With Mayoral Election Comes Hope for Fixing L.A.'s Broken Public Spaces

LAX, the LA River, Pershing Square; the list of Los Angeles' under-performing public spaces could sadly continue for a while. As the city votes for its next mayor, Christopher Hawthorne offers some "some straightforward ideas" about how to fix them.

"Los Angeles has become as well known for its high-profile architectural and urban-planning failures — for the buildings, institutions and public spaces we can't seem to get right — as for its innovations or breakthroughs," says the Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic. "This is particularly true for our civic architecture, which has never matched the ambition and allure of the region's private houses and high-end commercial enclaves."

Paying particular attention to the most forlorn of L.A.'s major public spaces, Hawthorne offers some specific recommendations for "how the next mayor can start fixing them."

For the Los Angeles River, "The goal should not be to take the river back to some idyllic, preindustrial past," argues Hawthorne. "Instead we should look for a few places where we can crack open its hard shell and interact with it in new ways." Among the most promising, he says, is a proposal for a 125-acre site across the river from Union Station that "would add walking and biking paths along newly green riverbanks, as well as a park with soccer fields and a botanical garden. It would also act as a powerful pilot project, helping the public see the river's larger potential.

For the failed urban experiment atop Bunker Hill, he recommends that "[t]he next mayor should drop the pretense that Grand Avenue deserves lavish subsidy and extra political attention. If the city does sink more money into Bunker Hill, it shouldn't be earmarked for more parking structures or trophy buildings. It should pay for direct improvements to public space — redesigning the sidewalks along the edges of Grand Park or adding public art along the avenue itself, perhaps in a program overseen by curators from Broad's museum or the Museum of Contemporary Art."

Full Story: Los Angeles' major public spaces remain broken works in progress

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