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Posts by mattblitz:

A freeway in the middle of the ocean, thousands of acres of interconnected parks, LAX under a glass dome, and Disneyland: Burbank. These are just a few of the projects that would have changed the landscape of Los Angeles, that is if they were ever built.

“Never Built: Los Angeles” is an exhibit opening at the Architecture and Design Museum of Los Angeles on July 27th.  Using a collection of blueprints, maps, models, and plans, “Never Built” will explore what the past hoped for the future of Los Angeles. Due to a myriad of issues, including politics, bureaucracy, citizen unrest, and money, these grandiose plans never came to fruition. The exhibit tells the story of Los Angeles; a city of freedom, a city of imagination, and a city divided.  By examining the well-worn roads (and abandoned housing projects) of the past, we can begin to answer the question of what does the future of Los Angeles hold.

The brainchild of co-curators Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin, both architecture writers and urban planning enthusiasts, “Never Built” was conceived with help by the Getty Center, Clive Wilkinson Architects, and a kickstarter campaign that raised over 43,000 dollars.

We sat down with Sam Lubell at a place that, thank the heavens, was built; Langer’s Deli in Los Angeles. We discussed the beginnings of “Never Built,” the most ambitious projects he’s come across, a Disney Marine Park in Long Beach, and the future of Los Angeles urban planning.

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Shocked Monopoly man

To many, the Monopoly Man is a monocle-wearing, top-hat-styling, mustache-wielding spokes-character for a beloved board game. To Alec Monopoly, the Monopoly Man is art.

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Untapped Cities - At the Wende Museum -  Russian and East German athletes' lockers

Russian and East German athletes’ lockers

On June 12th, 1987, only steps away from where the Berlin Wall stood, President Ronald Reagan declared that Soviet Union leader  Mikhali Gorbachev needed to do something about the division and oppression that had enveloped Eastern Europe. President Reagan demanded, in front of nearly 45,000 Western Berliners, that “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

About two and half years later, the wall did come tumbling down. On November 9th, 1989, border crossings were open, East and West Germany were unified, and the Berlin Wall became a symbol of a tortured past.

Over the next weeks, months, years, former citizens of East Germany did their best to rid themselves of the memories of oppression. Flags, paintings, symbols, propaganda, tapestries… anything that had the omnipresent sickle and hammer on it was thrown away and discarded. But as it’s always been the case throughout history, one man’s forgettable trash is another man’s treasure.

The Wende Museum (“Wende” is the German word for “turning point”) in Culver City, California has amassed its tremendous collection of Cold War-era artifacts based on this philosophy. Located in a tucked away business center on the outskirts of Culver City, this would seem like an odd place for one of the world’s largest collections of Cold War era items, paraphernalia, artifacts, and archives. But this very distance and disconnect from the physical area and the painful memories this time period brings up allows the museum to have a certain objectivity. A lot of their collection has come from donations, searching through dusty attics, and even, at times, items that have been marked as trash and thrown in a landfill.

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Untapped Cities - At Evergreen Memorial Park and Crematorium

A map of Los Angeles from approximately 1849

There are certain things every city needs; a hospital, a fire station, a local government, and a place to bury their dead. On a hot, dry August day in 1877, Mayor Frederick A. MacDougal of Los Angeles officially established Evergreen Memorial Park, in what is now known as Boyle Heights, as the first official and sanctioned cemetery in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles was still a rural, dry, brutal place in 1877. Only 27 years prior, as part of the Compromise of 1850, California was admitted into the United States as a free state, therefore stopping the expansion of slavery into the west. The Great California Gold Rush in the mid 1850s brought over 300,000 new settlers into the state. The influx of people coming to grab their share of gold and land led to a sort of lawlessness not just between settlers, but between settlers and the Native Americans who had called this land home for generations. Between 1850 and 1860, the California government paid nearly 1.5 million dollars to militias to “protect” their citizens from these Native Americans.

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Untapped Cities - The Bob Baker Marionette Theatre Los Angeles

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater

It was 1961, Bob Baker was looking for a place for him and his beloved marionettes to call their own. Handcrafted and each with  its own distinctive “personality,” the Bob Baker Marionette Theater was more than just puppets with strings. And they needed a home.

Baker’s life as a puppeteer began when he was only eight, for he was something of a child prodigy. He was already giving professional performances at a young age for several different LA-based puppeteering companies. By the time he was in high school, he  was making and selling his marionettes in the United States and abroad. Within two years of high school graduation, he was the head animator of Puppetoons, the Academy-Award nominated studio that popularized stop motion puppet animation. After World War II and in his early 20s, Baker became an animation supervisor and consultant for multiple film studios, including one studio upstart ran by an intense fellow named Walt Disney.

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