Author: mrshawn
Infrastructure and Transportation
| May 2, 2010 | 10:28 pm | 4/20/2010 | Comments closed

In this reading, Kenneth T. Jackson, Edward Soja, and Mike Davis all examine the concept and evolution of “the city” from three different angles. Jackson’s examination was more general and external. He took a look at how the introduction of the automobile revolutionized the city as a whole. He not only addressed how it affected the city in the most obvious way (transportation) but how its presence influenced infrastructure, business, and the entire human experience of what it meant to be in the city. Soja approached it by taking a particular model, Los Angeles, and delved deep into its layout and spoke of how it is essentially the prime example of the evolution that Jackson was talking about. Finally, Mike Davis took a look at a modern day Los Angeles from a social perspective rather than an infrastructural one.

Reading Jackson’s passage puts the grandness of the American automobile movement into some perspective. One gets the sense that the automobile embedded itself so deep into American culture that it became a component of a countryman’s identity. The entire country, including its hubs of industrialization and commerce, was catering to the automobile and if you owned one then that sense of freedom and power was far greater than any experience the world had previously had to offer. Not only was it single handedly responsible for the upstart of hundreds of new industries (i.e. drive in movies and restaurants, filling stations, motels, shopping centers, etc.) millions of new businesses, and trillions of new job opportunities, but it even affected how Americans shopped for the most treasured entity of almost any society, the home. The garage and driveway became a very important factors when it came to purchasing a house. As the importance of the automobile grew in the American psyche, the garage evolved. Until it finally became the sort of “house next door” structure that it is today. The concept that the car needed to be cared for and sheltered was behind the implementation of this structure.

Edward Soja’s piece on Los Angeles was another attempt to scale down something of great ginormity, the city of Los Angeles. Encompassing an area that fits within a circle that has a 60 mile circumference all linked together by a complex web of highways located in its center, LA is undoubtedly the automobile city. His section titled “Outerspaces” gives the reader a sense of the design he is trying to reveal. Essentially, the city is a whole lot of unrelated galaxies with a dowtown core of prisons, City Hall, office buildings, a library, a courthouse, a cathedral, an arts center, and a historical park. According to Soja even an article in the Los Angeles Times dubbed it “A City Divided”.

Soja’s piece actually goes hand in hand with the Mike Davis section because it seems to be the very layout and infrastructure that Soja is describing that directly correlates to the homogeous clusters that Davis speaks of. Cities built within a more confined space and whose various locations are easily accessible to a universal public transportation system (i.e. New York) make it slightly more difficult for such clusters to form. This stems from the fact that every area is easily accessible to the other and this makes way for diverse interaction. It also slightly alleviates the sense of paranoia that Davis talks about that accompanies this sort of isolation model. In theory, since everywhere is easily accessible to everybody, this takes away the concept of the “intruder”. This makes the sort of fortresses that can be found in upper class Los Angeles unnecessary. Also degradation and street crime in the inner city is theoretically more escapable if it is not isolated in dispersed little clusters.

Mini Planning Project
| April 12, 2010 | 8:09 pm | Project Abstract, Workshops | Comments closed

For my planning project i plan to look into the neighborhood known as “The Lower East Side”. The title “Lower East Side” refers to the neighborhood in Manhattan located south of East Houston Street and west of the East River. Generally, it has always been an poor immigrant neighborhood, however, it demographic has undergone a change in the last 30 years or so. Previously, it housed European immigrants (Italians, Poles, Germans, etc.) and is now home to a large hispanic population alongside an “alternative” (new, young, white, hip) culture. It was once home to a plethora of tenement houses and although the people there experienced their fair share of trauma, the neighborhood was theirs and so culturally rich. Despite the maintenance of a blue collar presence in the neighborhood, it is in the process of going through a massive gentrification phase. One of the most historic places in the country  is slowly losing it character to greedy developers. Slowly but surely long time residents are being pushed out.  Just to get slight inkling of what is going on, over 8,000 units of affordable housing have lost there in the last decade and rent costs are rising far faster than average household income. For my project i plan on delving into the major details of the transformation that is occuring there from three prospectives: one of pure fact, one from the the prospective of newcomers, and one from the prospective of long time residents.