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Johnson & Favaro and Guthrie+Buresh called for a

Since the boom of the early 19505 the response to

Two Issues were considered of primary i~portance , First

Increased demand for housing has been to build Qut-

was the need for Increased urban density

or, as the

redislribution of space , transferring unused privat e space

the singl e family Mme dweller to maintain th e status

wards. With Los Angeles and Its adjoining counties

Central Office of Architecture declared, "DENSIFY OR

to the public domain. Ingeniously expanding on Ihis

quo. Revolutionary change runs COunter 10 the oulmoded


Synonymous with Ihe nolion of suburbia is the deSire of

spanning hundreds of square miles, planners have been

DIE: Second was the acknowledgement of the single

techniqu e, Mary-Ann Ray's designs used alleys and

fantasies of the average suburbanit e. Whether these

virtually powerless to control the growth on any but a

family residence as the icon of American capitalism, the

other voids between shuctures as the fool prints for her

radical redefinitions would be embraced within their

strictly regional level. From the taxing of resources to thfl

American Dream.

buildings, fold ing them into the crevices of the urban

alloted con texts remains the crucial question, In a panel

mesh ,

discussion on the final weekend of the exh ibition the

dilemma of transporiatiOfl, developers, too, have long

architects themselves agreed that the most effective

recognized Ihe disadvantages of expansion Into the vast

Satisfying urban demands and suburban desires, efforts

desert bul have resp<lnded to consumer demand by

which beller lend themselves to juidaposition than mar-

As if in response to the tract housing of the post-War

continuing to build centrifugally.

riage, required In most schemesa radical reinterpretation

era, most of Ihe projects includ ed several building types

of a suburban aesthetic. All of Ihe projects re<:ognized.

'with in their respective schemes. Unlike the Central Of"

Redefining the American Dream, although a seemingly

the need for re-evaluating existing zoning laws which

fice of Architecture 's uni-dimensional Love-II-or-Leav e-

Orwellian proposal, is presented with such grace and

In recent years development of tract houses in some

test would be to build them and let reality be the judge.

communities has given way to multi-story units. How-

impose set-back requirements and restrict building

It approach, designs such as Ray 's designated housing

clarity In Ihese projects that It is difficult to believe thai

ever, these seemingly obvious ,clutions do not accom -


types with spe<:ilic occupants in mind, These Included

somewhere, at some time, their precepts couldn't be

housing for Ihe homeless, transients, singles and fami-

successfully appli ed. Still open to question, however, is

modate Ihe desire of many home owners, that of Ihe private space afforded by the single family residence.

The main focus of the designers was to take advantage

lies, and Ihose who work both in and away from Ihe

whether a Los Ang ele s nearing th e millennium Is the

of avai lable space. Janek B ielski and Roger Sherman


proper provin-g ground, But, then, whr!l"e beller? These architects have called allention to the obsolescence of a

In an exhibit that recently closed at the LA Municipal Art

both approached Ihls task by providing a range of op-

Gallery Roger Sherman assembled several architectural

tions for residents, eliminating set-backs and creating

Guthrie+Buresh also recognized the need to build above

desire to keep population densities low. One realizes

firms to address the iss ue of housing in response to

courtyard spaces. Uke their Medltefla nean counter-

and around existing structures to Increase the occu-

looking allhes e elegant and Inventive schemes the need

population growth In Southern California, Challenging

paris, these designs did not require the strict designa-

pancy of single lois. Their strateg ies included construct-

to awake f rom our reverie,to awake 10 the reality of the

standard building types accepted since World War II and

tion of interior and exterior space.

Ing studios over garages and adding commercial space


admonishing the f_ recent attempts by deYelopers to

In lieu of front lawns in order 10 take fu ll advantage of

meet the demands of urban dwelling, Ihe archit ects

usable land,

Alison Lynn

altered environ ment. (Residents might as well be told

p.esented projects that acknowledge not only the basic demands of the maturing city but also the intangible deSires of Its inhabitants. To this end was proposed RE; American Dream.

