A City of Angels and Chaos

Dear friends and family,

Today I want to talk a little bit about cities and the systems that shape them.

This thanksgiving recess I went to the West Coast of the United States for the first time. I spent three days with a good friend who just graduated from UVA that lives in the City of Angels. I admit that I am definitely an East Coast person; I’ve been living in that part of the States for a while and I visited most of its major cities. From Richmond (VA) to New York, the cities in the East Coast are more or less shaped the same way. If I had more time I would talk more about their similarities; but what I want to get at is that while visiting any Eastern city, I would find more or less what I expect before getting to them.

A city of Angels, Chaos and Extreme Segregation.

Parking lot next to Santa Monica Beach.

I have traveled a lot in my life and I generally don’t be really surprised by the places I go. But Los Angeles was an exceptions to this rule. I took an urban planning class at the A-school and I have heard a lot of bad things about the City of Angels. I wanted to check it by myself and see what it looks like. I was expecting a city that looked like Miami, very plain, flat and hot, but Los Angeles in more than that. It’s a paradoxical city; from above it looks monstrous and never ending; organized in endless orthogonal mega-blocks. But interestingly enough the city is made mostly of one-story buildings, so in a way its seems to me that it is unnecessarily too sprawled, as if everyone needed an excuse to use the automobile even for small errands.

The automobile industry is the key ingredient for today’s article. I know that there is a deeper underlying issue about cars in society -especially in this Nation- but for now I am going to blame it for the way Los Angeles looks like.  My friend took me to place on the top of a hill called Grifith Observatory, and from there we had a panoramic view of the city:

View from the Grifith Observatory.

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