Friday, May 22, 2009


There is a city, constantly trumps the paradise, from its dream-factory to the glossy lavish lifestyles. Here prosperity roots and branches splendiferously in almost every shape. It is a cosmopolitan, expanded immensely thanks to mental slavery, of those that explicitly are hired for making the better image.

Los Angels is all about perfection: an exaggeration model of pleasure.

There is another city, dark and polluted. Gangs are shooting openly in streets, burning everything in their way. Crime and poverty is booming. If there was a dream once, here in the mornings you will find yourself trapped in an army of homeless, roaming furiously around, as for the nights you will hear them with the bullet sound bites.

Los Angels is all about perfection: an exaggeration of brawl.

Or maybe Los Angeles is an endless thriller. Alas, it is upon you, the non-citizens, to decide that which version demonstrates more sticks. And for those who already are living in this dogmatic city, you probably are too busy figuring out your own lives, or you are becoming ignorant numbs. Because, It is never the question of what exactly the city is but rather what it wants to be. So likewise, as through the theater you briefly are selecting a desired scripted reality, here, you just have to pretend to choose your favorite and perhaps the hoax version. Finally, it is a movie without particular ending, so try to enjoy the popcorn and action scenes.

That’s how I entered in Los Angeles, somewhere between the endless discussions about the city. My first intuition was to rationalize the 1992 riot as a model of urban conflict.

I have already learnt enough about it on screen , there is no need for traveling.

Los Angeles knows the best way- going back to what really is- alike movies, which it only consists of the perfected (enhanced) shots- when it wants to deal with the 1992 riot, the best verdict after ten years constant challenges, is the easy one: just change the name and ignore the existing facts. And there would be no south central Los Angeles left in the map. Problem solved.

That is why. It is redundant to analyze Los Angeles logically. As it is evident that after all the rational analyzes of the L.A riot, intellectuals could only create more complexity.

Instead, think about a high-budget movie, sharp colors fills with astounding action scenes. It is designed precisely to contradict the reality. It portrays a simple trip, offers an escape from every day despairs. And importantly, like a vacation, it is only momentary and at the end you can go back home – intact.

However, the confusion appears when you are taking it too seriously and shifting its temporality to the state of permanence. This is like staying in the vacation forever is not necessary an obliging lifestyle.


There is no need for heavy theoretical justification for pop-culture- basically it is exist there, somewhere But it is critical when it becomes the permanent lifestyle.

It is obvious that television and Internet –what I called the image-fiction entertainment- has changed our perspective of the world. We are becoming the nation of viewers, when an average American household watches TV more than six hours a day. Media has become our official source for research and the consumption habit appears in our everyday perception of the whole. And when it comes talking about the whole, this is not just a new viewpoint, as gradually we are becoming one giant family. This is sort of family we are seeing either passively on TV or actively communicating with on the net. It is freighting to see that there are few alternatives left and certainly there is no escape from this immense invasion. We literally cannot imagine life without the media. We are not different from our fathers in that television presents and defines our contemporary world. Where we are different is that we have no memory of a world without such an electric definition. So what is happening to the rest of daily life? We are neglecting its being, simply by escaping to the imaginary world of media. Or what I called it by staying perpetually in a vacation.

This, superimposition of image-fiction over the real world, is my hypothesis for excavating the Los Angeles, while referring to Walter Benjamin’s quote cities to be looked at rather than lived in, the main confusion appears when constructed temporality becomes permanence.

I always have the Rem Koolhaas’s joke in my mind, thinking about future of urbanism, he concludes with the famous phase:

“The city is no longer. We can leave the theater now.[1]

[1] S,M,L,XL, Pp.1264


Two decades ago, I was one those viewers, staring the TV, Watching flames. First, I thought, I was deluded; as it was another TV-hoax, a Hollywood special effect, trailer for the new Die Hard. At least, it was hard to believe this was the real Los Angeles, the same Los Angeles, I saw in glossy magazines, the land of fortune I saw in the movies.

This was all I knew about the city from the magnificent movie posters. It was hard to convince me that there are poor angry people rallying on streets, because I never though of any poverty exist in this city. But the footnote kept remaining me constantly “this is live, this is South Central Los Angeles “

It became a huge deal of publicity. When the live coverage ended, the early enthusiasm turned to the endless reposts, lectures and debates on the business of blaming. Thus, the chain of courts was not showing the public a justice but another racial condemnation. Blacks were held responsible for burning their own community. Few asked why they destroyed their own businesses. Even fewer asked why it happened in Los Angeles.

The result was creation of another drama. Surly, Los Angeles response to any drama is a bigger drama. All, for the myth-city that matters is how long you are on the TV, how often you are gaining attractions, so you can easily conceal any of your trash behind the silky curtain of media.

When a tourist’s brochure invites you to the paradise city, the question is not the morality of deception, but rather for how long it would sell.

Welcome to the good city.


Perry Anderson proposes that post modernity in the arts is really split between two trends, one that 'adjusts or appeals to the spectacular ' the other which 'seeks to elude or refuse it'.

