In 1907, Charles Mulford Robinson, pioneering urban theorist, sketched a version of Los Angeles modeled on Baron von Haussmann's Paris. He envisioned wide avenues, broad vistas and open spaces for the increasingly cramped and unplanned metropolis, along with a central park, tree-lined and landscaped river banks and an architecturally unified downtown graced with large plazas and terraced gardens.
"You simply cannot afford to stand still," Robinson told the city officials who'd hired him, or the city's growing population would cause an unacceptable rise "in congestion, in ... discomfort and ugliness, and in paucity of municipal effectiveness."
So began the 100-year-long story of unbuilt Los Angeles, the city that has been repeatedly diagnosed with dystopia and disparaged as a laboratory of urban errors and omissions. Yet, for every ill there has been a solution proposed. Some have been brilliant, others truly abysmal.
It all leads one to ponder the what-if Los Angeles, to imagine the city that would exist today if the best proposals for remedying its ailments had been realized. Los Angeles would now include a ring of thousands of acres of urban and regional parks, a bold, space-age airport, a winged nature center for Griffith Park and hillside housing developments sculpted to the contours of the landscape rather than sitting on graded and terraced scars. We would be living in a very different city.