Page 1


Los Angeles







Public space and ll,banlsm are dIscussed In artIc les by Fred Dewey, Chava DanIe lson and on an ,n troduct lon 10 the Forum lect ur e senes by John Dutton. These are also the tOp IC S for upcomIng sympoSIa sponsored by MOC A, t he Forum

and the Gaur Center.

FROM BREAD TO CIRCUSES AND BEYOND: ON GOOD AND BAD PUBLIC SPACE IN LA FRED DEWEY Public space is thought to mean any open space that attracts people. Yet most would agree Los Angeles, even with its crowds and parks, is not a very favorable environment. Indeed, and frankly as a shock, it is becoming almost hostile to the good life. Some blame the automobile, others planning. still others the destruction of independent politics, the police, the rise of enclaves or crime. Some, like Mike Davis and Ed Soja, have greatly advanced debate by discussing the militarization of space here. But this does not go far enough, however much it may lay the groundwork: for a serious rethinking of Los Angeles. Can we be 'urban, ' at aU? The deeper problem is, we no longer understand, or can continued on pege 6


Los Angeles lookmg east 1960. UCLA Deparrment of Geography aeflal phoro archIVes, Spence Collection

RETURNING TO L.A. CHAVA DANIELSON Ignored for so long as aberrant, idiosyncratic, or bIzarrely exceptional, Los Angeles, in anothef paradoxical tWIst, has more than any other place, become the paradigmatic Window through which to see the last half of the twentl8 th cenrury (Edward Soja, Poslmodern GeographIes, pg. 221}. For a century and a half eXiles escaping the burdens of Clima te or of politiCS. or Simply hoping for some Impossible 51rolo::8 of good luck, have been drawn to los Angeles. Overlooking the immediate beauty of what lay before them, they planted elm llees , Urbanists, who traveled here to study the place. 100 saw only the metaphorIC desen. They turned thelf attentions elsewhere, promISing to return once a city finally emerged. A great many prOjects were proposed that attempted to give the sprawl of Los Angeles the clarity or legibility it was said to lack, but they have been continually thwarted by the reality that to live here meam to live WltnoUt self..conSClOusness, without the burden of an urban identity. Angelenos, as a whole, continually refused either nostalgia or a higher sense of civic duty In choosing where to live, to work, how to travel between Ihem, or which pans of Ihe city would be central to their lives. Other forces have formed th is place. with an honesty and a cruelty Ihat has left most students breathless. In thiS light it IS both highly ironic and absolutely predictable that Los Angeles would become the focal point for intense inquiry by a new generation of theorists and critics. It is a reflection of the maturation of both the metropolis and of urban theory. social criticism and their practitioners, What has changed in the discussion of urbanity is the acceptance of simUltaneity. That a mull!tude of forces cOincide at any given moment In history to produce colliding and contradictory trends IS now accepted as pan of the post-modern expenence

Multiple centers In the same met/opolitan area, IncreaSing fragmentation of social and economic life, and a simultaneous consolidation of wealth and power are all patterns that have been reproduced across the globe. In Los Angeles, the middle and upper class es of lhls ci ty conllnue to retreat behind electronic gates and lines of security patrols, demonstrating the kind of radical SOCial polarizallon that was preViously attributed to third world countries. Meanwhile waves of immigrants. with an uncanny astuteness for the way th e space of th is ci ty has successively been occupied. have creat ed elusive and nearly Imperceptible local POints for thelf communities In the m idst of prevIOUSly undifferentiated suburban sprawl. And while few people are brave enough to predict the outcome of the massive building prOjects taking place downtown, the new and lingering reSidents of the neighborhoods immediately adjacent have lust been presented with the cleanest and most expensive public transportation, the best library services ar"ld the slickest architectural monuments In the short history of this enormous basin. Suddenly Los Angeles, OllCe thought underdeveloped and ill-defined, IS understood as a highly..charged urban landscape. ThiS focus of intellectual attention on the nature of urban life in los Angeles has coincided with a moment that l inds Ange lenos uncommonly interested in ciVIC self-reflection. The smoke screen of decades of boostelism is beginning to clear-to reveal a criSls-ridden but strangely compelling place. It seems that. as this citv developed, the intense individualization in the daily life of its people found spatial expression in a continuous suburbanization and expansion across the Sou thern California landscape. The incessant expansion found an economic analog in an almost constam rise in the value of real estate I hal somehow, It was assumed, would conunue unabated. Our optimism had been given malerlal form . Meanwhile. thirty years of sporadiC deindustrialization have finally taken thelf toll. now thaI the


