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Notebook on Cities and Culture S4E39: The LAleph with Edward Soja

edwardsojaColin Marshall sits down in Mar Vista with Edward Soja, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning at UCLA and author of such books as Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social TheoryThirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places, and now the new My Los Angeles: From Urban Restructuring to Regional Urbanization. They discuss downtown’s Bonaventure Hotel back when he sat for a BBC documentary on it and now; how all of us may only ever talk about “my Los Angeles” when we talk about the city; why he no longer even answers the question, “Do you like living in Los Angeles?”; why it surprises people to find Los Angeles has become the densest urbanized are in America; how the “metropolitan model of the city” became so deeply ingrained in our culture, and how that model itself now undergoes changes; how Los Angeles missed out in the 19th’s century’s phase of centralized urbanization, and what that means for the city today; what he’s noticed by keeping an eye on the cross-streets; the “hot-bedding” going on at all those small motels nobody seems to use, and how that fits in to the wider scheme of survival techniques used by informal urban populations; how he discovered in Los Angeles the “largest industrial manufacturing center in the United States,” and indeed “the largest job machine in the world”; why observers outside and the inside the city suffer so many blind spots regarding it; Los Angeles as “a kind of laboratory for understanding urban dynamics all over the world”; Jorge Luis Borges’ “El Aleph“, and how that story’s central concept of a point that contains all points helps us understand Los Angeles; seeing the spatial aspect of all things as of equal interest to the historical aspect of all things; his current “weird book,” neither quite a novel nor an academic work, dealing with the ultra-spatially just first city in civilization; when people began noticing that “something is happening in suburbia”; and what it means that greater Los Angeles has developed a suburban Chinatown — especially to those with adventurous palates.

Download the interview here as an MP3 or on iTunes.

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