Dream on

Architects and city planners don't always see eye to eye

Los Angeles views Itself as a series of small towns and

show that advocate measures such as losing paris of

with the public about the desirability of Increasing the

neighborhoods, Densiflcation represents the death of

backyards for an alley would undoubtedly pmYOke open

thai they

density of existing urban nelghoomoods. A case in polnl

these neighborhoods as their residents know them -

warfare. Why, I wondered as I looked althe show, would

and stop watching TV because it rols their minds,) New

witness the ferocity with which Southern California resi-

any homeowner who likes the way hislher neighborhood

high density housing might be more appropriately intro-

the L.A. Municipal Arl Gallery. The architects whose

dents band logether in protective homeowners groups. I

looks now, be willing to watch It be completely trans·

duced in some olher loning cstegory such as commercial

conceptual projects were on display made little, if any,

found the show's assumption that lower density neigh-


land use,

acknowledgement that density is the great Bogeyman

borhoods would inevitably become outmoded by some In short, the show had the vices and virtu es of a paper

for many Los Angeles residents. This fundamental flaw

kind of mutually agreeable environmental agenda and go

Districts where these proposals would stand the great-

in Ihe schemes' premis es renders them formalist exer-

the way of leaded gas and styrofoam fast-food contain-

est chance of being adopted would be where more

project. Its idealized program allowed architects to de-

cises rather than real possibi1i\ies for improving the

ers naive and wildly optimistic. This is not a politically

transient rental populalions and noncon forming hou sing

velop ideas that push back the boundaries of existing possibililles , but Ihese ideas were weakened as actual

suburban landscape andlor community. People in

plausible premise, given that most homeowners groups

already exist. In economically deprived sections of the

Southern California generally will do anything possible

have fought tooth and nail to get Iheir neighborhoods

city, smaller allowable lot sizes and great er density cou ld

solullons by the fact that they ignored some very real

to have a physical buffer of space between them and

downzoned to prolect Ihem from the threat of greater

act as a de-facto urban opportunity lOne, (Although

soclo- political considerations.

their neighbors even if that means gelling up at 4;00

density. Some of the proposals in the show call for

some low-incom e neighborhoods may be just as

A,M. to commule from the Moreno Valley to downtown

mandatory reconflguration of property lines, a process

adamantly opposed to the measures as any other

L.A. Lois of human beings in the street are scary to

which would ultimately requ ire government condemna-

single-family neighborhoods,) Some of th e ideas in the

residents of Southern Californ ia. People on the street

tion of privately owned property. The


In the

Jo hn Cha se

show seem more applicable to the development of raw

represent crime, danger, and the suspect condition of

land in Palmdale than well eS lablished nei ghborhoods

being an automobile-less pedestrian,

In Los Angeles; Instituting these proposals there does not require an existing population to accept a totally

fOI' Architecture and Urblrn D. ... n

W Hotlywood, C. llfoml •

· 21;8127141

stop driving cars because they pollule

Is the show "RE; American Dream ", recently on view at




State of the Art

th eir findings. Each of these maps an exact pattern of

Appropriated here, 'Out of Sil o. ' is meant to imply the

logic guiding the processes of disenfranchisement in the

; opposite: the preoccupetions of the Western intellectual

fallacy, the 'new' Formalism, as a telltale symptom of

Out 01 Slle: A Social Criticism of

nation's two largest cities. Each then catalogues the

elite ere so out of touch with the built environment that

architecture's moribund stale. In short, archlt&Cts heve

(or, just Out of S"ite?)

their endeavors prove as meaningless as the


Arclliiecture, edited by Diane Glllrarde,

recurring fa ilure of artists, planners and architects to

(SeaWe: Bay Press, 1991),

acknowledge their complicity in systems of impoverish-

' soul-sealching of the TV character made famous by the

sibility in favor of high priced game-playing for the

249 pages, $16.95 essays by Margaret Crawford,

ment. These two pieces alone are among the most

. phrase.

wealthy . To critique this game-playing within its own

Mike Davis, Rosalyn Deutsche, Kenneth Frampton,

important primers for students of design posed in decades. 1

Diane Gllllardo, Vlncen l Pe1:ora, To ny Schuman and Ferrucclo Trabalzi


Ghira rdo has opted to pinpoint exactly one contemporary

generally, and increasingly, side-stepped social respon-

terms, or In ierms of 115 most brazen players, only adds But is Obit of SUe not more of the same navel-gazing?

weight to Ihe corpse carried off and bu ried by the other

Though meny pleas are made for a broader dialogue

authors In her collection.