dismantling of the military industrial complex can no longer be lobbied away. The city seems, somehow, to have grown to the extent of its tolerable limits. Areas With even fewer identifiable urban markers, such as the Inland Empire or Orange County have become metropolises in the ir own right. not simply a parI of Greater Los Angeles. The collapse of the real estate market dealt a blow, both finanCial and symbolic. to the eternal optlmisls of Southern California. while the flOtS articulated the frustration caused by decades of economic and racial ineQuity with an urgency that made it difficult for even the most intransigent and entrenched power players 10 Ignore Our focus has contracled along With our hopes and our economy at a time when urban theory is finally speaklOg to us: as it is in fact lived, nOI In relation to an Impofled model 10 which we could only aspire. It is impoSSible for anyone who lived here during the '60s and '70s to Imagine that a book such as Mike Davis' City of Ouaflz would become a regional best seller, but it describes events and phenomena that slJddenly the citizens 01 Los Angeles are struggling to ur"lderstand. The urgency of Ihe diSCUSSion of urbanism and urban Issues has not left architects unaffected . As fOI anyone else, It has become important to understand in a new sense, beyond the time-woln metaphors of liberation and sunshine, wha t it means to be a part of this place . Could there be an architecture that admits, or that IS in fact genuinely susceptible to, the urban pressures of los Angeles without either reducing this urgency to simplistic contextualism or indulging in images of IOstabilitv that become little more than iconography? The answer is unclear, or perhaps untested, but is certainly part of a larger Question: what impact can, and Should. architecture ever have on people's lives. Chava Damelson practIces archItecture m Los Angeles and IS the edItor of the Forum Newslerrer.

LOS ANGELES URBANISM: NEW PUBLIC REALMS JOHN DU TT ON It is Increasingly common to hear Los Angeles invoked as the model city of the emerging post-industrial world. Alt hough such a claim may have wide accepta nce, there IS httle agreement as 10 whether It is an honor, dishonor, or merely an observation of the obvious and inevitable. Undoubtedly. fundamenta l structural changes in the wo rld economy have resulted in conc urrent changes in the very structure of our ci ties. The transforma tion from an industrial society to one based on service and informat ion IS having urban ramifications as significant as Ihose of the industrial revolution itself. A growing literature on the subject inyariabty cites L.A. as the ultimate example of th is new type of city: the " ex-urb," " technoburb," "10D-mile city, " geography of nowhere," or conglomeration of peripheral" edge cities." The Forum lecture series this winter w ill address in particular the changing conceptions of the public realm of Los Angeles. In a city increasingly torn by the physica l. econOMic, and racial fragmentat ion of space. whose downtown "public plazas " are owned, developed. and controlled by private corporations, and where successful urbanism IS often taken to mean safe. entertaining places to shop. trad itional not ions of " pubhc " and "private" may no longer apply. Each of the speakers Will be addressing new conceptions of and prescriptions for the public realm. What is al stake is the very definition of city itself, as a place of civiras and common culture. Transporta tion and Its infrastr ucture have always dramatically affecled and shaped l.A .. both at the larger regional scale of vast networks affording a new mobility. and at the local scale of. for example, specific road and Sidewalk Widths. freeway onramps. and Metro ra il and its st ations. While the fascmatlon with freeways has always exis ted In L.A. and their role m shaping the city is undeniable. Doug SUlsman. amongst others. has helped {urn attention back to the original transportation and org anizational arteries. the boulevards. Suisman's monograph "Los Angeles Boulevard" was published as Forum Publication NO.5 m 1989. HIS research helped architects and planners reth mk the importance of the boulevards. Presently. as the founder and pllnclpal of Public Works DeSign, he has gained recognition for hiS researCh and H

design of public spaces in American cities. His work in Los Angeles has primarily centered on design in relation to public transportation and its infrastructure, both future-the Electric tro lley project. for example-as we ll as past-the abandoned railroad yards at Taylor yard. Both Steven Flusty and Anastasia Louka itou-Sideris will speak on topics rela ted to the increasing desire to control public space. LoukaitouSideris studies the transformation of traditional public spaces, urban plazas and parks. and methodologically exa mines their development and maintenance as surrogate public spaces owned and controlled by private interests. Flusty. on the other hand. describes new "paranoid typolog i es~ which have recently emerged through" strategies of spatial control. He analyzes new types of building and planning, from the alarmed and secured priva te house to the LAPD surveillance grid painted on rooftops of the city. all aimed at assuaging the spectre of general urban fear . The privatization of public space IS best displayed through the evolution of the marketplace. Joanne Berelowitz w ill lecture on City Walk. the swan song of the private production of shopping centers as public space. It IS deSigned to attract middle class consumers to a safe and en tertalnmg environment on the brink of an era heralding the safest. most fantastic place of shopping: the home computer shopping and multimedia network. If City Walk represents an elitist incarnation of city culture. George Lipsitz is interested in its mirror image. in " the way the city looks from the ground up. " His research and writings examine the relationsh ip between urban form, street culture, and race in American cities. He sees culture as a battlefield for civic hegemony. and views much of the street culture that has emerged in Los Angeles. from popular music to graffiti art. in terms of its resistance to th e urban inst itutionalization of capi ta l. The morphology of Los Angeles streets-the parking lots, minimalls. undefined stree t edges. the lack of public spaces-that has emerged more or less incidentally from private, unplanned development is often cited by architects and urbanists as evidence of the need for more coherent planning and zoning . Yet for Marco de Michelis, there is a beauty and logic to L.A.'s city form and its evolution. Suspicious of calls for more European sensibilities for LA. de M ichelis will explore L.A.'s own particular brand of urbanism and the sta te of the contemporary ci ty through a discussion of the morphology of the street corner. At a time of limited public resources. the question of who owns and control s public space is urgently rele va nt. The nature of such spac es-the uses aSCribed 10 them as well as the people intended to use them-are essentially political Issues, with ramificat ions for bOlh urban form as w ell as social policy. As the critic Rosa lyn Deutsche rem inds us. it is no coincid ence that homelessness and new public spaces are both results of urban renewal programs . Arch itects and planners need to reassess their roles in the production of urban spaces as the city evolves in the post-industr ial era. It is the goal of the Forum lecture series to raise some of these questions. H

John Dutton practices architecture in Los Angeles.

