Monty Python episodes into a car’s audio system and launching a rocket carrying a Wheel of Cheese. He makes taking on the impossible sound very simple — if you want to make a better product, he instructed us last night, referring to the manufacturing of his Tesla cars, make a better machine to make a better machine. And he seems to have genuine, engineer’s passion for his projects — tearing up in rage at GM for “crushing” the electric car, when a young boy (son of Indiecade’s Stephanie Barish) in the audience asked him why he decided to found Tesla. Like many brilliant inventors he also has ideas that sound a bit bonkers — like suggesting the 405 freeway become a double-decker freeway when I asked him if there was a technological solution to the congestion in LA.

I love (good) design and designers because of its inherent optimism — to make something that solves a problem or creates something of beauty is surely a positive act, a statement of commitment to the future. Elon Musk represents that optimism in an extreme and awesome degree and it was a thrill to relaunch DnA in his company. But so too do all the designers we cover on DnA inspire with their problem-solving, beauty-creating resolve. In turn DnA and its audience is a reflection of the optimistic spirit of KCRW. I am very grateful for the party and look forward to making the show bigger and better and hope you will be part of the ride.