With Out gf Sjte, Ghirardo has posed an alternative - not

uniling architectural thought with the 'outer' world, all

As an anthology of voices speaking ou l on the current

to sayan antithesis - to the overt commercial ity she has

, eight aulOOrs teach at architecture schools, five at SCI-

state of archileclurallhOl.Jght, Qui of Site delivers more

faulled rapeatedly In the wo~ of others over the last two

,Arc. Though Mike Davis and Barbara Deutsche often

Joe Cay

than promised. Diane Gllifardo has assembled a slellar

decades. In piece of splashy color graphics and glossy

i step far beyond their call of duty as academics , the brief

1. For further reading along the lines of these last two

line-up of the left Coasl Lell, balanced by diverse leKts

finish, Ghlrardo has opted in bold-face for the ascendency

'biographies of the contributors make note only of where

essays, try :

from New York and European theorists. Ironically. Ihe

of the printed word over the reproducible image. Hers is

each teaches , thus 'leg itimating " and homogenizing these

FjfJ In the Hearth路 The Radical Ppljllcs gf p lace In

essays that make up the book, taken as a whole, are

a carefully-tailored asceticism, meeting HYPE with type .

voices at a single stroke.


edlled by Mike DaYls and others, (London:

New Yo~: Verso, 1990):

more insightful than Gllirardo's summary of Ihe Ideas In wo~

If YQu

Llyed Here路 The


the book. Although Ghlfardo sels 00110 castigate archi-

Ghirardo has been quick to sum up the

01 others as

Though pertlaps less intentional, the sub-t itle, 'A Social

tects for their societal irresponsibility, she fails to ana-

'reactionary, ' yet feils to note th e nostalgia of her own

ICriticism of Architecture,' has similar ambiguities. Much

lyze their motivations. The other writers examine the

method. If most architectural publication reduces the

iof the criticism is indeed social . Ghirardo opens both her

by Rosalyn Deutsche, (Seattle: Bay Press, 010.

culturallorces that have cordoned off architecture from

buill en~ronment to consumable image for the media(ted)

introduction and her essay with pathetically Insensitive

Foundation, 1991): and,

other disciplines and from Ihose areas most In need of

classes, Obit gf SUe retreats to an even more ethereal

words from Peter Eisenman - no doubt fairly and easi ly

Relmaglnlng America: The Acts gf Social CbangO

environmental Imp rovements.

plane. As presented, th is is a book by and for scholars,

sampled from many other equally thoughtless comments .

edited by Mark O'Brien and Craig Uttle, (Phllft{jelphla,

written and promoted by same . Though ostensibly in-

To tak e Eisenman to task for attitudes held more Insidi-

Santa Cruz: New Society Publishers, 1990) .


In Act Thegll' Ind Social

a project by Martha Rosier - Includes essay

Thoug h posed as 'a broad-basad critique thai directly

tended to criticise 'Arch itecture,' few of the autoors

ous ly by many men practicing architecture has the ring -

challenges the formalist assumptions currently dominat-

chose to illustrate their pieces - perhaps because when

and the effect - of critiquing Andrew Dice Clay for the

For a radically 'fJcoded ' anthologlcal antidote to

ing both teaching and practice,' the essays collected

reduced, half-toned, and printed on grey-beige stock,

failings of modern mankind. By assaulting the singular

male-dominated formalism In architectural discourse,

here - except for the ft{jitor's - generally assume the

images require litlle critique to undermine their value . II

figure of Eisenman, Ghirardo simply reconfirms the station


failure of architecture's purely aesthetic debate as given.

one doesn't come to t hese teds with an understanding

of th e artist as solitary and male, white and embatt!ed.

Drawing Blillding Telct, edited by Andlea Kahn,

Many of them go far in mapping out the his to ry of that

01 i he published and buill works under discussion, little

failure and postulating new more responsive and respon-

of the profound commentary will regis ter. Even so , there

Oddly enough, Ghirardo passes up the opportunity to

sible paths for future architectural discourse.

Is poetl}' to the title of Itlis collection and satire to its

lambaste Richard Meier in the second of her two treat-

(Princeton: Princeton Architectural Press, 1991).

byline. 'Out of Site" both sums up the locale of most

ments. She deplores t he Getty Foundation for Its inat-

The breadth of scholarship and deplh of understanding

architectural thought in Ihe eighties, and plays sa ...... y,

tention t o the art of this century and its t hinly-disguised

that each author has brought 10 bear on his or her chosen

erudite games with a happycalch-all of seventies enthu-

intention to keep its collection free of traffic too pedes-

topic makes it dilficult 10 describe Ihe complexity of

siasm. '01,11 of Sightl " Jimmy Walker used to say deily on

trian. But she leaves the designs for their ma lign acropo-

their ideas in the context of a brief review. Frampton,

Good Tjmes, letting the mostly white audience of the

l is more Of less untouched. Meier, far more than

Crawford and Pecora place the current practlce(s) of

showknowthalthe faltering economic status of America's

Eisenman, appears open to the critique put forth by

architecture with philosophical and historical precision.

black, urban families wasn't cause for them to worry.

