Saturday, July 16, 2005

LA Times Opinion Section Gets Something Right!,0,5618142.story

Yeah, I know they are still trying to con us into calling it the... Current Section, but... seriously... does anyone think that name will stick?

I didn't think so.

So, anyway, the Opinion Section tomorrow is going to ask our opinion about something that has something to do with... Los Angeles! My God, does the editor and the publisher know about this?

Plus, unlike the wikitorial disaster (the legend of which has now reached Hindenburgian proportions in the retelling) - they are actually going to structure feedback in a way that can create serious civic engagement. I just hope that no one in Chicago finds out about this - and puts a stop to it!

Pump genius into our park

By Martin Kaplan
Martin Kaplan is associate dean of the USC Annenberg School and director of The Norman Lear Center (, which studies the impact of entertainment on society.

July 17, 2005

The announcement last week that architect Frank O. Gehry has been asked to design a 40- to 50-story skyscraper, to be built in the space next to his Disney Hall as part of downtown Los Angeles' $1.8-billion Grand Avenue project, offers a new opportunity for the city to focus on the park that will be created in the Gehry building's shadows.

Running from City Hall to the top of Bunker Hill, the 16-acre space will be "the new front lawn of the city," its proponents say ‚— "our Central Park." The Related Cos., developers of the Grand Avenue project, will pay for the park with a $50-million lease advance on the land underlying the project. Long before the sure-to-be iconic Gehry building was announced, the park-to-be had attracted a wish list of civic hopes, including cultural performances, political gatherings, farmers markets and pickup sports games.

But will it rise to those hopes? Are those the boldest proposals this city has to offer? And are the developer's focus groups really the best way to find the best suggestions?

My bet is that it's not too late to bust things open for an eruption of creative energy, to ventilate and galvanize and democratize the design process, to invite citizens of Los Angeles, architecture fans, design junkies and imagineers from around the world to brainstorm truly breakthrough ideas for our 21st century civic space.

Architecture is a kind of public theater. You playwrights and screenwriters, you set designers and choreographers, you producers and impresarios — what could you do with Los Angeles as a stage?

And how about you Hollywood lighting designers — how would you create drama without turning us into Las Vegas?

David Rockwell, you're a master of narrative architecture. What story could the design of our park tell?

Bran Ferrin, Bill Mitchell, Adam Powell and you other digital wizards out there: How could our park use Wi-Fi, HyperSonic Sound, pod-casting and the other cool tech in your toolkit to turn the public sphere into an information commons, a knowledge network, a virtual performance space?

The city's artists must have plenty of ideas, from subversive to sublime. Robbie Conal? Ed Ruscha? Robert Graham? MekOne?

And where are all the visionary urbanists? Manuel Castells? Witold Rybczynski? Norman Klein? Kevin Starr? How about conceiving a park for this era when the boundaries between work and leisure, entertainment and politics, consumption and citizenship have never been more porous.

Elizabeth Moule, Stefanos Polyzoides and you other New Urbanists: Isn't the Grand Avenue park a matchless opportunity for your movement to strut its stuff?

What about all you professors and students of architecture, planning and landscape design? Surely you could build on or better the 50 international proposals for a Los Angeles Civic Park solicited by the LA H* Urban Bureau, a group of artists and architects, in 2003.

And go to the article to read more. Then go to the second LA Times link:,0,91239.story

July 17, 2005

Downtown's asphalt is our backyard, so The Times Opinion Manufacturing Division has embraced the accompanying essay's call for a new round of brainstorming about what to do with the 16-acre park that will be the Grand Avenue project's centerpiece.

Strong entries will appear on the Lear Center website ‚— .

Current's website ‚— ‚— will link to that site and the strongest submissions will appear in these pages.

Contributors will not be compensated, and they will retain all rights to their proposals.

Proposals, from teams or individuals, should restrict themselves to the park's planned footprint and can address landscape design, technology, transportation Â… virtually any aspect of the park, big or small.

They can take the form of text, drawings, photographs and/or Web-friendly content such as animations or virtual tours.

Theoretical discussions are welcome, but only as elements of proposals.

If you think redeveloping downtown is a bad idea, this is not for you.

Present Grand Avenue plans, public comments and other resources are linked at . Submit entries by e-mail to or mail them to the Norman Lear Center, USC, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0281.

Brilliant, huh? But not just for the obvious reason of having a fomat that might actually... work. The true genius is that by limiting the scope of the project to the park instead of a free-for-all over the entire Grand Avenue project, this makes it possible to have a reasonable, real world discussion on a very specific issue.

Ironically, though, this very specificity also opens up the implications of the discussion. So even though this debate is limited to this one park - it still opens an entire debate about public spaces in all of Los Angeles - and asks the question - what should urban public spaces in the 21st Century be!

Wow! Pretty heady stuff, huh?

OK - citizens of LA - it's now up to you!

1 comment:

Marty Kaplan said...

Thx for spreading the word. You really understand what this is about. This is
truly a guerilla effort, and it won't work unless there's grassroots
support. So here's hoping that your readers -- novices and experts alike -- will join the fray.