Letter to the Editor> Master Architect or No, Gehry is Wrong About Los Angeles

Letter to the Editor West
(Joel Mann / Flickr; Montage by AN)

(Joel Mann / Flickr; Montage by AN)

[ Editor’s Note: The following is a reader-submitted comment from the AN Blog in response to the post, “Gehry Lets Loose on Los Angeles, Downtown Ambitions,” which cites an interview Frank Gehry did with Los Angeles Magazine. It appeared as a letter to the editor in a recent print edition, AN07_08.14.2013. Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email editor@archpaper.com]

The only thing that makes Los Angeles unique is that so much of it was built during the auto era (albeit on an infrastructural framework established during the interurban rail era). Different parts of Los Angeles were developed in a manner that was identical to how other cities across North America were being developed at the same time. The same succession of transportation, construction, and development technologies created a downtown in Los Angeles that is nearly indistinguishable from portions of San Francisco, Chicago, and Manhattan.

The fact that the city also has linear urban spaces, such as along Wilshire, does not make Los Angeles unique nor incompatible with the sort of transit-oriented, mixed-use urban living that has been thriving for over a decade in our major cities. “Linear Downtowns” such as Wilshire are not currently pedestrian “friendly.” The scale and velocity of such spaces have long been attuned to the auto. The city could use focus on retooling these areas to serve both motorists and pedestrians. The Purple line extension will be an important step.

I do not think anyone is suggesting that we abandon the automobile or the spaces it has created, but Los Angeles’ downtown will continue to become a better place as more people choose the lifestyle that level of density affords. For decades, all development in Los Angeles was auto-reliant. Now a small portion of new development has been working to revitalize a late-19th/early-20th century urban downtown. This is long overdue, and serves a demand for urban living that has been nearly impossible to find in Southern California.

Master architect or no, Gehry is wrong, and pedestrian-oriented urbanism continues to be on the rise. As a west-sider, and a member of a previous generation, he appears to hold the same anti-downtown prejudices outlined in Mike Davis’ City of Quartz.

Randolph Ruiz
Principal, AAA Architecture
San Francisco

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