January 31

STEVE N FLUSTY IS th e author of the forthcoming Forum Publication No. 11 '"Building Paranoia." His pamphlet and current research analyze '"strategies of spatial control in the creation of what he terms "in te rdlctory space." ANASTASIA LOUKAITOU-SIDER IS is Assistant Pro fe ssor at UCLA's Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning. GEORGE LIPSITZ is Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California. San Diego DOUG SUISMAN IS the founder and principal of Public Works Design and has gained wide recognition for his research and design of public spaces In Amer ican Cities. JOANNE BERELOWITZ IS ASS istan t Professor of Art History at San Diego State University. MARCO DE MICHELIS' tr ip to Los Angeles was. unfort una te ly. cancelled due to earthquake-related comp lications. H

February 7 February 21 February 28

March 7 "Defender' car. Los Angeles Auto Show, 1994 . photo: Chava Danielson


calendar February 7

l.A For u m/8:00 pm/ Schind ler House: Anastasia Loukaitou -$ideris


Wood b u ry Un iversit y/7: 30 pm/Gym


SCI -Arc/8:00 pm/Ma in Space Margaret Crawford

Co nsuming Ex peri ence: The Situatio nist Intern ational and the Sh o ppi ng M all

U SC/6:30 pm/ Harris Hal l 101 Norman pfeiffer

A n A rc hit ectu re of M any La nguages

through FEBRUARY 18

U CLA/exhi b it/Peri oH Hall Gallery Karl Gernot Kuehn

Metro p olis: Views of l os An ge les


UCLA/exhi b it/Perloff Hal l Galle ry Vienna Housi ng,Trends and Prototypes

Betty Tsou Fang, sculptor


l.A. Forum/8:00 pm/Schi nd ler House George Lipsitz


UCLA!7:30 pm/Ha i nes 39 Daniel Libeskind


Th e Trace o f the Unborn: The Berlin M useum and the Alexand erplatz

SCI 路Arc/8:00 pm! Ma in Space Enrique Norten


U CLA!7:30 pm/Per loH 11 02 Elsa Prochaz ka


l.A. Forum/8:00 pm/Schi ndler House Doug Suisman


Wood b ury Universit y/7 :30 pm/Gym

Kate Diam ond 2

SCI-Arc/8:00 pm/Mai n Space Mehmet Sanders, dancer


UCLA/7:30 pm/Moore 100 Alberto Perez-Gomez


L. A. Forum/8:00 pm/ Sch i ndler House Joanne Berelowitz


Wood b ury Un ive rsity(7 :30 pm/ Gym Ger ard Smulevich


SCI-Arc/8:00 p m / Main Space Mehrdad Yazdani

The St rife in the Dream of Poli philo : The Erotic Dimension of Architectu re

USC/6:30 pm/Haines Hall 10 1 John Clagett

Synt hesis of t he An t ipod al


USC/exh i bitlHelen lindhurst Gallery Parkinson Field Associates


USC/6:30 pm/Bov ard Auditorium Wm . Scott Field, Robert Tracy


SCI -Arc/8:00 p m /M ai n Space Eric Owen Moss


Califo rnia W o men in Envi ronmental Desi gn Confe rence, A N A Hotel , Sa n Francisco


USC/6 :30 pm/Ha ines Hal l 101 Scott J o hnson

Publ ic A cts: Projects Initiated by Pr ivate Clients for Public Use

SC I-Arc/8: 00 pm/Ma in Sp ace Margaret Morton, photographer MARCH 25-APRll 7

Getty Cent er/ l os Angele s : Fil m Series

Cine City (see below)


Getty Cent er/ l os Angeles Sympo sium

Cine City: Film and Perce ptions of Urban Space, 1895- 1995 (see below )


SCI-ArC/B:OO pm/Ma i n Space Karl Chu expression in cinema, architecture, and urban design. The symposium will investigate th e theoretical foundations and cultural implications of this shift through presentations and panel discussions among architects, filmmakers, urban theorists, cul tural cri tics, and scholars.

Cine City: Film and Perceptions of Urban Space

1895-1995 The Getty Center lor the History 01 Art and the Humanl路 ties IS pleased to present a sympoSium and concurrent 111m series that will examine the Intersections of cinema and architecture/urbanism over the course of the last century.

