For Part 1: “Pershing Square, Not-so-public Parks, and the Fight over Public Places”
For Part 2: “Black Panther Part Headquarters and Other Invisible Places”
For Part 3: "We Built This City: A Personal History"
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES has its fair share of monumental buildings — the Bradbury Building, the public library, Staples Center, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, to name a few (not to mention the latest in-progress addition: Eli Broad’s Broad Museum). For many people these structures invoke a unifying sense of place and history, no matter what they personally think about the architecture, communicating that this is a “world class city” rather than a loose affiliation of suburbs. Buildings like these inspire a range of feelings, from awe and pride to sheer indifference. Architecture and commercial function are always at issue with landmark properties, creating marginalized positions in the metropolis.
The L.A. Live complex, one of the newest additions to the downtown Los Angeles skyline, magnifies these complex and contentious politics of place. When I attended USC, and after I graduated, I often took the bus down Figueroa to see friends or professors on campus, passing the L.A. Live project on my way. It functions as a kind of oversized playground for those not playing inside the adjacent Staples Center — a “mixed use” complex filled with restaurants, theaters, and shops. For an idea of the overwhelming volume of “live content” offered by such a massive entertainment destination, it’s hard to beat the description from the L.A. Live website:
The 4 million square foot / $2.5 billion downtown Los Angeles sports, residential & entertainment district featuring venues such as Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE, Club Nokia and The Conga Room; the GRAMMY Museum, saluting the history of music and the genre's best known awards show; a 54-story, 1001-room convention "headquarters" destination (featuring The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels and 224 luxury condominiums — The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton — all in a single tower), Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE Stadium 14 movie theatre, "broadcast" facilities for ESPN, along with entertainment, restaurant and office space making it the region's most active 'live content and event campus.'
I’m not a sports fan (the Staples Center across the street is home to several professional franchises, including one of the most profitable in all of sports, the Lakers, as well as the Clippers, Kings, and Sparks) nor can I really afford to eat or shop on this particular “campus,” so it might not be a major newsflash if I say that L.A. Live, from the moment I laid eyes on it, rubbed me the wrong way. To an exaggerated degree, it seemed like yet another urban development strategy that prioritized wealthy professionals at the expense of other people living and working in downtown. I chafed when media pundits or assoc...read more