Design diary for week 46/2023 from Tone Tuesday

3 quotes this week

Los Angeles is 72 suburbs looking for a city“. Dorothy Parker

The world has turned on its side and everything loose is going to land in Los Angeles“. Frank Lloyd Wright

I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They are beautiful. Everyone is plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic“. Andy Warhol

Angels – design The city of the present

Last week’s Design Notes looked at Los Angeles. Founded in just 50 years from the 1920s to the 1970s, it then looked like the city of the future, especially through the eyes of Reyner Banham and his partners.Four environments: Sorforbia, Hills, ID Plains, and Utopia‘.

More recently, critics like Mike Davis have emerged, including his books Quartz CityI saw her return to the present, discussing its downsides, the profound social inequality and material degradation caused by a culture based on cars and highways.

Los Angeles is no longer the city of the future. Look to Osaka, Freiburg or Curitiba to see this – cities that use a real ecological base, not the analytical environments identified by Banham. But if we seek solutions to some current issues, Los Angeles has a lot to teach us. It is very much a leading city nowadays.

Many architects and urban planners think of it as the armpit of the world, but Los Angeles has always had depth Design-based culture, even if it is not recognized. The city thrives as a hotbed of innovation. He thinks:

  • The housing experiment led by “big-name modernists” in the 1920s and 1930s,
  • Polished for everyday use in the case study homes;
  • It seems to have been invented by Hollywood, first by interior designers, and later by digital artists
  • Creating a world of theme parks by inventing Disneyland;
  • urban graphics and photography by Ed Ruscha and Dennis Hopper;
  • Pasadena Art Center College of Design, arguably the best automotive design school in the world.
  • Regarding that last point: cars made in Modena, Detroit, or Seoul are often designed by Los Angeles graduates.

Los Angeles can be endlessly frustrating but it’s so wonderful and helpful. Here are some of my favorite shots to chase.


The deep stranglehold of the freeway has been broken in the past fifteen years with the development of the subway system connecting the major “villages” within Los Angeles. Its intended expansion by 2040 is quite impressive. What’s more is seeing metro cars speeding past stalled freeway traffic. If the home of the motorway has effectively abandoned them in favor of electrified public transport, what lessons can we learn from it?

Shared courtyard houses

In the late 1920s, Nina and Arthur Zweibel, a husband-and-wife design/build team, created a new multicultural typology in Los Angeles: residences grouped around a Spanish mission-style courtyard. The homes are modest, facing a landscaped courtyard that allows shared access through the front doors, sometimes with private outdoor space at the back. Think of Naomi Watts’ character coming out of the movie Mulholland Drive.

The Spanish-influenced aesthetic, from Baja California, is climatically appropriate: dark-shaded balconies and balconies, solid walls (albeit plaster over wood frames) with small, deep exposed openings, high ceilings and cross ventilation. Always sought after and the rating is now back, a rating that will be eminently suitable for temperate Australia, replacing the updated Federation/Queen Anne (or FedQA) for SpanMiss.

Housing is medium density

It will surprise many to know that the housing density in Los Angeles is twice that of Sydney or Melbourne, largely due to low-rise buildings and modest apartment buildings or condominiums. The revival began in the 1980s with the work of Rebecca Pinder, whose creativity was somewhat obscured by the shadows cast by Tom Mayne and Eric Owen Moss. et al.

The classification is implemented today in schemes by Lorcan O’Herlihy and Brooks Scarpa, among others. Many of these projects are characterized by a modesty of form and lightness of touch that seems to be missing in Australian charts.

Housing the homeless

Most major American cities have a lot of homeless people. They live in urban crevices, which are vast in Los Angeles: sinkholes under freeways, abandoned lots, and downtown streets. There is an almost complete shortage of public housing, but charitable organizations are stepping in to fill the void. One of the architects, Michael Maltzan, has designed several of these housing schemes, always with comprehensive services, like this winding circular scheme close to freeways in the middle of the city.

Maltzan came to Los Angeles to work with Gehry at Disney Hall (another design label), and went solo, working on some charming homes that brought him into the orbit of the wealthy, often charitable-minded, which led to the creation of homeless shelters. . I hope we see progress from some of our best architects in an arc like this.


Los Angeles has been a pioneer in the development of the modern contemporary hotel. It can be said to start in 1999 with Standard In Sunset Boulevard, developed by Andre Balzas, without inconsequential finishes, a clearer design, and less of the usual decorations. When it extends to Standard city center The youthful and dynamic manners have been carried over to the rooftop bar with Blade Runner It was displayed on the empty side of a nearby building. the Ace Hotelwhich started in Seattle, fits perfectly with the company’s ethos, as it did in Ace Sydney.


Slide 9

Two books about the under-respected architect of the early modernism of the 1980s in Los Angeles, and even the abstract modernism of the 2000s. Very much worth the catch. I was and still am a huge fan.

Exit signs

Slide 10

Downtown Los Angeles is often used as a movie set. What you thought were the brownstones of New York, are actually downtown Los Angeles. 19y C Bradbury Building Features at the end Blade RunnerWhere Ridley Scott’s vision of the future was a giant complex city with flying cars. The Australian version of the early 1980s was the aggressive culture based on land cars Mad Maxremote, almost deserted areas.

next week

Is there any future for the architecture profession in Australia?

Ton Wheeler is an Architect/Assistant Professor at UNSW/President of AAA.

The opinions expressed are his own.

these Design notes We are Tuesday ringtone #188, Week 46/2023.

past Tuesday ringtone Columns can be found here

past A&D is something else Columns can be found here

You can Contact TW at (email protected)

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