Futurist Flaneurs and Fashion
Notes on the Edge
It’s once again the hazy days of winter. While other cities contemplate their buildings clearly, through the web of naked treebranches, standing in the crisp clear air, Los Angeles sees only the corner mall through the brownish haze of coastal fog. What is it that they see? All the elements and building blocks of the postmodern playpen, reassembled for corner shopping malls, colored in every number on the Prismacolor chart and all tumbling around the same basic set of plans: one or two stories, garage on grade or under, the curving walls, the triangular pediments and the bright red cubes are the same from Studio City to Alhambra. Work goes on in large, corporate versions of articulated steel chic—meta-morphosized grids of steel housing bank buildings. Skidmore Owings and Merrill rip off Mayne and Rotondi, Arquitectonica brings International Class Bank Architecture to Wilshire Boulevard. So much for daily life. At night, one can return to any number of four-story neo-Spanish, neo-Haifa, neo-Dutch sagging stucco mansions currently being put up by a Santa Monica architect in the Fairfax/La Brea area. The evolution from apartment buildings into condominiums can be traced in the emergence of tile roofs, arched windows and palm trees planted out front. At night, there are dozens of new movie theaters and, soon, a new opera hall. The evolution from Mickey Mouse into Placido Domingo will be marked by metal and dancing cubes, by paper thin classicism or by confused expressionism, depending on who panders most successfully to Mrs. Disney’s fear of design. Of course, this monument to the conversion of a crass industry into elite taste temples will be surrounded by the latest corporate megalomania, whether in the overblown temples of yuppie living or in the glass curves and grids of mysterious business. Los Angeles will soon have a downtown (at least one), even if we will not be able to see it through the haze of our soon permanent winter. The Forum will keep its expeditions going through this winter wonderland. In fact, the current project is to map the territory in as many ways as possible. A pamphlet, to be published within the next few months, will contain geological maps, surveys, pueblo markings, faults, floodplains, industrials surveys and health images. Aspiring cartographers are needed. The Forum is also planning a series of events for the Spring which will highlight the work of young architects. The “Living on the Edge” design charrette, postponed from this month, will be held in February. The National Endowment for the Humanities has made many publications possible, so please make suggestions. Time to come out of hibernation.
Footnote: This summer, two dozen architects, half of them famous and accomplished, half of them young and eager (and thus, in some cases, members of the Forum), were asked to design life guard stations for an exhibition at the Kirsten Kiser Gallery. By engaging the end of the continent, the primordial sense of shelter and viewing of elements, and by indulging in frivolity, the designers produce a series of follies which reduced their architectural inquiries to their ridiculous kernels. Such is Los Angeles architecture. Now, two architects who were excluded from the procession of the naked emperors, Cesar Pelli and Bernard Zimmerman, are set to design gingerbread structures for charity. None of the lifeguard stations sold. Must architecture be edible to be true to its principles?
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