Urban Fold

The Cultural Reshaping of Los Angeles

In this reflection on the new book "Los Angeles in Maps", James Rojas wonders what shape the city will take in the near and far future.

"The book's historical and archival maps of Los Angeles give a powerful account of the city's growth and development, highlighting how topography, policies, resources and infrastructure systems shaped L.A.. The maps start with the Spanish ranches and L.A.'s early street grid, and move from there to early rail maps that predict the region's development patterns. Small towns surrounded by farms were located along rail lines. Oil wells and movie studios grew around those towns and shaped how we used our resources. All this helped create our messy, vibrant urban sprawl.

Today, it is impossible for any single policy, resource, or system to reshape L.A. the way those early systems did because we are just too massive in scale. We also no longer have plentiful tracts of empty land, nor the capital to build major projects. (Or, maybe we just built the wrong major projects, like massive housing on former orange groves at the urban edge?)."

Rojas argues that while infrastructure largely guided the form of the city throughout its history, ethnic and cultural diversity are playing a bigger role today in reshaping the city.

Full Story: Los Angeles in Maps: What's Next?


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