Downtown Los Angeles
Los Angeles has always defined itself by the extreme physical beauty and perfect climate juxtaposed with the tenuous fragility of its natural setting. The builtscape rests on the time bomb of the San Andreas Fault. The landscape can turn into a tinderbox in an instant with a mere shift in the wind. Hemmed in by the natural barriers of the mountains, desert and ocean, the land itself was essentially built out in the 80’s into a 22-mile carpet of small buildings forcing the city to grow by expanding deeply into the desert and densifying everywhere else.
This is a city that is in many ways shaped by its water. With no natural harbor, the port at Long Beach is virtually entirely manmade. What water could be pumped from the LA River and the aquifer was depleted decades ago, leaving the city little option but to transport the water it needed over increasingly longer distances to serve the city. At the same time the Venice Beach and the endless summer it represents has come to define the laid-back California culture.
This is also a city that pioneered and perfected the freeway and then firmly committed to it without looking back. In the process, it decommissioned much of its mass transit only to face the unintended consequence of smog that began in the 60’s followed by the endless traffic jams clogging and choking its arteries that exist now. Recently there is a movement back to a more comprehensive mass transit system as old solutions are becoming new solutions and the city is investing in its infrastructure of transportation. The railroad has become a commuter rail, the street cars are gone, but the metro rail is expanding with the Gold Line.
Much has been written about the culture and the cultural history of Los Angeles which has been amplified in our national theater of movies and television. Events that have happened here have gone on to have a far wider influence than might be thought possible at the time. The Case Study Houses, for instance, have spawned an architectural and cultural legacy quite out of proportion to the handful of houses that were actually built as they redefined the suburban house and the suburb itself while creating a modern residential aesthetic that is still with us sixty years later.
Mapping is both the oldest and newest way of visually conveying complicated information and layering data at the same time. The confluence of architecture (the built environment), public art (the cultural insertions) and history (the events that happened in that specific location) in the public realm are the most significant components in describing the story of a city and its people in a manner that transcends pure documentation. The snapshot of Los Angeles that is possible in the era of Google Earth is a picture that can frame a dialogue about architecture and urbanism, ecosystems and resiliency, cultural assets and cultural history allowing multiple perspectives and mashups at the same time.
With smartphone technology, it is possible to expand well beyond the gallery walls into the places themselves in Los Angeles and use the tools to begin to look at the archeology of the sites. One can listen to the voices of the architects and artists, historians and planners who shaped this city itself and hear them tell their stories at the physical place. One can layer photos and drawings both historic and recent. One can search for more work by the architect or places of note nearby being an historian and a cultural tourist at the same time. This is a technology that is only in its infancy but it is developing rapidly. Beginning with about 550 of LA’s most significant and interesting sites and over 100 podcasts, the exhibition both here and in the city outside is a work in progress. It is updated constantly.
Abby Suckle FAIA
Anne Lewison AIA RAIC
Los Angeles Advisory Council:
Carlo Caccavale Hon. AIA LA
Mike Enomoto FAIA
Debra Gerod FAIA
Alice Kimm FAIA
Michael Lehrer FAIA
Warren Techentin AIA
American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles Chapter
American Institute of Architects, New York Chapter
The Association for Women in Architecture + Design
Barnsdall Art Park Foundation
City of Inglewood Public Art Program
City of Pasedena Public Art Program
Culver City Art in Public Places Program
Dwell on Design
The Eames Foundation
Friends of the Hollyhock House
Los Angeles County Art Museum
Los Angeles County Arts Commission Civic Arts Program
Museum of Contemporary Art
Women of Design
Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Architecture
Polytechnic Institute of New York University
The University of Southern California School of Architecture
With Special Thanks To:
AZ Architecture Studio • B+U Architects • Barton Phelps & Associates • Barbara Bestor Architecture • Bruce Becket and Associates • Belzberg Architects Group • Brooks + Scarpa Architects • Chu + Gooding Architects • Classic Harbor Yachts • Emily Colasacco • Coscia Day Architecture & Design • Daly Genik Architects • Neil M. Denari Architects • Gensler • David Giglio • Griswold Conservation Associates • Gruen Associates • Eric Haas • Jeff Haas • Haas Entertainment • Robert Harris • Hatch Colasuonno • Anna Heineman • Jeffrey Herr • The Jerde Partnership • Johnson Fain • Killefer Flammang Architects • Koning Eizenberg Architecture • Ellen Lanet • Flora Lang • Lehrer Architects • Mia Lehrer + Associates • Levin & Associates Architects • Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA) • Sarah Lorenzen • Machado Silvetti • Michael Maltzan Architecture • AC Martin Partners • Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners • Morphosis Architects • The OLIN Studio • P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S • Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects • Predock Frane Architects • Bryony Roberts • Eve Dilworth Rosen • RTKL • Saee Studio • George Smart of Triangle Modernist Houses • Snohetta • Randall Stout Architects • May Sun • Doris Sung • Patrick Tighe Architecture • SWA • Martha Welborne FAIA • Tom Wiscombe Design • VOID : Arshia Mahmoodi • XTEN Architecture