PreseOlaljons and Panels Day 1 Cinema and Ihe Cons/ruction of Ihe Future Day 2 - The CIty Signified: Readmg Ihe Urban Texl Day 3 - ElectrOniC lmagmg. The Space Beyond rhe

Symposium Sunday, March 27 to Thursday, March 31, 1994 Santa Monica, CA Redefinitions of spatial and temporal relationships that began in the late nineteenth century have found


Day 4 - On Los Angeles.


路 Urban Design, Urban Theory, and Urban CultureSa turday, M ay 14, 1994 9:30 am - 4:30 pm Hotel Inter-Cont inental, Bunker Hill Ballroom

Symposium Schedule: Introductio n : Elizabe th Smit h

2251 S. Olive Street

Session I: Urban Culture Confronts Urban Design Moderator: John Chase

Co-Sponsored by MOCA's Architecture and Design Council and the los Angeles Forum for Architec ture and Urban Design

- The Architecture of Everyday Life," Margaret Crawford -Urban Economics, - Paula Sirola -Public Representation, - Allan Sekula -An thropology of Urban Cultures, - Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett "Urbanism of New Majorities, - Ruben Martinez

Symposium Statement: To pro fess to be an urban designer in the United States is to lay claim to an understanding 01 the underlying social. economic, cul tural, and pOlitical organiza tion 01 contemporary American urban and suburban hIe. As an activity, urban design necessarily predicates a set 01 values abou t what is deSirable about city and suburban hfe . DeSign is an activity of making chOices, chOices about what conslltutes a decent hfe on the pubhc scale, as well as on the scale of personal roullne day-to-day hfe . Urban deSigners must make assumptions abou t which groups ought to benefit from proposed Interventions In the urban fabric. what kind of benefits they ought to have, and what phYSical fOlm these amenilieS Will assume. In short what urban designers do is necessarily grounded in urban culture and theories of urbanism. Any Significant discussion and Questioning of contemporary urban design has to arise out of a diSCUSSion of w hat cit ies are like now and w hat urban culture IS hke. Give n the ponderousn ess of th e highly bureaucratized and poh ticized process of implementing urban design policy, it is easy for urban designers to become distanced from the realit ies of urban existence. The exigencies of professional practice and organizational culture often erode deSigners' gut-level intUitive sense of what actually does determine the soul, spirit, and character of hie In big cities. Furthermore. the professional conventions, training and day-to-day practice of urban design can & act 10 prevent the urban designer from being open to new information. and from input that comes straight from daily hfe and the streets of the city Itself . The essays and dialogue presen ted throughout the sympoSium Will explore the nature of contemporary urban life and culture as an entry poin t Into current urban design stra tegies. It will produce d ialogue among urban theOris ts. pract itioners of urban design. and analys ts of contemporary urban culture. And. most importantly. it will provide an opportunity for participants to have their visions of city deSign checked. challenged, and perhaps transformed by people who have thought about the nature of life in cities. and who come from the allied disciplines that Inform the practice of urban deSign.



USC/6:30 pm/Harris Hall Boyd Coddington


USC/6:30 pm/Harris Hall Julius Shulman, photographer


Wood bury Unive rsi l y{7:30 pm/Gym James Brown


Woodbury Unive rsit y{7:30 pm/Gym

Session II: Urban Theory Challenges Urban Design M oderator: John Kahski -Labor History and Urban Activism. - Mike DaVIS "ImmigrallOn," MariaPatricla Fernandez-Kelly "Li terary Theory and Urban Space, - Kristen Ross "Social Theory and Homelessness. - M IChael Dear "Re-thinklng the Public Realm," Nancy Fraser Session III: Urban Design Responds Moderator: Diane Ghirardo Participants will be drawn from the following teams represen ted in the MOCA's eXhibition : "Urban Revisions: Current Projec ts in the Public Realm" Agrest and Gandelsonas Marc Angehl and Sarah Graham Diana Balfl"lOfilBatmori & Assoc iates MOjdeh Baratloo and Chfton Balch Peter Cal thorpe Wilham Fain/Johnson Fain and Pereira AsSOCiates Hawkinson + Smith-Miller, Kruger and OuenneH Ale,,; Krieger/Chan Krieger Levi Architects Gustavo Leclerc/A~OBE lA Robert Mangunan and M ary-Ann Ray/Studlo Works Moule Polyzoides Mlchaele Prlde-Welfs Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture!S tudlo Asymptote Michael Sorkin Achva Benzlnberg Stein

Design and Influen ce of the American Hal Rod

Mehrdad Yazdani



Wood bury Unive rSit y{7:30 pm /Gym Kent Twitchell, painter/ muralist


Woodbury Universit yl7:30 pm/Gym

Peter Pre" 14

MOCA/l.A. Forum

Symposium, Hotel Intercontinenta l, l.A. 17

Woodbury Un iv e rsity{7:30 pm/Gym Pierre Koen ig


USC/exhibit/lindhurst Gallery Thesis Projects

Film Series Thursday, March 24 to Thursday. Apr il 7. 1994 San ta M onica & l os Angeles. CA The film senes will present documentary, experimental. ethnographiC, and commerCial films produced by local. national. and internallonal filmmakers. Films to be screened Include: Playflme !JacQues Tall. 1967J. Man WIth a MOVIe Camera (Ozl9a Vertov. 1928J. Notebooks on Cmes and Clothes (Wim Wenders, 1990). Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese. 1976). The Crowd {King Vidor, 19281. Aiphavllie (Jean-luc Godard. 19651, Los O/vldados (LUIS Bufluel. 19511. Paris qUI Don (Rene CIM, 19241. Th e TerrOrlzers (E dward Yang, 19861. and Videogramme of a Revoluflon (H arun Farockl. 1992).

