Colin 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 Theory, Thirdspace: 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.
- From my interview archive: economist and Marginal Revolutionary Tyler Cowen (2008 and 2009)
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- KCET Movies: Alfred Hitchcock’s (Non-Existent) Los Angeles
- From my interview archive: Charles Murray (2008), Jay Caspian Kang (2012), and “the Great Liberal Freakout of 2017”
- I talk about Seoul’s Ikseon-dong Hanok Village on Monocle 24’s The Urbanist podcast