Is There an L.A. Sensibility? Place and Politics in Los Angeles Design


Architects, planners, critics and historians often praise works of architecture or urban design for suggesting an authentic sense of place — or knock them for lacking it.

Location: Barnsdall Gallery Theater

But what precisely does it mean for a design — of an apartment building, a park, a Metro line, a bus stop or a 2028 Olympic venue, or even a song or work of art — to reflect the spirit of Los Angeles, or of a specific site or neighborhood in the city? Given the long history of rapid change, displacement and mythmaking in Southern California, these questions can be more fraught and elusive here than in other American cities.

What’s more, the effort at so-called placemaking in new project design can run roughshod over community or architectural history, giving rise to a new phrase that many prefer: “placekeeping.” Helping architects, designers, city officials and community leaders frame the question of place in a more nuanced, productive and inclusive way will be Los Angeles City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson (to discuss the Destination Crenshaw initiative), artists Rosten Woo, Janna Ireland and Ruben Ochoa, architect Frederick Fisher and Helen Leung and Elizabeth Timme of LA Más.