It’s easy to make simple planning and architectural generalizations about Los Angeles: that it was built only for the car. That it’s a fundamentally suburban city. That it lacks an effective mass transit system. These statements mask the complexity and contradiction of the city, something we hoped to unravel a little more through this month’s Los Angeles City Spotlight on Untapped Cities.
A disappearing architectural legacy that helps dispel the notion of a physically homogeneous Los Angeles is the city’s Modernist heritage, which reflects a period of visionary thinking in conjunction with the excitement of the Space Race, a post-war population boom and the rapid development of the freeway system. “Modern architecture thrived under such conditions, rending a city peerless in its complexity, form and style,” contended the printed guide on our LA Modernist mobile workshop with the American Planning Association during its annual national conference.
Below is a sampling of Modernist architecture that should not be missed in a tour of Los Angeles.
The Cinerama Dome in Hollywood was built based on R. Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome design by Pacific Theaters, Inc. and is the only concrete geodesic dome of its kind in the world. The theater sat 1000 guests, optimized for sight lines and acoustics.
Preservationists successfully fought to save the theater from demolition when Pacific Theaters announced a $60 million shopping center and multi-theater complex. In the final plan, the entertainment facility was built around the original theater, currently operated by Arclight, while leaving it free standing.