New to the Los Angeles magazine bookshelf this month is Los Angeles New Architecture by photographer Mike Kelley and museum director Brooke Hodge. The pair hunted down a collection of the most dynamic buildings of the last 20 years that help explain efforts to transform of our suburban metropolis into a solar-fueled, high-density, pedestrian-powered utopia.
“Los Angeles is a city of limitless potential and vast geographical reach,” Hodge writes. Our hometown is still more than 500 square miles, but we’re starting to get to know our neighbors better.
Los Angeles spent the second half of the last century perfecting a collection of far flung (but affordable) single-family homes filled with gardens and hammocks and backyard barbecues. A hundred neighborhoods are all linked together by an asphalt ribbon full of friendly mom-and-pop shops all blinking and winking trying to lure you into their wide-open parking lots.
The 21st century has brought us cubes of color tucked and folded into the in between. We have miracles of conservation with energy-sipping structures that seem to literally run on sunshine. There are tales of talented designers turning abandoned factories and a downtrodden lodge hall into temples of art. Go L.A.!
Most of the works in the book are commercial and civic buildings, and the names (Eric Owen Moss, Renzo Piano, Thom Mayne) would be expected on any lineup of an all-star team of architects. I was pleased to see that so many legacy firms (A.C. Martin, Victor Gruen, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill) still made the list.
Hodge predicts that more mass transit, the 2028 Olympics, and Frank Gehry’s remake of the Los Angeles River will continue to transform the city, and that’s all great. But here’s hoping we don’t lose the open sky, the ease of travel, and casual character that brought us ten million neighbors to begin with.
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