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September 19, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

HETEROPOLIS: Los Angeles, The Riots and the Strange Beauty of Hetero-Architecture by Charles Jencks (Academy Editions: $35.; 144 pp., illustrated, paperback original); ANGELS FLIGHT by Walt Wheelock (Borden Publishing, 2623 San Fernando Valley Road, Los Angeles 90065: $4.95; 48 pp., illustrated, paperback original); PROFESSOR T. S. C. LOWE AND HIS MOUNTAIN RAILWAY by Maria Schell Burden (Borden Publishing: $5.50; 72 pp., illustrated, paperback original); TIME WAS: Los Angeles Senior Citizens Reminisce edited by Noelle Sickels, illustrated by Marion Dies (Noelle Sickels, 3424 Larissa Drive, Los Angeles 90026: $10.75; 208 pp., paperback original). These disparate books offer a mosaic portrait of the once and future city. The pamphlets by Wheelock and Burden focus on two elements of a public transportation system that was the envy of the nation--the Angels Flight funicular railway, which operated through 1969, and the recreational ride to the top of Mount Lowe. Archival photographs compliment the texts, and Burden includes a map of the vanished Red Car Line that ran not only to Mount Lowe, but from Santa Monica to Highland and from San Fernando to Corona Del Mar. The collection of reminiscences funded by the Department of Cultural Affairs describes a city with fewer people and more trees, when downtown was an exciting district of palatial theaters and department stores, rather than the grubby hub of a perpetual traffic jam. Although some minority writers recall poverty and ill-treatment, these memoirs may remind jaded Angelenos why their ancestors came to Southern California. Jencks argues that contemporary Los Angeles represents not the future its citizens may desire, but the future they're stuck with: "Los Angeles either develops a love for pluralism and becomes the self-conscious heteropolitan city or it will die from social strife. It's a stark choice which all global cities face to a degree, and one which confronts L.A. with increasing viciousness." A noted architecture critic, Jencks ponders the possibility of creating a building style that embraces all the members of an ethnically, socially and economically fragmented community. He finds an affirmative answer in the work of what he calls the L.A. School, led by Frank Gehry, whose cluttered, deconstructed facades he interprets as symbols of diverse voices and peoples. Whether or not the reader accepts this thesis (and Gehry's controversial design for the Disney Hall of the Music Center), Jencks offers a provocative vision of L.A.

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