Scheduled participants:

Abo ve and Belo w : Urban Desi gn, Urban Th eory and Urban Culture. (see above)

Peter Bosselmann, Gian Piero Brunetta. Giuhana Bruno. Eli zabeth Diller. Harun Farocki, Anne Fnedberg. Douglas Gomery. Tom Gunning, Andrew Herron, Chris tian Hubert, Franklin 0 _ Israel, DaVid James. Gertrud Koch. Peter lunenfeld. Syd Mead. PatriCk O'Neill. Han! RaShid. AllucQuere Rosanne Stone. Douglas Trumbull. Yun


Tsivlan. An thony Vidler, Helmut Welhsmann. Slegffled Zielinski OrganiZing Comml\tee:

Scott Bukatman. DaVid Jensen. Anton Kaes, SylVia lavln. Annene Michelson, Fntz Neumever, Thomas Reese. lain Boyd Whyte

Schedule and programs Will be sent m February 1994 If you would like additional mformatlon. contac t DaVid Jensen at 310/ 45B-9811. ext 7084 .

dewey comif'ued from page 1 even talk about. what pubhc space truly IS. Pubhc space IS In lact a pohtlcal problem as mUCh as It is abou t architecture, layout. boulevards and tec hnology. It IS a problem extending Into the very fabr ic of dally hfe, 10 the nature of our th inking processes, and the quality of our debate as citi zens. Most of all, whether or not something IS public space has to do with something intang ible : whether or not It extends and expands political freedom . In the last half-century, the antl-totalitallan philosopher and historian Hannah Arendt framed the Issue of public space in a way which gets around arid debates on square footage, body count, and phySical structures. It is not a funct ion of urban layout per se, and not a matter of technology, spectacle, massed bodies, or, as Doug Suisman has tried to frame it, material structures of exits and entrances. Public space is the fragile, invisible tissue which makes us human beings in a function ing and vibrant democracy. It IS the place we 'appear, ' not as bodies, but in deeds and speech, preserving our differences as individuals . Only by deeds and an ongoing conversation which grasps the affairs of our world, do we become free. Public space is not simply a place to come together. It is where we develop the ability to compare, contrast. debate, challenge, and most of at! think. Without it, we are deprived not just of amenities. say, parks or entertainment. Without public space, we disappear, having nothing to protect us from the ravenous despotism of mass society, something, Angelenos no longer realize. not at all inconsistent w ith Intensive and extensive privatization. Arendt formulated th is after a careful study of Nazism and Stalinism. Knowing what Amer ica was becoming, she saw the decline and destruction of true public space as the very hallmark of mass socie ty, by which she meant not some sociological description. but something profoundly political: the active elimination and destruction of individual difference, debate. and discussion. She saw public space. and specifically the township prinCiple. as the only way to halt, and re verse our own far more subtle slide Into a tota litarian ism of consu mption. These might seem like lofty principles, but they show how low our classic American notions of public space have fa llen. How else to account for the transformation wrought by one tiny change in LA's urban labllc, the rise of coffee houses, whele people can meet regularl y to ta lk' In fact, deliberate diSintegration and reduction lurk behind LA's grand experiment in pllvate intimacy. W ithout neighbors, fllends, and perhaps especially strangers meeting consistently In a pubhc place to discuss and decide affairs, places, no matter how 'public: become precariOUS, intimacy is effectively rendered, paradoxically, useless, and we enter a state of permanent disappearance. Th e 'urban' world which has evolved here, as an outgrowth of suburbia, is in many ways the very antithesis of urbanity. It constitutes often, and not so SUbtly. a unique and unprecedented form 01 politica l despotism, through architecture, layout. and the natu re of eXistence itself. What more eVidence does one need, In fact, than that divergent, d iSSident. and troub ling Views, in fact. debate In roro, threaten Angelenos. and are ke pt instead to the quiet of dining rooms and whispellngs In the office? Th e less fortunate have the street. but that IS preCisely because their debate no longer matters , The problem. in short, IS broader than car, urban layout, or crime . It is about culture, both physical and of mind-set. that is, about our very deepest politics. That is why, even as discussions are spllnglng up about the need for public space from Warren Olney to workshops In South Central, how we lhink about public space is more cri tical than ever. What follows IS an attempt to analyze some sacred cows and highlight over-looked spaces, In an effort to reframe how we th ink about the 'public' spaces we do or do not have. The peril in our discussion of public space is particularly c lear in the case of Ven ice Boa rdwalk , world路wide symbol of LA. Here, strangers become more strange. and neighbors-from all over the city-become tOUIiStS, In contras t to the renovated Ven ice Athletic Center, separated from the boardwalk by low walls and fences, where everyone regardless of race and

