Sunshine or Noir

Having lived in the City of Angels and gone through architecture school in the 80’s I can attest to the readings. Benham’s interpretation of LA and its four ecologies reminded me of my fetishism with LA. Coming to the city as a foreign student I had known LA, way before I ever stepped into its magic and wonder.  I remember my bewilderment soon turned into confusion, as everything that I associated with a traditional city was not present in LA. What Betsky refers to, as Public space is a place where many activities overlap: rich confusion, commerce, seduction, and filth. Public space work not as a design element, but is instead carved out by wheeling and dealing, crossroads, and the chances at freedom, where a person emerges from shadows into light that grows into the ever-extending space of public gathering and demonstration, and seeps into every open pore of the city.  I was disoriented by its scale and speed – from its vast freeways to its glamour and glitz that came alive at sunset (driving on PCH). Soon, I was also inducted into its lifestyle – driving alone to SCIARC, those long hours (even when the distance was short) I found a new kind of independence that I began to cherish.

The polemics at school was about modernism and post-modernism – social context was never talked about much. Infact one of the studio projects was about Bunker Hill Redevelopment that Davis talks about. Formalism was all that mattered  – It was a historical moment. In retrospect, I can attest to the fact that everyone those days was obsessed by the notion of  Los Angeles as a spectacular city.  Innovation was in the air – a promise of a city created by contemporary materials and new forms by its (to-be) star-architects Gehry, Mayne, Moss and others.

The city’s spectacle – its imagery consumed and subsumed everyone for the next few decades whose affects the invisible Anglicans are still reaping in the shadows of fetishism and capitalistic greed. Debord’s concept of spectacle is still beyond dispute – in our passivity we have sidelined the city’s invisibles and our urban environments testify to that in all major cosmopolitan cities of the world.

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About Connexion Studio

An accomplished artist and a reputable designer whose work explores the intersection of art and architecture to transform ways in which we experience contemporary physical and digital space to address many of the social, cultural and political issues of transnational relevance in order to create dialogue that is engaging and thought provoking in the public domain.
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1 Response to Sunshine or Noir

  1. ashleighhuza says:

    Davis explains the isolation of the public life in urban centers, arguing that the revitalization of the fading downtown is dependent upon a desire to construct militarized spaces which intimidate non-white and lower social class people. He contends, “the universal consequence of the crusade to secure the city is the destruction of any truly democratic urban space.” I couldn’t agree more with Davis. In the means to control the mixing of different social classes and races, a beautiful and natural occurrence between people is being eradicated. Throughout the reading of this text I referred back to the opinions of my parents as justification for sending my siblings and I to a co-ed school. Many of the parents of my childhood friends were very adamant about sending their children to single-sex high schools, as the distraction of the opposite sex would be detrimental to their learning throughout these very influential years. While some of these claims could hold true for some, my parents believed that it wasn’t natural to separate boys and girls in an educational environment as dealing with the opposite sex is another extension of the day-to-day education for an adolescent. I can’t help but feel these same sentiments when learning about L.A.’s continuous battle to secure the city more intensely which as a result drove out all the non-white and lower social class people from the downtown.

    With the incessant need to come up with solutions to deter homeless or working poor people away from the downtown, such as the barrel-shaped bus bench, the elimination of public toilets and the fortification of garbage enclosures, it has become increasingly rare to see the mixing of the various classes. The saddest part is when Davis speaks of old photographs from the 1940s depicting crowds of Anglo, Black and Mexican shoppers of all classes, together. In a way, it seems that the city is reverting back to older times, when groups of people were homogenous. As Davis puts it, “this polarization marks the decline of urban liberalism”. The mixing of races and social classes is what defines the contemporary city – it is a palette of all walks of life. It is this mixing and the vast array of ethnicities, foods and languages, which makes our cities so rich in culture. This is something to be celebrated rather than controlled.

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