Saturday, June 13, 2009
Over the course of the past few years, I’ve noticed a trend: omitting mention of LA in architecture and urban discussions. Now, if it is one’s opinion that LA isn’t as urban as say..New York City, or Paris, that’s fine, as there is definitely some truth to that. However, many people aren’t fine with saying that, or acknowledging LA’s urbanism. Instead, many go great lengths to snub the city, with the preferred diss saying all of the city is sprawling and woefully un-urban. Now, as anybody who’s read this blog knows (or has seen), that just isn’t true, and for good reason.
Though many are hesitant to admit it, LA is indeed urban. Simply put, LA is a city that dwells both worlds. With a foot in the door of the pre-WW2 world: with the dense apartment blocks, and immaculate street grid that were characteristic of that era; but also a foot in the world post-WW2 world: with sprawling, more suburban-oriented developments…kind of like the ones that sprouted up all over the country following the death of cities. I mean, have you seen LA’s grid? It’s hardly Sunbelt sprawler, and is in fact, home to several of the densest nabes in the country (outside of Manhattan, of course). Needless to say, such ridiculous inanities definitely serve do a good job at surfacing and exposing false pre-conceived notions about the city.
The LA I know, and am intimately familiar with, east of La Brea, is unabashedly dense. It is, without question, more of a New York-style city, than say..Tampa. With some of the highest densities outside of the former, and one of the largest concentrations of art deco and beaux art structures anywhere, it’s hard to deny this fact. For one, the amorphous urban architectural gem-laden urban sprawl along Wilshire Blvd comes to mind… spanning from the Miracle Mile, through the undefined Koreatown and Westlake nexus, and onto to Downtown? What do other locales, including the world famous Hollywood; America’s best small city, Santa Monica; as well as hotbeds of creativity, such as Silverlake, Echo Park and Los Feliz have in common? They are all undeniably urban. That’s pretty much the tip of the iceberg, as I haven’t even done as much mentioned places like the Pico-Union District, Boyle Heights, Jefferson Park, South Vermont, or even my beloved Leimert Park. Lastly, have we forgotten that LA is the densest metropolitan area around? That alone should mean a little something; at least, I’d tend to believe that it would.
That, of course leads me to next gripe, the myth that people don’t walk in LA. Now, that is, one of the biggest crocks of bs I’ve ever had to “pleasure” of hearing. It’s not about people walking, because as so beautifully illustrated in my photos, many people do, it’s just the people who DO walk aren’t considered people – at least not in the eyes of popular culture and media.
Admittedly, everybody has their initial impressions, which often include outmoded stereotypes. However, only so many of these can be couched under the naivety umbrella. After that very fine line is crossed, it is rightfully labeled libel or propaganda. Thankfully, LA is a city that doesn’t keep it up with the joneses and doesn’t need or seek outside approval or validation. And luckily, us as a people are thick-skinned enough where we don’t let such scurrilous accusations get to us – however, every once in a while, it doesn’t hurt to take time aside to debunk them.