Grand Cen/ral Markel. phow : Peler Samarin


class can hang OUI playing SPOrtS and converSing, the Boardwalk IS a relentless four-lane freeway traffic jam broken only by accldent,vlewing stations. Here, like McDonald's. benches and tables have recently been deSigned to be uncomfortable. The only 'regulars' engaged in ongoing, day-to-day public conversat ion are the peddlers, hustlers, and. at dusk, drunks and homeless. These have as much right to be here as anyone. But that they are really the only regulars says it all . If one wants to see public space as it really is, both what it says about the city and about the level and spread of debate, look through fast-motion film over days and weeks, Who stays? Who returns? Who has the ongoing conversation, and what is it about? From Jody Moroni'S on the southern end, to the Fig Tree's Cafe and Waterfront Cafe on the north bordering Santa Monica, T-shirt shops, jeans, and incense stands, it's hardly possible to stop to d iscuss Iraq or Somalia or the spreading corruption in Washington or Sacramento, but instead move on or get crushed. The Sidewalk cafe and excellent Small World bookstore are buried in a chaotic din of people who do not talk to each other, only watch, consuming. Crawling GI dolls and blaring radios collide in a void of emp tiness where discussion is. frankly, a mark of insanity. Second on the list of most people's favorites, Olvera Street, as the 'old pueblo' of Los Angeles, had, by 1870, ceased to exist as community center, reborn-and characteristically named for a US government judge-in the '30s as a 'Mexican-s tyle' marketplace. But this marketplace was unique. It contained neither vegetables nor necessities. The very design was an tithetical to the community. e~cept in the most limited way. Now. masses of Mexicanos and Chicano families do take children to baptisms at a nearby church, but they leave behind barely a stragg ler, With 'authentic' restaurants as payoff for the colonization of ethnic and public imagination, mixing not community and outsiders, but instead 'color' and tourists. the quarter-block-long 'historic' park's public events-Cinco de Mayo and Dia Los Muertos, as well as the bandstand turned beautiful creche at Christmastime-serve to tragically highlight the bloody, government/corporate gulf separating the 'color' from LA's founding here in 1781 by eleven Indian-Mexicano and black famili es . Like Olvera Street, and near it, Japanese Village Plaza continues the destruction of public life through pseudo-multicultural internment and burial. Designed as the center of Litt le Tokyo. local elders chose tourists and businessmen as their clients, deciding specifically against Integrating daily community activities with outsiders, replacing such a vital linkage With the simulation of public life, the ongoing ethnic 'festival.' Unlike the public life. from which it once derived, the festiva l is now little more than a Chamber of Commerce promotional activity, designed not to incite and develop public conversations or discussion of polit ics and how a specific community is being run, but to sell ritua l, tradition, and goods. Lin le Tokyo, already a simulated street. moves through angled buildings and blue-tiled roofs, its restaurants, reco rd stores, and fast -food joints like another LA river reduced to a trickle between militallzed dikes. At one end, the Koyosan Buddhist te mple, a logica l, regal anchor to public life, is hidden behind prison-like four-story walls, the only access a narrow, pilson alley, At the other end, passing the Japanese American Theater. the 路village.' a travesty of commun ity life, terminates in a cold. brick plaza and a 'con templation' garden Imprisoned in a corner behind metal bars. PhySically near Olvera Street and Little Tokyo, but humanly and te mporally a continent away, downtown's Grand Central Market crunched between Spring and Broadway and 2nd and 3rd streets, as old as modern LA, remains invisible to western LA, showing just how threatening the city's true multicultural history has become. Regarded almost like garbage tossed down from the imperium's towers and museum on the hill, ItS noise. activity, aromas, antique neon. food counters, and co nstant food chopping ma~ e It the equal of great markets the world over. Sawdust floors Wind through a profusion of fresh vegetables, gourmet items, and necessities, Homeboy Tortillas, a youth-run

