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Silver Lake
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
What Is the Future of Los Angeles?
(archrecord.construction.com - 05/26/2006)

By Thom Mayne, FAIA
Principal, Morphosis, Santa Monica


Thom Mayne, FAIA. Photo © Mark Hanuer.
AR: Is Los Angeles still at the cultural cutting edge? Is it still a trendsetter?

TM: In the 1980s and part of the ’90s, the country’s spotlight seemed to be on L.A. It was extremely active architecturally. There were a lot of ideas, and they seemed to get built. When I was quite young, Frank Gehry told me my first big work wouldn’t be here. I could do houses, shops, that kind of thing, but the chance to get important work drops off like a cliff. In recent years, Gehry got to do Disney Hall, Moneo got to do the Cathedral [Our Lady of the Angels], and we got to do Caltrans [District 7 Headquarters: record, November 2002, page 124; November 2003, page 134; January 2005, page 120, respectively]. But local architects are still rarely hired for major projects. L.A. remains a place where an architect can speculate on the nature of architecture, however. Business, though, is not involved in the culture of architecture; that’s an American issue—the lack of interest in architecture as a force that can respond to cultural, social, and political problems so important in this moment of history.

AR: Would you then say L.A. is mature, meaning it faces a different set of issues than a young, fast-growing city does?

TM: It’s still an incredible nurturing ground for young architects because of its dispersed nature, the huge number of small-scale buildings. There is no singular sense of what architecture is “supposed to be,” as there is in Boston or San Francisco. So it is open in the way it was in the years of Neutra and Schindler.

AR: The L.A. Now project you spearheaded [record, November 2003, page 128] drew a picture of the city that seemed to transcend the clichés of Hollywood and car culture.

TM: It tried to deal with what I saw as a passivity and a lack of speculation about what the area could be. The project was to initiate interest in the city and to initiate potential. This is literally an infinite, unknowable place. I am fascinated by that unknowability and how it triggers a wellspring of possibility. That’s the basis of any new architecture.

AR: Aren’t there two opposed visions of the city’s future in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s focus on density and transit versus Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to add massively to the highway system?

Downtown need not be the singular center of the metropolis. Multiple hubs will aggregate large numbers of people and connect through infrastructure pieces. What happens in between will be interesting. These are vastly different choices than we’ve confronted.
-- Thom Mayne
TM: I don’t sense a critical mass developing to solve the traffic problem. The density of the city has seemed to reach some critical point in the last three years. From Santa Monica, where I live and work, it can take an hour and a half to get downtown. It should be a 12-minute drive. You no longer have the freedom that you used to have.

AR: How does the decline in mobility change the city?

TM: It challenges the 1950s L.A. aspiration to unfettered movement. This is now a horizontal city made up of 134 towns that spans just under 100 kilometers, and nobody has really thought of this place in terms of organizing it on that scale. Some kinds of self-correction will happen. In downtown, where there never was a residential population, people are moving in for these pragmatic reasons. Some 40 projects are in the works.

We don’t have as many options as a centralized city like New York does. Subway and bus systems operate in a very different way in a multicentered city that lacks density. When the subway is completed between downtown and Santa Monica, Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards may build up as high-density linear cities. Multiple hubs will aggregate large numbers of people and connect through infrastructure pieces. What happens in between will be interesting. These are vastly different choices than we’ve confronted.

AR: Does L.A. actually need a traditional downtown?

TM: It does not need it to be the singular center of the metropolis. It is one of seven, eight, or nine nodes, including Pasadena, Long Beach, and big chunks of Orange County. To become whole it needs to have a residential population because it already has investment culturally—in Disney, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Ahmanson Theater—and politically. In Long Beach or Pasadena, you see the same migration away from the Modernist planning that isolated, say, residential from commercial functions.

AR: What should L.A. be doing to define its future?

TM: It should be looking at how Madrid—where we’re working on a huge planning project—does it. The Urbanización Río Manzanares is a partnership between the city, the public realm, and the private sector. The mayor is intimately involved. That’s what it takes at such a scale. Americans need to ask how this can be brought home.


http://construction.com/newscenter/headlines/ar/20060526r.asp
 

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Silver Lake
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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Please don't stop me, eventhough I know all of you have heard this one before. But this is what I have a problem with and disagree with the "average" Angelino about.

TM: I don’t sense a critical mass developing to solve the traffic problem. The density of the city has seemed to reach some critical point in the last three years. From Santa Monica, where I live and work, it can take an hour and a half to get downtown. It should be a 12-minute drive. You no longer have the freedom that you used to have.

I do sense a critical mass at least in the developing stages happening. Their wouldn't be so many TOD's being built, an interest in living downtown and in more centralized areas or the steady creation of LRT's and discussions about subways and such as well as carpool lanes and so forth.

AR: How does the decline in mobility change the city?

TM: It challenges the 1950s L.A. aspiration to unfettered movement. This is now a horizontal city made up of 134 towns that spans just under 100 kilometers, and nobody has really thought of this place in terms of organizing it on that scale. Some kinds of self-correction will happen. In downtown, where there never was a residential population, people are moving in for these pragmatic reasons. Some 40 projects are in the works.


So what are we talking about here? The metro area or the city?

We don’t have as many options as a centralized city like New York does. Subway and bus systems operate in a very different way in a multicentered city that lacks density. When the subway is completed between downtown and Santa Monica, Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards may build up as high-density linear cities. Multiple hubs will aggregate large numbers of people and connect through infrastructure pieces. What happens in between will be interesting. These are vastly different choices than we’ve confronted.

Oh, but when we mention NYC we are all to assume that he means only the city and not the far flung metro area. But yet when he mentions LA we are to suppose automatically that he is speaking of the wide metro area and not the relatively centralized city. Oh, but then he proves my point when talking about the coming central subway as the spine of the centralized area. That area already exists! Why do people choose to dismiss it out of convenience. NYC could be thought to be multi-nodal as well. Downtown(Financial district) Manhattan, Mid-Town Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn. Even when you look at pics of the skyline you can see a lull between these two nodes on the island of Manhattan. Just as you see a lull between Century City/Westwood and Downtown LA. This is certainly my chief pet peeve when talking about this city. It tends to give the perception of a false sense of dispersion that might have existed 50 years ago but doesn't exist so much now.

Once again it is 13 miles from Inwood(tip north of Manhattan) to Battery Park(south end) and NO ONE thinks this is lengthy. Contrary, I've heard all the time, "oh Manhattan is so tiny". It is 15 miles from downtown LA to Santa Monica is 15 miles and EVERYONE thinks these two nodes are light years away. Not comparing LA to NYC but we need sanity here. He did not mention the far flung havens in Queens and the nearly impossible to get to (w/o a car)Staten Island. But he mentions distinct cities such as Pasadena and ........since when was Long Beach grouped in as just another LA suburb? In my experience people from Long Beach have a fierce pride about being a "Long Beachist" and do not consider themselves just part of LA. Just go ask Snoop.

Open for comments.
 

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Silver Lake
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5,451 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
http://www.laalmanac.com/LA/lamap2.htm

And literally their isn't much left due east of downtown that is LA the city, just a Boyle Heights. So really the central city is only east to west 15 miles or so long since Santa Monica is its own city as well.
 
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