In the course of my month as a couch potato recovering from surgery, I’ve embarked on an LA culture fest. I read LA Confidential, The Age of Dreaming, and Vampyres of Hollywood by (oh yes) Adrienne Barbeau. I have worked my way through the first three seasons (and then some) of Angel, and one night, in a break from the cultural junk food I watched Sidney Pollack’s Sketches of Frank Gehry with some friends which led to a heated debate about Los Angeles’ aesthetics.
At some point during the movie, Gehry is talking about scaling down the plans for the Walt Disney Concert Hall so that it better coordinates with the Dorothy Chandler. And here’s the rub: All four of us watching agreed that, in fact, the Disney doesn’t really coordinate with the Chandler at all. I mean, we’re talking Chuck Taylor All Stars with a little black dress here. But what we couldn’t agree on is whether or not that visual clash is a good thing.I maintain that much of LA’s visual appeal has to do with it’s ugliness or really grotesqueness. I have often said that LA is like Cher’s kid in The Mask: it’s so ugly that it’s attractive in a weird sort of way. I think LA has freak show aesthetics. It has little casitas over here and high modern houses over there. There are ugly ass streets filled with muffler shops and little canyon roads with horses and goats peppering the lawns, signage in every kind of language, neon and deco and slab concrete. City planning by Frankenstein. Maybe the fact that I grew up in DC, an uber-planned city, is what makes me particularly fond of LA’s poly-tecture. The fact that the Disney Concert Hall looks like a giant space ship plopped down on Grand Street seems perfect to me. Is it just me? What do you all think? Do you love it? Hate it? Is LA’s lack of coherence something to mourn or celebrate? And all you haters who are getting ready to post comments about how I cannot possibly understand or comment on LA’s essence because I am a transplant–yawn–save it please.
(Jimw’s photo used through Creative Commons license. Click to Embiggen.)