There's an interesting conversation developing on the Design Observer site related to an excerpt of Michael Maltzan's introduction to a book-length rumination on our city. The book is No More Play: Conversations on Urban Speculation in Los Angeles and Beyond, which was edited by Jessica Varner and recently published by Hatje Cantz.
The book includes a range of conversations with artists, architects and others, including photographer Catherine Opie, whose images of LA's sweeping, curvaceous cement freeway structures quietly take your breath away; Ed Soja, whose research and writing about the political, cultural and economic infrastructures of Los Angeles have helped define a new field; and Matthew Coolidge, the founder and director of the Center for Land Use Interpretation.
Describing the book, Geoff Manaugh on BLDG BLOG notes that it's "astonishingly extroverted." He continues, "It's a book by an architecture office about the city it works in, not a book documenting that firm's work; and, as such, it serves as an impressive attempt to understand and analyze the city through themed conversations with other people, in a continuous stream of partially overlapping dialogues, instead of through ex tempore essayistic reflections by the architects or dry academic essays."
In his introduction, Maltzan describes a city in transition. He writes, "I believe that Los Angeles is now at a pivotal moment where the general equation of what it is and has been is being redefined." He continues, "Los Angeles's new identity is being determined. The critical moment is precipitated by two simultaneous realities: the exaggerated geographic boundaries of the city and the continuing appearance of new densities."
The essay goes on to describe the impact of these two "realities," ending with a call to articulate a new vocabulary appropriate to describing the changes around us, while also stepping back and observing the complexities of the city. He ends enigmatically - but fittingly: "Perhaps it is not a city - perhaps it can only be described as Los Angeles."
The essay - and the growing number of comments - are worth a read, and images by Dutch photographer Iwan Baan capture the unique light, colors, textures and places of Los Angeles beautifully.
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