A Discourse with Los Angeles

An assignment for an English class at The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), instructor Claire Phillips, 2012

Congratulations, Los Angeles, you’re a real city now, almost. Though your shiningly new, enormously expensive Grand Park has opened downtown, the accomplishment speaks more to your inadequacies than your vibrant new identity. In many ways, we see a thorough articulation of your greatest weaknesses compiled in this strip of three desolate, downtown blocks, flanked on their sides by the internationally renowned ranks of the boastful Walt Disney Concert and the towering Los Angeles City Hall. On the other hand, we must access the success of your endeavor from two vantages: esoterically and exoterically. While those from the East Coast or Europe may gawk at this concrete strip, dotted haphazardly with sparse grass, neon benches and questionable fountains, it may just well be the best you’ve got. As noted by Gloria Molina, Los Angeles County supervisor, in an interview with Jennifer Medina of the New York Times, “Everyone has some characterization of it to compare it to the city they know”, however the design attempted to escape such a fate. Is this truly possible in a modern world so interconnected at all points? When nearly any modern human being has inevitably seen the vestiges of the greenery held by New York or the nature retained by London, comparison is a result without alternative. You, Los Angeles, must perhaps either take a stand against other predominant parks around the planet or risk a comprehensive subordination to a merely bourgeois lifestyle in their eyes. Regardless, a larger point could dwell in your abstruse absurdity.

To begin at the most simplistic level, this public gathering spot exudes everything Angeleno, for better or worse. For instance, the availability so prominently of a parking garage may seem to be the utmost in asininity to those unfamiliar with your ways. On second observation, taking into account the foibles which truly make you Los Angeles and not New York or London or Stockholm or Barcelona, to name a few, such a thing perfectly matches, if not flawlessly reflects, the modern car-centric personality you’ve come to typify. In this very way, the space itself walks the obscured line between the definition of public and private spaces in an increasingly divided modern world. It has to be the finest mockery of the intended program of the gardens, the walkways and the fountains – that is, to bring together the diverse communities – whose separate entities compose the cityscape of America’s second largest city, when many of those who access the park drive themselves there in cars, packed away in their own corner of the automotive world. Whereas a car can be seen as the ultimate introversion away from mass exposure, your park attempts to create a more eager interaction between citizens, although, the correlation is shaky at best.

So, I come to this roadblock in my way to accessing your latest expenditure. Those accustomed to rolling hills of green and fresh nature air, follies to the likes of both Central Park and Hyde Park, will surely wretch in revulsion at this excuse for an open, public place. Removing this European cliché, built a necessary refrain to nature, from the discourse, you have forced us to reevaluate what we define as a space for the masses. How, when faced with this interjection into the modern consensus on the implementation of public space, can we properly gauge this social experiment? This obliges the visitors of this park to a harsh reality: though its environment serves no function to pacify the need for greenery in the boundless metropolis, a provocation is brought into conversation nonetheless. This is not to recommend every major city set aside three of its most horrid, concrete-clad blocks to be rebranded as public parks, but rather it performs as a nearly ironic juxtaposition between Los Angeles and the world. Is a philosophical observation more important than viable grounds for gathering?

Even then, no one can be certain whether this challenge to the status quo was intentional or by sick accident, but does that really matter? Perhaps, the ramifications outweigh the execution. This is the constructed conception with Grant Park’s most likely unintentional contention to almost all other metropolises’ parks, be they Central Park, Hyde Park, the Boston Common, the Tiergarten or the Kungsträdgården, among others. Just maybe, by the coda of this urban conversation, the importance of this grand attempt lies not so much in the immediacy of downtown yet in the vaster collateral discourse. This leaves Grand Park itself at a question-laden intersection. Should the park fade from prominence, its call against convention foregone to a nature-obsessed society? Or, in a scenario involving near divine intervention and a miraculous salvation from an immanent homeless invasion, could Grand Park surmount all jabs to become a modern proclamation towards a new era of park design? Whatever may occur, Grand Park has already made a sizable embossment into the contemporary dialogue about Downtown’s unsure intentions, undefined principles and unrelenting realities. Doubtlessly, these several acres of pavement and commercialism will in some way shift the identity around which the neighborhood interlaces itself.

Works Cited

Medina, Jennifer. “Los Angeles Puts a New Park at Its Heart”. New York Times on the Internet 18 Aug. 2012. 25 Oct. 2012.