Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Freeways As L.A. Metaphor

As part of his Reading L.A. series, LAT architectural critic Christopher Hawthorne delved into David Brodsky's book L.A. Freeway: An Appreciative Essay. Though published 20 years ago, the book could not be more contemporary. As Hawthorne writes, "As far as polarizing subjects in Los Angeles go, freeways have long ranked near the top" -- gas guzzling sore thumbs for some, freedom symbols for others.

"The freeways keeps us cocooned in our cars, within sight of yet apart from our fellow citizens," writes Brodsky. "Protected by the detached single-family home and private automobile, the Angeleno can maintain his/her daily life remarkably free of intrusion. Thus Los Angeles is able to maintain its facade as a garden patch of urban villages, a metropolitan small town, without ever compromising the anonymity that is a hallmark of city life."

L.A. freeways' vital role as a backbone to local life is best illustrated in the upcoming closure of the 405 in July, from the 10 to 101 freeways. Nicknamed "Carmageddon," this local end-of-the-world event has the local community all freaked out and preparing for what's already regarded as a disaster -- from Metro offering free subway and extra bus rides, to local businesses and museums shutting down. Residents are also advised to stay home and listen to the news. Paul Haggis' movie Crash could not have portrayed the Gestalt better.
UPDATE 06/02/11: 405 shutdown will be "heard around the world"
UPDATE 06/08/11: Carmageddon in AP + SMDP

photo via Google Images

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