business bolO of Father Greg Boyle's Inner-clty jobs program, stands near the 60 yr-old family-run dried frUit and nuts store. BardOVI and Kazan Porl bu tt s, chicken fee t. live ~lnds of chorlzo, crushe d pepper, dried shrimp, and beans stand cheek-by-jowi wi th twO locally-favored central-American food coun ters and the superb Marla' s, a se afood 10int with soups, cevlche, and charbrOIl. One af\emoon, twO Mexlcano elders In cowboy hats crushed IIpe avocados Into broth, dispenSing adVice, The exhaustion and Imprisonment of public life by short-sighted polmcal and corpora te Inlerests, symbolized In Lillie Tokyo and Olvera Street, IS posed most cleCirly by the Beverly Center A shopping gulag IISlng like Garagantua be tween La Clenega and San Vicente and 3rd and Beverly, It destroys everything InSide and outside for a mile around, not only aggreSSively killing off the dehcate tissue of common life, but resolutely cutting It oil, con taining and plivatiZlng It inside prison walts. From the ease with which one can get lost, to the' marble ska llng links w ith 'liVing' plants and the reduction of humans to the sounds and smells of 11 zoo, thiS el 'tomlzes the human as animal. reduced to labor for consumption . ThiS IS nOt shop until you drop ThiS IS don't you dare drop until you're finished shopping. Toddlers and teens love thiS galleria model because human adulthood IS effectively neutralized Zoos, after all, are fun, anrmals are amuSing and entertaining. precisely because they are behind bars. Nel(t to the clneplel( with liS pay-per-vlew mortuaries, Sam Goodies' offers the one Cyclopean w indow. surveilling all who come and go. wamng to devour anyone who dares to el(lst. and suggesting. finally and succinctly, those who shop are superior, above, and can see what you Will never see. As cilles w itt, a coumer-move sprang up across the stree t. not only completely overturning these agendas, bu t subverSively linking either side of the deadly DMZ of La Clenega. The deSigners of th e Beverly Connection deliberately kept the build ing low. integrating older structures and surroundings Into a visually noisy dynamiC 01 nestled space. vegetation. movie theater, food store. and book shopping . lingering IS a pleasure, as IS. even. sometimes. diSCUSSion. At a third the size. With a miniscule fraction of the stores, It has as many VISitors, by my car-per路mlnute count. as the prison across Irom It Parking IS Integrated as display. palms and greenery are even VISible to cars and ramps. helping cr eate a circulating, yet stationary, space that chec~s and reverses the mass and VOid. Impoflantly, the neighborhood IS served by the old Rexati's drug/hardware store and a new Ralph's market. connec ted brilliantly to parking by a mOVing ramp. At the inter section of W ilShire and Rodeo Olive In Beverly Hills, the reth inking of our relation to the car, Visible With the Beverly Connection, expands radically. It IS hardly perfect. but It points to an entirely new way of thinking about denSity in an automobile world. Two Rodeo, unlike either malls or theme parks. makes re al use of SoCars one histOrlc-and almost termi路 nated-lnnovCltlon In publIC lile: the drive-in. like Beverly Hills as a w hole, the bUilding, a striking edifice w hich. from the back. looks like a colossal movie studiO. violates every ru le of neighborhood linkage, yet unlike Beverly Hills. works hard to create a place lor pedestrians safe from the death derby outside. Entellng an underground 'hotel' lobby w ith attendants. one ascends by elevator to the 's treet,' joining, or not joining, tourists, wandering or sitting w ith locals at the cosmopolitan Piazza Rodeo Ino cover). Absolutely central. one can leave, and is perhaps unintentionally encouraged to, without spending a cent. It is not because it is obscenely expenSive and too cramped that Via Rodeo is wrongly compared to Disneyland's Main Street. In terms 01 cre ating a non-commercial zone that IS public as well as safe from the automobile, It IS actually more populist than the supposed populist Disneyland or CnyWalk. It IS not by chance that Disneyland and Cl tyWalk produce simulation nausea : they keep cars segregated and Me cut oil, totally controlled inSide fortress walls, out In the middle 01 nowhere. This is absolutely cri tical to the corporate agenda, a fact those who cite the broad class spread of malls and theme parks fall to address. Via Rodeo. by contrast, even with its failures, takes on the city and works to reintegrate it, ritua lizing car and fractur ing space into new and striking perspect ives. ThiS is a perf ect defini tion of the phYSical component of public space. Ghmmellng fountain and glow at night. foreign vOices echOing back from hard stone-all offer a glimpse of another life . Where the new corporate simulations of public space seek to re路engineer us as automata navigallng a virtual realm in order to e)tpend, this save s, giving back to the city the tissu e of life . That IS to say, In ItS own stili rudimentary way, 1I becomes a generator rather than a vacuum, a producer of life rather than a consumer of it . It offers, however brrefly and shyly. a glimpse of something beyond pure society. It tries to break the implosive mass of one of the moSt undemocratic inters ections in the world. Montana Ave, between 7th and 17th street in northern Santa Monica has gone precisely in the opposite direction, replac ing an existing sleepy actual village serving retirees and locals w ith a drive-through Rodeo simulation. In 1967. rent was S.BO. ln 1987. at the beginning 01 the recession! depression, rent was hiked to $3.00 Irom $2.20. First gas stations closed, then two and three story buildings went up, and l inally long-held neighborhood businesses like Santa Monica Stationers and Evans' Hardware were forced out. At least one couple was ru ined, unable to make the adjustment. Now, those businesses which stayed at the higher rent have closed. while yuppie chain stores linger like sharkS, Starbuck'S characteristically offers cutllowers. gorgeous men and women, and coun ters too high to lean on. Here the good life becomes a club to beat over the less fortunate. less beauti ful. and less young. the krnd of playground where only Schwarzenegger would flaunt hiS military vehicle . People radiate ease of wealth and beauty. knowing full well how hard It IS for the res t of us. Don Henley may smile fra illy waltrng for a light, bu t most think t hey'll stay permanently at the tOp.

