LA has been lusted after, mocked, ignored, celebrated and rehabilitated in recent years but is often treated with suspicion or even contempt by Londoners and Europeans. Sprawling, centreless, shallow and inscrutable go the accusations, and yet significant commentators have fallen for its complex charms.
Reynar Banham loved LA and wrote ‘Los Angeles: the Architecture of Four Ecologies’ to tell the world. More recently, James Frey notes that the city is home to the biggest art scene in the world in his book, ‘Bright Shiny Morning’: ‘Los Angeles is the cultural capital of the world. No other city even comes close to it. And when I say culture, I am talking about contemporary culture, not what mattered fifty or a hundred and fifty years ago.'
LA, the most famous city of sprawl, has filled the LA basin to the extent that it can sprawl no farther. Instead it must look inward and seek to recycle, reinvent and replace those buildings which need to be something else. We have been doing this in London since the green belt encircled the city in 1938 and encouraged architects to think differently about scale, density and use. We make buildings with complex sections and mixed uses to create urban areas that are thriving and diverse. Heritage and Context frame every architectural project in the UK to some extent and we make architectural responses that respect this.
LA is different: questions of density and complexity have been subservient to zoning and neighbourhoods defined by their residential character. Recent developments in Downtown show the city starting to invent its own more complex section by reusing buildings and mixing or blurring their use. Newer buildings such as Michael Maltzan’s Star Apartments are tall, dense, complex and most importantly, desirable.
We are exporting our expertise honed by 15 years of working in central London to a new city that sits at a fulcrum in its history; from an extrovert and expansive beginning to a more intense, urban and uniquely Angelino future.