Hawthorne traverses to street that comprises L.A.'s many faces, from low-rise Santa Monica to skyscraping downtown, and finds "a proving ground for new ideas about architecture, commerce, transportation and urbanism in Southern California."
"For nearly a century Wilshire has been L.A.'s boulevard of prototypes, a string of hypotheses 16 miles long."
Recent hypothesis are oriented around the slow transformation of the street from car-centered artery to transit spine. "Now, Wilshire is stuck in a kind of limbo. The car culture on Wilshire has faded, but a comprehensive rail system and renewed sense of pedestrian culture have yet to take root."
"Wilshire is our boulevard of cold feet and second thoughts," says Hawthorne, "the place where Los Angeles confronts its deep ambivalence about putting a low-rise, car-dominated and essentially suburban past behind it for good."
"The result on today's Wilshire is a lurching, piecemeal utopianism that can take you from a world-famous piece of architecture to a weed-choked lot, from a realized ambition to an abandoned one, in the space of a few blocks."