LA: DNA PEOPLE'S PORT
STUDIO: urbanism, los angeles
YEAR: five (5)
DATE: fall, 2011
DESIGN LENGTH: one (1) month
SUPPORT: chris warren (principal, W.o.R.D.)
PROJECT SITE: venice beach, los angeles
PROGRAM: public pools, parks, boardwalk, & activities; public space
Los Angeles is a fascinating study in the notion of 'Identity' because in many ways it lacks an identifiable or unified one. Terms like sprawl, suburbia, car culture, or even spectacle have been employed to describe the urban condition of Los Angeles, but all fail to capture the essence of the city. What is one of the most fascinating aspects about Los Angeles is it's unashamedly lack of true public space. Characterized by open lots of parking, gone are vibrant plazas, green parks, or squares where true and liberated public activity can thoroughly take place. Reyner Banham in LA: the Architecture of Four Ecologies optimistically explains that Angelenos leave their homes and drive on the freeways in order to be publicly seen, where the act of getting to respective destinations is only a byproduct of this public display. To him, the car, the freeway, the on/off ramp, this 'Autopia' is a form of public or open space, an extension of the suburban 'front lawn'.
But to me, public space is not tied to something as volatile and transient as the freeways as a construct of public space. There is still something to be said for true public space embedded and essential within the DNA of a metropolis. But what does the notion of 'true public space' really mean in a city like Los Angeles. For examples, early 2011 saw a revolution in Egypt take place in Cairo's Tahrir Square. What space in Los Angeles would revolution - one of the most defining and liberated representations of public activity - take place? Certainly not the freeways as identified by Banham. Nor the beach 'Surfurbia', one of the other last bastions of public spaces in LA identified by Banham, filled with endless and indifferent lines of sun-tanning beach-goers see true public activity like that of revolution take place. True public activities, and our role as designers to create space to accommodate, evolve, and form itself to the ever-changing needs of the public is what is fascinating in morphologies like Los Angeles.
As such, architecture in this assignment's case is less of a chance to design an object on the beach, and more of a chance to stimulate or even provoke new types of public activity more commonly associated with urban nodes, than with the prosaic public activities of a beach. Introduction of forms that allow for a myriad of new parasitic public nodal activities - both water related and not - to take place on them, forms a new hybrid public condition that may begin to encourage us to think differently about the way 'true' public space can be used.
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