Ghirardo. On count!ess occasions and with silent, sel/-

Schuman and Trabalzi offer leading examples of mlcro-

assured arrogance, Meier has colonized fore ign soil with

and macro-political analysis turned on the European city

a universalizing formal ism divorced from any and all

and highlight the ethically suspecl role of Architecture

路context. He, after all, is the last architect to see all hues

that emerges flom such analyses. Davis and Deutsche

,In White, his White.

virtually invent new disciplines to contain Ihe range of

Home on the Range

Olive down ihe lillie cul-de-sacs thai snake through

10 the outside. Secure in their paranOia, the~ leave a few

not bring jobs or sense to this community . It exists by

each of these developments, and you find yourself in

narrow gates into the ir curving labyrinths, where all

virtue of its far-flung quality, its separation from the

Spielberg land - thai surreally normal anyplace whe re

sense of direction is soon lost as you curve around the

perceived urban wasteland 01 crime and smog, and by

see nothing but the clQsed compounds of suburban trect

single family homes have been transformed into ab-

bright green patches of lawn (wasn't there a desert here

the re lative worthlessness of its land. ArChitecture cannot

developments spread ing out over the high desert, eating

stracted fragments of Orange County derivatives of the

somewhere?) . There are no corner stores , no par ks, no

make a place In the dese~ except as a solitary oas is or

myth of Spanish Colonial living -

places to go except Into the vast emptiness of the

a nomadic settlement. It must accept the unsettled ,


ephemeral and isolated nature of human habltallon in

At the edge of Ihe city, the forms of the future rise in front of you like an apocalyptic nigh tmare of normatcy. Co ming over the crest of the San Gabriel moun tains, you

up its emptiness with the boxed-in forms of our city. The

here spliced together

Antelope Valley is the fastest growing part of Los Angeles

so merCilessly that only the sloping roof and rough

County, with well over 15,000 housing starts a year.

stucco coat remain. Pack ed together, sometimes even

this fork of the Mojave. II must confront the carpet-like

turned into rowh ouses, they are reminiscentof the dense

The Antelope Valley poses the question to architecture:

mesh of infrastructure and habitation that Is the naked

stucco rows huddled togeth er against the winds whipping

lin es of homes that formed the vemacular of Ihe first

what Is 10 be done? Sooner or later, so me enlightened

truth of exurban development. That would seem to deny

down from the Tehachapls is now a thriving city of over

suburbs of the Midwest. But these neighbortloods haye

city father or mother wil l ask an architect to create a

t he traditional notion of an idenllfiable architecture and

100,000 Inhabitants. Downtown Is a strip several miles

freed themselves completely from the city. Th ey sit back

place somewhere ou t the re , to give th e community an

t hus poses the question: If Palmdale-lancaster Is the

long, where the fore courts of pa~ing lots set off the

from the major arteries, each isolated and identified only

identity, hound it and locus il. But can it be done? A good

future of los Angeles, what is the future of architecture

by real estate signs. They are walled In , allowing no view

Poslmodernlsl wi ll tell you that any place can be like

in Los Angeles? As the prophets knew, only by facing the

of the city Is a perennial construction zone. Th e only

home. All iltakes is tight urbanism, easily legible graph-

desert can we define ourselves.

industry is Plant 14, home of the B-1 bomber. The

ics, a few references to the natural elements, and a

largest forms are stili those of the desert and the moun-

careful choreography of spaces . But will that solve the

tain . There is no locus, no core, no place like home In

fundamental alienation of this place? Architecture can-

What only a few years ago was a collection of a lew

Post modern graphics of co mmercial seduction. The edge

Aeron Bebky

Palmdale-Lancaster. But there is a lot of building, connected by the umbilical cord of the Freeway to the jobs, am enities and life of Los Angeles.

