Colin Marshall sits down in Santa Monica with architect and urban designer Doug Suisman, author of Los Angeles Boulevard: Eight X-Rays of the Body Public, soon out in a new 25th anniversary edition. They discuss the difference in cycling to his office on Wilshire Boulevard versus Venice Boulevard; the conceptual importance of “path” and “place” in any urbanism-related discussion he gets into; his arrival in Los Angeles in 1983, after years spent in Paris and New York, and the mixture of disappointment and fascination he first felt on the boulevards here; what it meant that he sensed movement as well as abandonment; how Los Angeles wound up with the its destructive-car-culture rap, and how its freeways have less to do with that than the way its boulevards also became a kind of freeway system; the mistaken notion that the city “doesn’t have transit,” and what specific kinds of transit it actually does still lack; his work with the design of the Metro Rapid buses, and why they’ve struggled so long just to get a dedicated lane; the combined optimism and complacency of Los Angeles in the 1980s, before any rapid transit had appeared; the excitement he first felt at the the city’s private architectural boom, despite its seeming lack of a public realm; how Los Angeles has begun to overcome its “enclave instinct” and find an “urban public language” as Amsterdam did in the 1930s; the importance of the Olympics, MOCA, LACMA’s Anderson Wing, and now the Ace Hotel’s opening in downtown, that “50-year overnight sensation”; what caused Wilshire’s “wig district”; what his childhood trips from his suburban home to downtown Hartford, Connecticut taught him about city life; coffee shops as harbingers of human connectedness; the basic differences between “apartment cultures” and “house cultures,” and how a city moves from one to the other; and the way the boulevards fit into the psychological framework of Los Angeles alongside the mountains and the ocean.
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