Category: 4/20/2010
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.

Infrastructure and Transportation
| April 20, 2010 | 11:46 pm | 4/20/2010 | Comments closed

In the readings assigned this week, Edward Soja, Mike Davis, and Kenneth T. Jackson look at several different elements that have influenced urban development. Edward Soja looks at the Los Angeles area as defined by a 60-mile radius. He divides Los Angeles into its component parts and explains why Los Angeles is such a successful industrial nation. Davis however takes another look at Los Angeles by looking at the social struggle present in the community. He shows the horrors present in post-industrial Los Angeles defined by the inequalities of race, gender, and income. Jackson steps away from Los Angeles and describes how the advancements of the automobile affected the development of infrastructure.

When looking at Edward Soja’s systematic division of Los Angeles, his analysis shows that the city has many contradictory elements that do not hinder its success. Soja describes how the area is fragmented but maintains a strong center core. Though military bases, Indian reserves and wild Condor Refugees seem to divide the geography of the city, its success is still recognized by its strong centre. Soja shows that despite the fragmentation of its geography, the city still exhibits characteristics of urban theory such as radial development as seen in Downtown Los Angeles. By separating and reducing Los Angeles into its components, Soja shows how Los Angels maintains itself as an urban center.

Mike Davis looks at Los Angeles as well, but he looks into the racial and economic divide that alter the infrastructure of the city. Davis emphasizes how class struggle creates physical barriers that exacerbate the segregation in the community. Gated private developments and private guards establish boundaries between the people in Los Angeles that symbolically act as fortresses that separate the different races and classes. Wealthy elites are protected within these gated communities while violence and crime exist at the borders. Such communities alter the city structure and reduce public space in attempt to “reduce contact with the untouchables.” Such private developments isolate the elites and establish physical boundaries of race and class.

In Kenneth T. Jackson’s work, Jackson analyzes how the automobile changed the infrastructure of homes, businesses and roads. With the advancement of automobiles, cities had to take on physical changes to accommodate new vehicles. Roads were the first to change in which they became paved but highways also developed. Along with roads and highways, homes also started integrating the car into their design. The garage and paved driveways were two features that these new homes had. Not only did private homes change, but public facilities did as well. Schools and restaurants for example had to build new parking lots. Jackson described the many changes the automobile had on infrastructure but he also mentioned that it decreased the density in urban centers. Automobiles gave individuals mobility, and contributed to urban sprawl.

Ignacio Contreras- Infrastructure and Transportation
| April 20, 2010 | 8:11 am | 4/20/2010 | Comments closed

This week’s readings from Edward Soja, Mike Davis and Kenneth Jackson, discuss the different kind of perception the Los Angeles area brings to them. Edward Soja, a professor of geography at the University of California, shows pride in the many military and economical hubs that are present within a sixty-mile circle, with its epicenter being Los Angeles. Mike Davis deems that the modern Los Angeles has created a virtual wall segregating the poor from the rich. Kenneth Jackson, finally, looks disapprovingly at the automobile culture of America, and cites the Los Angeles area as the best example of how the culture evolved the area.

Edward Soja created a sixty-mile circle, encircling the downtown Los Angeles area. He points out that within that circle, many important military bases that present that have served to drive forward the Los Angeles economy. He calls the Los Angeles area as the “premier industrial growth pole of the twentieth century,” taking note that no one thinks of Los Angeles as an industrial center, because of its association with oil, oranges and films. He takes exceptional pride of the downtown area of Los Angeles, full of history, significance and diversity.

Mike Davis sought to show the insecurities of rich people living in the Los Angeles area were both subtle and displaying. From the signs from Los Angeles’ Westside that say “Armed Response!” on neighborhood lawns, we can see how these people seek to protect their properties and communities, such as the “obsession with physical security systems.” But he also suggests that architecture, the planning of buildings and developments have segregated the city by further dividing the poor and rich. The “death of what might be called the ‘Olmstedian vision’ of public space” is what brings about this separation or in other words open, public space. The free beaches, luxurious parks and “cruising ships” were replaced with malls, art centers and gourmet strips. The problems of street violence fond in South-central Los Angeles are thus self-contained in strict boundaries. The vision of having a place to relax from the everyday city-life conflicts is being eroded slowly, according to Davis.

Kenneth Jackson explains how the automobile culture has transformed America over the course of the decades, and its influence over suburban America. The histories of the garage, drive-ins, driveways, motels, interstate system and gasoline stations are all tied in with the American love for cars. The Los Angeles area to him seemed ideal to represent the overall product that resulted from the automobile culture. He mourns the idea that commercial centers replaced the mom and pops stores in the corners, how high schools now needed parking lots to accommodate students who now drive to school, and ensuing drive-in society as seen in fast food restaurants. He states that the area does not have commutation focus as in New York or Chicago, but that it is made up of a conglomerate of suburbs. He calls the region a centerless city.

The different perspectives the three writers have taken on Los Angeles or the greater Lower California region are greatly different. The readings from Mike Davis and Kenneth Jackson seemed to have a notion of regret in which they wished things could have played out differently. For example, Mike Davis states how, “The universal and ineluctable consequence of this crusade to secure the city is the destruction of accessible public space.” It seems that the appeal of the automobile culture has faded away, as noted in the eyes of Kenneth Jackson, who show us that the number of gasoline stations has decreased, and that many commercial structures are now obsolete as of 1985. It is in no doubt that the automobile developed the landscape of the infrastructures in the Lower California region (the motels, commercial centers, the garages, driveways, etc). But it seems that the movement to move away from that culture is beginning with Kenneth Jackson and Mike Davis.