"Usually when we talk about how Los Angeles is organized we're talking about the city as an idea, or a string of ideas: about its myths, stereotypes and competing, long-running narratives of civic salesmanship and soured dreams, about utopia one minute and Paradise Lost the next. "The Infrastructural City," co-published by the L.A. Forum on Architecture and Design, offers something else: A doggedly detailed guide to Los Angeles as a physical thing.
It's not a bad angle: If we measure infrastructure broadly, as the book makes a point of doing, Los Angeles qualifies as a place not just dependent on but fully defined by it. "After all," Varnelis asks, referring to William Mulholland, "what other city would name its most romantic road after a water-services engineer?"
Thanks to Mulholland (among others), Los Angeles has drained the Owens Valley to keep our lawns green and gardens in flower. We've wrapped the L.A. River in concrete to prevent it from flooding, strung together a huge, elaborate necklace of freeways and dug a 50-foot-wide, 10-mile-long trench -- the Alameda Corridor -- running north from the port at Long Beach to smooth the transfer of consumer goods from ship to rail to highway to warehouse to retail shelf."