I Like X

I like 'x ' - the x of 'let x be the unknown' - \t1e unsung

It Isn't. There Is nothing like bad comp ute r graphics 10

Or we could use x to creale rooms with numerous

hero of endless algebra problems. While it 's true that 'x'

ruin anyone's reality and these graphics are slill very

dimensions - in four dimensions a three dimensional

firmly rooted In existing realities. Most systems use

usually turns out to be something like 14 oranges or 22

crud e. In fact, the graphics are necessarily crude sioce

room would need no doors because you could pick

simple Computer Aid ed Design (CAD) systems to create

cen ts, there Is a brief period before the final equals sign,

more sophisticated images would take too long to redraw

yourself ou l 01 that room just as easily as In three

environments. This seems to be a very real straitjacket

during which 'x' could be anything at all. Such an 'x'

every time you moved your head. There is still a long way

dimensions you can pick a shape off a piece of two

on creallvity as even computer drawing 15 very much

offers unlimited possibilities for the imagination.

to go before virtual reality poses any threat to the real

dimensional paper. But I think that what x

thing . But thai's not the point.

this case is expose time and space for the charlatans


does in

Unfortunately, the tools for creating ~rtual realities are

constrained by our laws of physics and our drafting conventions.

they really are. In this case, let x be an environment

We don't often get x's In architecture. In the Middle Ages the 'x ' in architecture equalled the gothic caihedral

Far more Important, and this is where x comes in, is the

and in the Industrial revolution it equalled Ihe sky-

design environment that Is suggested by virtual real ity . II

scraper , but these are rare events In our hlstOl)'. Now,

Is quite simply an environment where you can build

where time and space don't exist.

Nonethetess ills interesting to Imagine Ihe day when the

Next, x would be helpful in breaking down the con-

look bet1er than the real ones . Remember, in a virtual

equipment improves and the virtual buildings begin to

however, it appears that the twentieth century has one

anyth ing you can possibly imagine. There are no con-

straints imposed by language. The wOOle problem of

bui lding there is no value eng ineering and no budget

big, final x in store for architecture: virtual reality.

strainls and no restricti ons and In th is sense It repre-

' you throwing the ball across the room' Is that you (ttle

cuts, every wall can be marble, and exposft{j steel doesn't

sents an architect's every dream, and every nightmare,

subj ect) are distinct flom the ball (the obj ect). So lei x be

have to be fi reproofed. The problem is, If I can go home

Virtual reality is the art of making people think \t1ey' re in

come true.

the sltuallon where you are the ball and you th row

to a cardboard box, snap on my goggles and be In

yourself across the room. In such a situation verbs such

Versailles: why would I want to spend good money on a stucco bungalow In Sllveriake?

environments that don't really exist, and computers are the toys of choice for creating this illusion. Most ~rtual

Let x be these environments . X could become an envi-

as throw are woefully Inadequate and a whole new set of

reality systems consist of goggles, a helmet and a glove.

ronment where everything was built of silver and gold,

subject/object merged verbs would be required. There is

When you put on the goggles, small TV monitors in each

but that is far too simplistic. Far better to let x be an

no doubt that such environments would quickly drive you

eyepiece give your left and right eyes slightly different

environment where gravity no longer exists. Far more

mad, but viewed from the relative safety of this side of x

pictures of a compu ter-generated space, hence creallng

Interesting to let x be an environment with its own new

they are merely provocative.

the illusion of three dimensions. When you put on the

and unique laws of physics. tmag ine a room in which

helmet. a tracking device follows the movements of your

different locations were in different tim e zones only

Virtual reality is often t outed as a boon to architects in

head. When you turn your head to the left, the graphics

seconds apart. Throwi ng a ball across that room would

that it allows them to walk cli ents through bui ldings

on the monitors are readjusted to reflect that change in

mean that it might appear f irst in the cent er of the room,

wh ich are designed bul not buill. But this is bit like

viewpoint. When you put on the glove, YOll have a tool for

then one foot flom the thrower, then 2 inch es from the

driving the space shutt le to the corner to get a quart 01

moving through the space. Somellmes Just polnllng will

far wall - all depending on what t ime it was .

milk - you can do ii, but it misses the potential of t he

allow you to move in that direction. When you put them

medium. The challenge is not to recreate existing /eall-

all on at the same time, the effect Is supposed to be

ties but rather to create new on es.

mind-bogg ling.

Douglaa Macleod

Newsletter, September 1991