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Category Archives: architecture

Read the Issue of Boom: a Journal of California I Guest-Edited Free Online

Boom: A Journal of California has completed the online roll-out of “Re-coding California,” their spring 2016 on architecture, planning, and the built environment that I guest-edited (and which contains my essay “Our Car Culture Is Not a Problem; Our House Culture Is”). You can read it all at the issue’s page on Boom‘s site, or you can […]

Boom: Our Car Culture Is Not a Problem; Our House Culture Is

Like so many fascinated by Los Angeles, I grew up worshiping the Case Study houses. With their crisp edges, clean lines, muted colors, and vast planes of glass, they struck me as the perfect objects of aesthetic desire, especially when seen through the loving, era-defining eye of architectural photographer Julius Shulman. I think of the […]

Los Angeles, the City in Cinema: the Bonaventure Hotel

What building most clearly signifies Los Angeles? In a built environment with few easily legible architectural icons, the Bonaventure Hotel has come to stand for the city as no other building does. Since opening in 1976, John C. Portman Jr.’s quintet of reflective cylindrical towers atop a stark concrete base has played in urban Los […]

Diary: The Gardens of Little Tokyo

I had lunch not long ago with Geoff Nicholson at Mr. Ramen, Little Tokyo’s finest perpetually reggae-soundtracked noodle shop. He reminded me of the existence of the James Irvine Japanese Garden, a fixture of (and fairly well-known wedding venue at) the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. Built to the side of the JACCC’s not-particularly-loved gray […]

All my pieces for the Guardian’s History of Cities in 50 Buildings

The Guardian just finished putting up its series A History of Cities in 50 Buildings, seven of which I wrote about. I come out of the experience with few regrets indeed, though I do wish I’d written up something in Los Angeles; my friend Nate Berg honorably beat me to the out-of-the-box idea of approaching the city’s four-level […]

The History of Cities in 50 Buildings: The Sampoong Department Store

Observers tend to describe the rise of South Korea as a miracle, and the actual story makes the word seem only a minor exaggeration. Having emerged an utter wreck from the Korean War in the early 1950s, by the 21st century the country had become a rich, infrastructurally impressive, technologically forward-thinking global economic and cultural […]

The History of Cities in 50 Buildings: The Renaissance Center

No one has taken as much blame for Detroit’s woes as the major American car companies who, through the early 20th century, concentrated themselves there to such an extent that the city’s name became a byword for the industry. Despite the contradiction of an urban metropolis owing so much to an explosion in car ownership, […]

The History of Cities in 50 Buildings: The Original Starbucks

With more than 21,500 stores in 64 countries and territories, the Starbucks coffee chain has enjoyed the image of omnipresence for so long that jokes about walking across the street from one branch straight into another have themselves become clichéd. In certain cities, it’s simply the reality: Seattle, for instance, where the now universally recognised […]

The History of Cities in 50 Buildings: The Southdale Center

Behold the shopping mall – the built epitome, according to its critics, of the mindless, car-bound consumerism of white-bread suburban America. Yet Southdale Center, the first fully enclosed, climate-controlled collection of shops from which all the 1,100 or so similarly designed malls now standing across the United States descend, came from the mind of an anti-car, […]

The History of Cities in 50 Buildings: Levittown

Levittown isn’t a single building but a development of more than 17,000 detached houses. The project – started in 1947 as America’s prototypical postwar planned community – has outlived its heartiest supporters and harshest detractors to stand today as something more complicated than a monument to the glory of the American dream, or to the […]