Edward Soja teaches in the Regional and International Development (RID) area of Urban Planning at UCLA.
Edward Soja: I’m not by any stretch somebody who writes on hotels but what I have done is to write a lot about the Bonaventure Hotel, to the point where I just noticed that the Wikipedia entry for the Bonaventure is a long quote from me. But what it claims is that the whole hotel has a postmodern architecture. Charles Jencks, among other architects, has been screaming that the hotel is absolutely, classically modernist and resembles nothing of postmodern architecture — from the outside. My argument was about how the inside space is representative of the manipulative and exploitative spaces of L.A., of what I called a regional mesocosm of the city. That’s what I was writing about, the experience inside. And that triggered a huge debate. I’m just writing a book now called My Los Angeles, which goes back to all of my original writings 30 years ago and brings them up to date. I was just reviewing these debates on the Bonaventure Hotel so it’s currently on my mind in many ways.
Erik Morse: Speaking of the Bonaventure, there’s been a lot made of how much it’s changed in the last decade, both with the exterior and interior.
ES: There have been major changes to the outside. When it was originally set up it was classically Brutalist with no obvious entrance from the street. So they’ve opened it up a lot, redesigned the street entrances. But they did that some time ago. And they were trying to do some things to the inside but there’s not much you can do. One of the things Jameson and I wrote about was the repetitiveness of the inside. There were legitimate stories that I repeated that some of the shops on some of the floors were almost impossible to find. So the shops had to close down because nobody went there. And then they had a debate on what to do with those balconies —
EM: The parapets?
ES: Yeah, the parapets. I haven’t seen the parapets in the last four or five years, but they started sticking exercise equipment on them for a while. They earlier hoped it would be some kind of conversation pit. I would think that [John] Portman would have difficulty doing anything with the interior. I think it was an exaggeration of his basic atrium model and maybe he made some mistakes by the repetitiveness of the towers. But ...read more