never built LA


When, in the 1920s, the pioneering Southern California social critic Louis Adamic called Los Angeles “the enormous village,” he didn’t mean it as a compliment. Rather, he was referring to L.A.’s insularity, its status as what Richard Meltzer would later label “the biggest HICK Town (per se) in all the hick land,” a city of small-town values and narrow vision that “grew up suddenly, planlessly.” For Adamic, Los Angeles was defined by individual, as opposed to collective, passions, starting with its architecture. His idea of the place as a “garden city,” in which identity was less an expression of the public square than of the private home, has been echoed by nine decades of observers, from Nathanael West (“Only dynamite would be any use,” he sniffs in “The Day of the Locust,” against L.A.’s “Mexican ranch houses, Samoan huts, Mediterranean villas, Egyptian and Japanese temples”) to Norman Mailer, who, in “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” grouses about the “pastel monotonies” of this “city without iron, eschewing wood, a kingdom of stucco, the playground for mass men.” A similar sensibility underpins “Never Built Los Angeles,” a compendium of more than 100 architectural projects — master plans, skyscrapers, transportation hubs, parks and river walks — that never made it off the ground.

more from David L. Ulin at the LA Times here.