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URBANICITY.info

SUNDAY IN DOWNTOWN L.A.

WELCOME TO URBANICITY
SENSING URBANITY
LISTENING FOR WORDS
VIEWING IMAGES OF MYSTERY
LOVING MUSIC
READING FOR LIVING
CELEBRATING THE MIND
TRAVELING TO EXPLORE
SEARCHING THE FUTURE
MAKING A DIFFERENCE

lacityhallcp.jpg

In the 1920's downtown Los Angeles hummed with prosperity and the psychic rush of living in the city of the future. It was an amazement that the place had been built and 'dressed to the hilt', starting with  dusty pueblos and sagebrush, in less than 40 years.
 
Sidewalks teemed with folks dressed for business. Cafes, drugstores, banks, and major department stores were crowded with busy, starry-eyed, and ambitions immigrants from 'back east.'
 
Fashionable mansions surrounded the city center, from Bunker Hill to the Adams district. Pacific Electric cars whisked riders to, from, and around downtown. The Richfield Oil building gleamed in black and gold deco. Newcomers streamed from the Union Train Station.
 
Stately office buildings along Broadway and Spring Street welcomed workers with ornate marble lobbies staffed by white-gloved doormen and elevator operators. And City Hall was the only skyscraper in town.
 
Today, City Hall, still iconic in movies, and carefully restored with a seismic retrofit, looks somehow forlorn. Even IT looks misplaced in what is now a fragmented domain of 4 million people in 500 square miles. What happened?
 
Gone are the great homes, streetcars, and stores. L.A. residents famously brag that they haven't been downtown in years (except for maybe a concert at the Dorothy Chandler or an auto show at the Staples Center).
 
Money continues to be dumped downtown in hope of revival. The cardinal built a massive cathedral on Temple Street, pushed up against the freeway 'stack.' The 'new' Pershing Square sits atop a multi-story garage.
 
In spite of huge investments in office buildings, condo towers, public art, and fountains, the place is an uninviting, downright spooky, place for a Sunday afternoon stroll. Profiteers are buying up condo units before they're built, and reselling them. Guess they don't want to live there.
 
By persistently forcing new development downtown, city planners really missed the mark. If the "traditional downtown" functions had instead been stretched westward, along the natural spine of  the city, Wilshire Boulevard, it's easy to imagine that Los Angeles would by now be a 21st century world showplace.
 
But, after all, this is Disney land. Childish dreams won't die, and it's hard to distinguish between illogic and fantasy. Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown L.A., with its relentlessly optimistic swoops, swirls, and sails, is deeply `Angeleno,' and, also, strangely misplaced.
 
 
 
 
Tower of Los Angeles City Hall, 1927.
Architect: John Parkinson.
URBANICITY
 

go to famous buildings in L.A.

go to images of Los Angeles City Hall

go to the Walt Disney Concert Hall

go to Our Lady of the Angeles Cathedral

return to "Sensing Urbanity"

Remain curious.