Using Figueroa Street as an organizing frame, this site explores the history of Los Angeles’ built environment. I’m a planning historian who spent her formative years in and around San Francisco and London, so I guess theoretically I’m not supposed to love Los Angeles. The immense scale and dispersed population seems to run counter to the idea of what a good city should be. But I do love LA, and like Reyner Banham, I love it “with a passion that goes beyond all sense or reason.” I am especially fond of the city’s long, broad streets – partly because I have learned what lies behind many of the contemporary facades. This then is my primary interest: the thousands of mundane decisions that define the look and feel of LA streets. Each decision to widen, to re-grade or re-name a section, to demolish or preserve a structure, to gentrify or abandon a neighborhood contributes to the creation of the city as a whole. For me, the city’s public thoroughfares provide a “way of approaching” Los Angeles. They are a defining feature of the landscape, but they also provide an avenue to understand the city’s social and physical geography.
Information about my other writing and teaching is available on my website mdrakereitan.com