Saturday, May 24, 2014
L.A.: LIFE IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR
[W]hereas knowledge of Dante's tongue could serve in reading other Italian texts, full command of Angeleno dynamics qualifies one to read Los Angeles, the uniquely mobile metropolis. Again that word 'uniquely'...I make no apology for it. The splendours and miseries of Los Angeles, the graces and grotesqueries, appear to me as unrepeatable as they are unprecedented. I share neither the optimism of those who see Los Angeles as the prototype of all future cities, nor the gloom of those who see it as the harbinger of universal urban doom. Once the history of the city is brought under review, it is immediately apparent that no city has ever been produced by such an extraordinary mixture of geography, climate, economics, demography, mechanics and culture; nor it it likely that an even remotely similar mixture will ever occur again. The interaction of these factors needs to be kept in constant historical view--and since it is manifestly dangerous to face backward while at the steering wheel, the common metaphor of history as the rear-view mirror of civilization seems necessary, as well as apt, in any study of Los Angeles.
--Reyner Banham, Los Angeles, The Architecture of Four Ecologies