Please post your comments regarding Ignasi Solà Morales’ Terrain Vague and Francesco Careris’s Transurbance texts for Monday’s session here.
After our round-table discussion during the first half of our session, guest speaker Luca Caminati will be discussing the notion of terrain vague in Pasolini’s Mamma Roma (1962). Previous viewing of the film and Chapter 5 of John David Rhodes’ Stupendous Miserable City are required.
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.
Please post your comments on readings for our next session here.
Mike Davis, Fortress Los Angeles: The militarization of Urban Space
Aaron Betsky, Nothing but Flowers: Against Public Space
Reyner Banham, Los Angeles, The Architecture of Four Ecologies (selection).
Here is an eloquent video on the phenomenon of the suburb. It represents different forms of its development and brings a reflection on the sociocultural problems which it leads.
Fishman contends, “…. the new city is a city a la carte.” A megalopolis based on time rather than space facilitated by the communication technologies, offers new ways of thinking about our cities bound by time and not distance. He further states that we operate within three basic networks allowing individuals to create their own connections – household network/consumption network and the production network – a city personalized without center or boundary. It calls for a fluid concept, which challenges the traditional notion of Suburbia and the post-war American dream of a detached single family home with white picket front yard.
We all know that the notion of romantic Suburbia is outdated as diverse groups of people make-up the urban fabric from Los Angeles to New York. The diversity of housing needs of the new demographics against the monotonous cookie cutter approach offers new opportunities to rethink the notion of Suburbia, Chan argues. The regulations that were put into place (Homeowners Association and Covenants) keeps suburbia frozen in times which has added to the challenges of American cities with surplus housing and big box buildings that have no use. The irony is that homelessness is more acute at a time when we have the most surplus in housing due to our own rigid laws. Whereas, living has always been a fluid concept: to adapt to the changing needs; we have been entrapped in it by our own shortcomings and capitalistic greed.
How can we as architects creatively think of strategies to play a critical role to shape the next phase of development. First and foremost, we need to be at the table with decision makers – policy crafters, government lobbyists and capitalistic players to create a vision for our cities that takes into account the humanistic perspective. Although architecture may not solve all the problems but we can certainly play a crucial role within a social and cultural framework to provide solutions that are relevant to our contemporary times.