Symbollzrng everythrng Montana IS losrng, Larchmont Boulevard, or 'the Village' to locals. a place of ou tdoor caf es, trees, and peace, IS very un路PC. All the more surpnsrng, It IS now used by urban plannrng workshops rn neighborhoods struggling to bUild themselves up. Community hfe IS Integrated because merchants and neighbors work to preserve the tissue of life worth liVIng It's not just that Pfopnetors smile and learn your name Yes, It feels like It 'S for the nch. Yes It'S boring But a shoe repair place re-stltched a shoe of mine no one else would. for $10 Stores make home deliveries and speCial order as a regular service. When corporate chain Payless threa tened to move In and undercut locals, cHcled by the same yuppie chains as Montana. 'Shop DaVid, Fight Goliath' signs sprang up as a community moblllzalion . ThiS IS not Nimbyism, but rellects the real damage big store employment bonanzas and malls can do to a neighborhood rn the wrnk of an eye. This lesson holds for everyone, IIch and poor. Simply settrng up a boundary-which some accuse Larchmont of dorng-Is InsuffiCient, as shown by the less successful. stlllstruggling, renovated Whlltier Boulevard to the east. with the Vibrant Boyle Heights section cut off and dorng qUite well on Its own. Small. less self-conSCIous, and someumes filled only With a few elders at a table, Leimen Park. at the InterSection of stately Lelmert and South-Centrars aorta, Crenshaw, gives the he to common-sense assumptions about public space. pllmarrly the IlI'Ik to quantity of bodies or vast open VOids A uny patch of green, Sidewalk and shade, the square and its old foun tall'l stitch together neighborhood and liS sinew. history Hit hard by the riots. last year the VISion Complex theater abutting the park. under the old Watch tower beacon, hosted a good part of the LA Festival. The square sports the Kao s network. an ongoin g neighborhood-based video production. film, and distribUtion workshop. Nelertiti watches from the lintel of the still-bustling House of Beauty, while 5th St . Dicks serves coffee at tables built speci fica lly lor wastrng away the afternoon . Finally, the most under-rated public space in the ci ty remains Lincoln Park. In east LA, just north 01 the tolnt USC Medical Center and City Coroner, It is marked al its western end by a statue of Lincoln. one of the few in the area-mostly of Spanish conquerors-not to have been defaced. A weUpreserved oasis of green and quiet, it is the only park in LA equal acre for acr e to Olmstead's Central Park in New York . Unhke Griffith Park. which IS mostly inhospitable scrub and mountain, this integrates both nature and urbanity. With two baseball diamonds and playgrounds, one con taining an LA icon. an Aztec pyramid for kids to climb on. each w ith clean sand. kids, and elders. a row of constantly-occupied chess tables. and a huge well landscaped hili covered w ith old trees and spots for lovers and the solitary. all is centered by a soothing pond with ducks, fountain and boat house undecorated by trash. All told, It is a fa r more beckoning than the tiny thread rimming Echo Park or the garbage pit the city has turned MacArthur Park and its untouchables into. Plaza de la Raza, at the center of Uncoln Park. has a community swimming pool serving both ASIan and Mel(/cano kids. a large community center that sponsors over 90 different classes as well as public performances, a basketball court and a rec room for community meetings, comes closest to being a true and financ ially accessible town center lor all. Naturally. the city. In a typical concession to the automobile, has left the park cordoned off by thorough fares, industrialized loning. and railroad tracks. But. while this sever s the park from the community, it has also served the unanllcipated effect of making the park seem even more of an Isolated oasis In a barren desert of smog and fast-moving war mobiles. Emerson once spoke of the town meeting as 'the unIt of the republic and the school of the people: ThiS is the true model of public space. and should again be our reference point . Few spaces in LA, or anywhere in the United States for that matter now. can measure up to this profoundly polit ical, democratic standard. Without such a model though. our discussions of public space w ill remain as impoverished as the barren life their absence has left us trapped w ithin. LA is plunging us ever fu rther into a mass of electrons, subject to a mittion spins, where we labor barely to feed, collide, and disappear. This world of the collectively priva tized is a dead world, and it can only be overturned by beginning, at last. to th ink carefully about the real contribution of arChitecture, space. and community planning to the secure and ongoing life , and f reedom, of the people. Fred Deway has w r;rte n for London 's New Statesman, LACPS' Framework. the L.A. Weekl y, and the W ild Palms Reader (Sr. Mart m's}. In 1993. he orian ized ~ Town Meermi~ p anel diSCUSSions on "L egacy o f rhe Pan/hers, ~Counci/ Democracy, and ~Cyburbia : New Fron /ier or Grave?~ ar Beyond Baroq ue. He reSi des m Los A ngeles. Portions of rhl s article were excerpt ed m the October, 1993 "The Best of L.A." edlrion of the L. A . Weekly. It has been reprmted here m rhe mteres t of presenting hiS argument Inract


Newsletter, February 1994  

From Bread to Curcuses and Beyond: On Good and Bad Public Space in LA by Fred Dewey, Returning to...

Newsletter, February 1994  

From Bread to Curcuses and Beyond: On Good and Bad Public Space in LA by Fred Dewey, Returning to...