Monday, August 9, 2010


Weirdly, despite my never having gone or even ranking it high in my "places I need to see now as in 5 seconds ago now", I'd say the city I talk about most on this blog after London is LA, besting even the city I live and breathe in, Chicago ILL. I think my architectural interest is due to the land's urban sprawl, the constant need to adapt, and the fact that even with the US's second largest population, it does not strike us as any other city does. I hate to say it, as much as I love Chicago, but there is New York and LA and then all of the other cities in the country. Some are unique enough to be worth your time - Chicago, Miami, New Orleans (as opposed to Omaha, Topeka, and Phoenix) - but there is still the sense that they're all somehow replicas of one another, or the fortuitous remnants of a bygone era. Going to New Orleans is like going to a living Jamestown, accented heavily with FrancoAmericans. It's incredibly, incredibly fascinating and I don't mean to in any way look down on that area, but if someone were to ask a foreigner or even one of their countrymen "what is the city most exemplifying American urban structure?", it's not going to be Seattle or Houston. With the exception of those who read the Post everyday and would immediately go on a tangent about DC, it's either New York or LA. And LA gets more play in my book because every inch of Manhattan's 23 miles is accounted for, and if changes are made in Manhattan (pun!), they're going to be isolated incidents. I think LA has the capabilities to transcend this.

So... architecture in LA. Anyone else immediately think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt? (His character in 500 days was an architect-wannabe in the city of angels.) Jus' saying. It's not him; it's the way he makes you feel, ladies.

I was reading Newsweek the other day (talk about Washington Post publications that are taking on water! fast!), and got to reading about "the future of work" as was described in Nancy Cook's L.A. Residential. (I got it, Nancy. Good one.) Her main thesis goes something like this: Twenty years down the line, we're going to have these all-in-one centers for living, working, going to the gym, and utilizing "outdoor recreation spaces" etc. Taking the elevator or the stairs, or hanging out in the lobby of the building, will create the same "buzz" as walking down a crowded street where you see a lot of acquaintances. Workspace itself is going to be revolutionized: workers will no longer have individual desks, but their work will be more portable, able to go from the lounge chairs to social clubs to their homes.

You know what this is, guys? This is scary and horrifying yet oddly exhilarating at the same time. I mean, we have this population problem, and worse, we have this problem where the college educated and every business base want to be in the epicenters, and considering the amount of people who are college educated, the epicenters need to make space. And in a place like LA, where no one really wants to leave their location lest be caught in a millennial of traffic, the idea that you can and will have it all is a little tempting. And anything that means no more cubicles means thank god, right? But I am still markedly unconvinced. No one wants to shit where they eat. A commute is a chore, but part of the commuting process, tedious as it is, is to break up the tediousness, in a sense. That time spent between work and home is necessary. It's necessary for all sorts of reasons. I've had some of my best conversations on the metra with strangers and friends alike, some of the best people-watching I've ever done is in a stretch of Michigan from a building towards public transit. And cars are for NPR and whoever denies that denies life. Commuting is like jogging in many respects; it allows for a certain void to enter your mind. You aren't really thinking, just being. Existing in space. Existing in a long range of space from your office to your front door. And this all leads me to believe that I'll be frightened to see what Angelinos do instead of existing in space, but existing in (a) place. Hardly the same thing at all.

Michael Maltzan Architecture
cityLAB-UCLA "backyard homes"

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