Monday, August 26, 2013


I went to to see the "Never Built: Los Angeles" exhibit yesterday. These collections are always of some historical interest. And we get to experience the relief of knowing that this stuff was never built.

There were a few appalling Albert Speer-type renderings of creepy civic centers. There was a rendering (photo included in this WSJ coverage of the exhibit) of a more-than-creepy Santa Monica-Malibu offshore freeway that would have paralleled PCH and also obliterated miles of ocean view.  There were the usual "rapid transit" and "monorail" route maps of plans that died. The fun there was to overhear the occasional visitor exclaim "if only we had built this then ... ." There was even a map of how a compact-development LA would have looked like.

There were also the occasional sermonettes posted with drawings and maps.  Here is one of my favorites:  "The city's longstanding culture of timidity, political fragmentation, and subservience to developers has not only thwarted a century's worth of visionary schemes, but has engendered an ineffectual public realm."  How many not-so-bright ideas can one squeeze into one sentence?

Escape was easy.  The exits were not bolted and the Petersen Automotive Museum is right next door.  The restored cars are gorgeous.  Most are arranged with contextual mock-up backgrounds (an old gas station, a vintage auto insurance office, etc.). These autos were the technological marvels of their day, built to satisfy users. "Playthings of the rich" were within the reach of almost everyone very quickly.  It's still amazing  to see what competitive capitalism can accomplish. The Petersen benefits from the contrast with what is housed next door. I worry, however, that not many who hold the mindset of the cited sermonette will be drawn to the Petersen.