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reading the architecture of Los Angeles…


Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christoper Hawthorne announced in the January 26th issue of the Times an ambitious one-year reading program Reading L.A. which will take a detailed chronological look at major works in the history of the development of Los Angeles and Southern California. One of his goals is to by the end of the year have a better handle on how the city has been explored by the critics and writers who have preceded us here.

This 12 month immersion in our storied past seems like a fun trip for aficionados of Los Angeles history and the evolution of modern architecture to embark upon with him. I plan to closely follow along, especially on the books I have as yet not read. For those of you who choose to join Hawthorne on this trek through our past he states that this effort is not organized as a formal book club as many of the titles are out of print and some are almost impossible to find.


January:  “The Truth About Los Angeles” by Louis Adamic (1927) and “Los Angeles” by Morrow Mayo (1933)

February:  “Southern California: An Island on the Land” by Carey McWilliams (1946) and “Five California Architects” by Esther McCoy (1960)

March:  “Eden in Jeopardy: Man’s Prodigal Meddling With the Environment” by Richard Lillard (1966) and “The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles 1850-1930”  by Robert M. Fogelson (1967)

April:  “Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies” by Reyner Banham (1971) and “Guide to the Ugliest Buildings of Los Angeles” by Richard Meltzer (1980)

May:  “L.A Freeway: An Appreciative Essay ” by David Brodsly (1981) and “Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture ” by Thomas Hines (1982)

June:  “Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water ” by Marc Reisner (1986) and “City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles” by Mike Davis (1990)

July: “Heteropolis: Los Angeles, the Riots and the Strange Beauty of Hetero-Architecture” by Charles Jencks (1993), “Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir” by D.J. Waldie (1996), and “The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory,” by Norman M. Klein (1997)

August:  “Blueprints for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses” edited by Elizabeth A.T. Smith (1999) and “Magnetic Los Angeles: Planning the Twentieth-Century Metropolis” by Greg Hise (1999)

September:  “Eden by Design: The 1930 Olmsted-Bartholomew Plan for the Los Angeles Region” edited by Hise and William Deverell (2000) and “The Drive-In, the Supermarket, and the Transformation of Commercial Space in Los Angeles, 1914-41” by Richard Longstreth (2000)

October:  “Glitter Stucco and Dumpster Diving: Reflections on Building Production in the Vernacular City” by John Chase (2000) and “Landscapes of Desire: Anglo Mythologies of Los Angeles” by William Alexander McClung (2000)

November:  “Reluctant Metropolis: The Politics of Urban Growth in Los Angeles” by William Fulton (2001) and “Form Follows Libido: Architecture and Richard Neutra in a Psychoanalytic Culture” by Sylvia Lavin (2005)

December:  “Making Time: Essays on the Nature of Los Angeles” by William Fox (2006) and “Reinventing Los Angeles: Nature and Community in the Global City” by Robert Gottlieb (2007)



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