Archives for posts with tag: downtown

No, I’m not referring to the newest Arcade Fire album (although its basically an urban planning manifesto, and they should come play at APA 2012).  I’m talking about the cul-de-sac bearing, strip mall flaunting, track home producing haunts in which so much of today’s American offspring have grown up.  Its a topic thats been tackled before, but heres one more person’s thoughts on our changing perception of suburbs, specifically as a place to call home.

Before I get into the modern conception of suburbs and its impact on our lives, lets remember that there have been “suburbs” as long as there have been a form of centralized urban civilization.  When you focus a physical environment around one location, there are inherently residences near that, and further away.  Before the time of the automobile or any sort of reliable transportation, it was the richest who lived closest to the center of town, and the poor lived further away.  Cars may have revolutionized our lives in many, many ways, but one of the most profound impacts is the complete reversal of what the outer urban limits mean as far as desirability and socio-economic class.

It was my grandparent’s generation that was the last to really live in the city, walking to school and work in Hollywood and downtown.  And it was that generation, that took somewhat for granted the pros of living in such spaces, that bought into cars and detached homes, and decided to rear their children in the relatively new concept of the modern suburb.  This is obviously not universal, and in cities like NYC and Chicago, and of course all over the world, people did stay downtown.  But in the sunbelt cities, this was a relatively common trend.  My parent’s generation grew up there, and for the most part has stayed there.  Its my generation that is reverting back to the city- but why?  Like our parents, we were children of the suburbs.  We had to wait for rides from our elders, don’t know how to ride the bus, and think that all grocery stores and supermarkets.  Why is it that we’re the ones who want to move more centrally? Read the rest of this entry »


I recently accidentally came across an excellent public space in downtown LA while chaperoning a trip to the Fed.  Between Hope and Grand, and Olympic and 9th, there is an amazing little pocket of green that accomplishes so much in the single block it shares with FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising).  Just across from the Fed, and within a mile of LA Live and the Staples Center, Grand Hope Park manages to combine a myriad of uses and types of spaces into a place where anyone could feel welcome.  This may not seem like an amazing feat, but think about it for a minute:  how many parks and public spaces have you been to that you didn’t want to linger at?  Maybe it wasn’t designed or programmed for your uses, or it didn’t feel safe- both major issues with public spaces, especially in a city where the “eyes on the street” aren’t always easy to come by.  This park was obviously occupied by students, but it had children, elderly, office workers, and more- the question is, what separates this park from so many others?

Grand Hope Park Water Feature

According to the Cultural Landscape Foundation, it is 2.5 acres, was completed in 1993, and was designed by the famed Lawrence Halprin.  According to yours truly, there are a few reasons why this space functions so well. Read the rest of this entry »