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Modernist Streetscapes Many Pasadenans refer to this 1980 Black Building (left) as “Darth Vader” as it kills street-life on the sidewalk. Parsons Engineering (center) and Edward Durell Stone’s Bank Americard Building also present blank walls to pedestrians.

“NEIGHBORHOODS BUILT UP ALL AT ONCE CHANGE LITTLE PHYSICALLY OVER THE YEARS AS A RULE...THE NEIGHBORHOOD SHOWS A STRANGE INABILITY TO UPDATE ITSELF, ENLIVEN ITSELF, REPAIR ITSELF, OR TO BE SOUGHT AFTER, OUT OF CHOICE, BY A NEW GENERATION. IT IS DEAD. ACTUALLY IT WAS DEAD FROM BIRTH, BUT NOBODY NOTICED THIS MUCH UNTIL THE CORPSE BEGAN TO SMELL.” JANE JACOBS

“THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES”

The Results The “form follows function” approach of Redevelopment and Modernism was based on a notion called “machine in the garden,” which worked well for domestic architecture and poorly in urban settings. Because it put drivability first and generally pulled buildings away from the sidewalk, the top-down Modernist approach killed street life and introduced a monolithic aesthetic. Inside the mall, the “up-one-sideand-down-the-other” walking experience quickly grew dull and boring compared to the excitement and variety of Old Pasadena. The lack of a more bottom-up approach to creating authentic culture is what doomed Redevelopment and the Plaza Pasadena. Their one-dimensional solutions resulting from their top-down approach invariably fail to achieve enduring success.

Abandoned Sidewalks As city planning became more top-down after WWII, sidewalks were cut-off from new buildings as seen in the blank Bank-Americard building of 1971 (top). The 1980 Black Building on Pasadena’s main thoroughfare between the mall and Old Pasadena is referred to by locals as the “Darth Vader Building.”

Revitalization in Old Pasadena, on the other hand, involved many people, approaches and the architecture of many decades. Blending art, culture, walkability and a more meandering stroll offered variety and a richness of authentic culture. New council members, Bill Bogaard (later mayor for 16 years), Rick Cole and others also shifted the city’s planning process to a more bottom-up approach. However, as the two experiments became more like one another in the late 1990s and 2000s, the sense of DIY and urban frontier of Old Pasadena was lost to rising rents and gentrification. Affordable housing never materialized and the artists and The Espresso Bar were driven out. The attempt to revitalize the failed mall in 2001 tried to mimic the forms of Old Pasadena but failed once again, helping to underscore the lesson that only a genuine bottom-up process can create an authentic downtown.

Pasadena’s Dead Zone Between Old Pasadena, the Civic Center axis and the Plaza Pasadena/Paseo shopping mall, a one block

stretch of the downtown was torn down in the 1970s for Modernist redevelopment that killed street life and created a “Dead Zone.”

Marengo Avenue.

EVENTS

et

PROJECTS

Mall Parking

Green Stre

Colorado Boulevard

Union Street

OVERVIEW

The Black Bldg

Telephone Bldg

Mall

PLANITORIUM

NEXT STEPS

CONCLUSIONS

Bank Americard

71 Arroyo Parkway

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"My City"  

"My City" tells the story of Pasadena’s City Beautiful Movement and the century that followed, exploring how this proven approach can be rev...

"My City"  

"My City" tells the story of Pasadena’s City Beautiful Movement and the century that followed, exploring how this proven approach can be rev...

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