A Brave New Urbanism, Part 6 : Los Angeles
Los Angeles, “Capital of the Third World” as the title of David Rieff’s 1991 book provocatively proclaims. The city that decades ago represented the epitome of the American dream is now to many an urban nightmare from which even the best of navigational devices and Apps provide little relief. It is indeed an enigma as most conventional or historical benchmarks offer few templates though which to understand one of the most diverse cities in the world.
The similarities with a “Third World” metropolis are quite real from some points of view such as the increasing stratification and polarization of wealth, the flow of migrant labor, an absence of visual literacy in the architectural vernacular and an apparent lack of a cohesive urban plan to counter the sprawl. However, many other aspects such as its creative, entertainment and tech industries firmly root it as one of the most progressive cities in the developed world.
Vantage points through which to gain a true measure of Los Angeles maybe hard to come by. LA’s image is played out and defined more through the cinema than any other experiential media. Although a city of diverse culture, the movies do serve to build the myths while the industrial nature and dimension of the city remains somewhat in the shadow. There are no shortages of quotes that offer insightful perspectives on the city. Barbara Kruger eloquently said, “If most American cities are about the consumption of culture, Los Angeles and New York are about the production of culture, not only national culture but global culture”. Quentin Crisp offers the succinct observation that “Los Angeles is just New York lying down” while Frank Lloyd Wright offers both acuity and humor in his quote “Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles”.
Two characteristics that strongly define the city’s unique identity are it’s spatial and social dimensions. Utilizing the compositional and graphic possibilities of photography to reflect these characteristics, this documentary is a visceral journey amongst an ever growing and changing megalopolis. In LA and its “Third World” counterparts, the scale of urbanization seems to evolve without particular concern for the notion that human sensibilities were informed or programmed long ago and don’t seem to evolve as fast as our cities do or our developers wish.