Do We Want “Her” LA?

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The fascinating movie Her depicts a near-future Los Angeles of towers and public transit.

With Cary Anderson, Chris Nichols, Norman Klein, Craig Hodgetts, Evan Kleiman and Sam Lubell.

Her depicts a near-future Los Angeles of towers and public transit (image courtesy Warner Pictures).

But is that the LA. we really want?

With Cary Anderson, Chris Nichols, Norman Klein, Craig Hodgetts, Evan Kleiman and Sam Lubell.

Her Depicts Thrilling Or Horrifying Future

If you saw the movie Her you’ll likely have been struck by K.K. Barrett’s depiction of Los Angeles in the not too distant future: a city of synthetic towers (that seems to be a hybrid of Vancouver and Shanghai) where citizens ride a subway to the sea (but are alienated despite the “public” nature of public transit).

It’s a place devoid of both freeways and LA’s quirky neighborhood character. And the defining residence is not the single-family home but Theodore Twombly’s hermetic highrise apartment with floor to ceiling glass.

Depending on your perspective this is a thrilling, or horrifying, vision of LA’s future as a denser, taller, less car-dependent city.

And it’s far from the Los Angeles created over the past 60 years — of drive-ins, fizzy tall signs, huge parking lots, and wide empty boulevards.

The History of Forgetting LA Forgetting Itself, Again

On this segment, DnA discusses just how much we want this kind of LA and what is being lost in the rush to grow upwards and closer. As the segment about the Culver Ice Arena discussed, a casualty of growth is affordable, “semi-public” entertainment and the buildings that contained it.

CC Ice Rink, Final Day SignWe are also losing a distinctive architecture — like the ice arena, described by Cary Anderson as a “time capsule” of the 1960s — and a postwar environment that Chris Nichols finds to be “so luxurious” in its openness and ease of access via the car.

But this is also the era that Norman Klein, author of A History of Forgetting, describes as a “gothic” and “charming” relic that belies its reality as a catastrophic destroyer of previous eras and memories, and creator of an unsustainable Los Angeles (freeway intersection, below, in image from The Examiner).

Freeway_interchage_copyCraig Hodgetts argues that LA so far has seen just one thin layer of growth; it’s future, he says, will, from a “Darwinian perspective,” force a sharp decline in personal ownership of the car.

No Longer the Edge of the West

KCRW’s Evan Kleiman also adds her eloquent voice to the show.

She grew up in Silverlake and recalls an LA that was hauntingly quiet and thrilling in its sense of being on the outer edge of America, providing inspiration and affordable living to artists and others who flocked here. All that, she says, is gone, which she misses even as she appreciates the new public transit and other benefits of growth. The thing that’s so overwhelming right now, she says, is the sheer “pace of the change” since the end of the “Great Recession,” giving rise to a concern that perhaps things are getting a little homogenized with the same “hipsterified places” appearing all over LA, just in different buildings.

Finally, Sam Lubell, co-curator of last year’s exhibition of unrealized civic visions for LA, Neverbuilt, says that is LA has to preserve some of its defining buildings and institutions even as it works through inevitable and necessary change, if it is to maintain a sense of what and who it is (below, Bahooka, one of last year’s casualties of a changing Los Angeles).

This discussion was part of a show on how LA — its life and style — is changing as yet another building boom sends up real estate values and buildings. Everywhere you drive these days in LA you see change – construction of denser development and new transit lines. After a bust, the region appears to be booming again. But underneath the new construction lies a changing quality of life – and that can be seen in the fate of one building and business in Culver City: the Culver Ice Arena (above right). Listen to the entire show, here.

Bahooka exterior IMG_1058