Wednesday, July 06, 2005

dreams, delusions and density

the latimes has come a long way since I first moved to LA. its still the bastard cousin of the nytimes, but the last few months have brought some welcome improvements - calendarlive is free, the (failed) experiment with wikitorials, expanded local coverage, maybe even an improved op-ed section. which brings me to tomorrow's home section - its great, esp christopher hawthorne's journey thru LA's single family home heritage.

in his investigation, he raises the specter of a looming identity crisis for LA as we run out of land for development:

If the very idea that has, arguably more than any other, helped define Southern California for a century has been rendered obsolete, what does that mean for the region's vision of itself? Will density spell the end of the unique relationship between Angelenos and their houses? Will residential architecture simply fade as a factor in defining the city in the coming century?

its a good question, and interestingly one that is increasingly addressed elsewhere. all of a sudden, LA is heralded as the model for west coast density - one that portland and denver are hoping to replicate. as new urban news puts it, "density is hot, freeways are not." so the real question is - is this all wishful thinking? the grand ave project, the sci-arc adjacent project, other development downtown is certainly looking to increase density and create "walking" communities. do these projects provide a model for other cities? or are we trying to replicate the success of projects in new york, chicago and elsewhere? maybe these will be issues addressed in future hawthorne columns. it just makes me happy when the latimes asks a relevant, timely, provocative question at exactly the same time these issues are bubbling to the surface.


At 9:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read that article also, and it made me a bit annoyed. I know you are a lover of architecture, and so am I, but I don't like it when architects and critics talk about the city as if it is made for its architecture. Los Angeles' love for the single family house is one of the major reasons this city isn't working, with all the overcrowdedness and lack of adequate housing. Los Angeles isn't Topeka, Kansas anymore. It's important to keep the heritage of the past, but it's time for Los Angeles to forge a new identity -- Los Angeles architects need to think of ways to enhance the public arena of the city, and not just private homes and symphony halls. How about a way to enhance our parks?

At 10:47 AM, Blogger Jessica said...

I'm not quite sure what you mean by the city as "made for its architecture" bit. I mean, every first class city boasts about its fine built environment. What would Paris be without the crowning achievements of the distinguished designers of its physical heritage? Or Tokyo, or Hong Kong, or New York?

The hegemonic rule of the single family home does indeed make it harder to now accommodate open and public space in this park-poor city. But I disagree -- plenty of architects and planners are looking at issues of density and infill development. I work with lots of developers who, for better or for worse, are making huge investments in trying to market density in downtown and other areas.

Re: parks: take for ex. activity surrounding the L.A. River and brownfield-to-park development in the areas northeast of downtown. It won't happen without many years of political and budgetary battles, yet this discussion was not even on the table just about 10 years ago -- and now it's unmistakably on the local city planning agenda. Doesn't mean we don't need to enhance public space in other areas, though.


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