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.