This can be regarded as a step point for our broader understanding of the generic city, global city or what prefix we want to call; although, here, in case of Los Angeles and based on the fictional background I would like to called it the post-urban city, as I will discuss later, the prefix post implies mostly on the image driven concept of the city. Where now days city, and its interconnected layers of production and consumption thought the global network, known as globalization, has not been brought about by humanity researches alone, nor it is result of the design decisions of architects and planners. It is largely brought through the actions of marketing executives, brand mangers, political strategies, tourist board directors, and fictional analysis, and is now beginning to direct the way which urban environments in one hand develop and communicate their respective images and at the same time conceal their bad reputations (bad Image). In their study of Las Vegas, Sarah Chaplin and Eric Holding were analyzing the image factory behind the new urbanism argued the post-urban city as the city, which is not what it is, but what it is made out to be.[1]


What is unique about Los Angeles?

As Mike Davis analyzes the current conflicts of powers in Los Angeles (the 1992 riot and recent economy clash down due to destruction rule of multinational corporations), is embedded in its Los Angeles Long complex history. If we grasped the Los Angeles history from its early 20th century rapid evolution into metropolitan of West Coast to “L.A.2000” scheme (city of Los Angeles as the Headquarters of 21st century), there are two themes, percolate in one city. One there is the fictional Los Angeles, depicted solely as spectacle (Mike Davis calls it a “dream-addicted culture). Second, it is an actual city, a nightmare for endless conflicts, tremendously alienated between different strata (Economic classes). Being constantly captive in its duality, Los Angeles simultaneously reproduces and advertises its dream image in order for hide its dirtiness.

Los Angeles is fulfilled in an optimistic and pessimistic duality between fictional and anti-fictional parades. It is fictional paradise for its elites, an ultimate ideological urbanism, a symbolic American’s dreamland (role model for suburbia) and same time, for its intellectuals- is the most hatred city in North America[2], that resembles only the negative symbol of ostentation culture: a fake dream.


I have not visited Los Angeles yet. This could be the main challenge for this article; how can I precisely write about the city that I have not see it at all. I welcomed this difficulty by questioning the validity of close observation of a gravity particularly referring to Los Angels by thinking of Walter Benjamin’s term, “a city to be look at rather than to live”. First the Los Angeles is about advertising the spectacle. Los Angeles was scripted originally from the creation and promotion of the myth as the promised land of millenarian Anglo-Saxon racial odyssey”, the image that become the main force behind the formation of Los Angeles into a metropolis. In early twenty century, Los Angeles was boosting unlike other cities not as a major industry district but rather as a luxury destination. Unprecedented mass migrations of retired farmers, small-town dentists, wealthy businessmen and lawyers transformed their saving into Southern California real state. The massive flow of wealth between the region produced population, income and consumption structure seemingly out of proportion of Los Angeles actual production, real sate was the only industry of the city, Mike Davis in his book city of Quartz called this generation Boosters.

Through the generation, myths changed only in form but still remained the dominated force. This construction/ interpretation of city myth enters the material landscape as a design for speculation and domination. From bungalow style of the 1910 to recent luxury cultural buildings and Manhattanzing downtown, city of Los Angels eagerly is looking for creating an image; an image that has nothing to do with its current situation, but rather is a fantasy, borrowed installed and shined.


To study Los Angeles, perhaps taking solely an architectural (passive) proposition will be incomplete, since Los Angeles is mostly pictured rather than designed; its embodied culture if there is one, can always be found from where is borrowed or copied from. First of all, Los Angeles is seen as peculiarly infertile cultural soil, unable to produce. Secondly, despite Los Angeles is hosting Hollywood (world capital of an immense cultural industry) much of its cultural exports have done by those that are not from Los Angeles or even live there.

To use Walter Benjamin's term- a city to be looked at rather than lived in, perhaps Los Angeles is the best example: since its foundation, there have been immense cultural criticizes produced about it. As Mike Davis emphasized in his book City of Quartz, Los Angeles from the beginning form based on the myth: “as the promised land of millenarian Anglo-Saxon racial odyssey”. Moreover, much of this mythical recipe has been interposed on its landscape to such a degree that became an advertising figure of marketing Los Angeles. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the paramount axis of culture in Los Angeles has always been about construction/interpretation of city myth, which enter material landscape as a design for speculation and domination (from bungalow of the 1910 to recent luxury cultural buildings and downtown skyscrapers). As Allan Seagar suggests, Los Angeles is all about the fantasy, not as fantasy imagined but as fantasy seen. [3]

However, behind the Los Angeles’s (fake) Sunshine[4] there were individuals, who could see it all dusky. Created by talented visionaries, writers, artist and filmmakers, they rework the metaphorical figure of the city, using the crisis of the middle class (rarely the workers or the poor[5]) to expose how the dream had become nightmare, creating an anti-mythical genre: noir, Noir In respect to highly consumption of Hollywood shaped as a resistance force, as a conscious respond to fake dream factory of Hollywood among writers those were under contract to the studio system[6].


The city of Blade Runner, Peter Wollen writes, “it is both the city, which Los Angeles wishes to be, perceived in boosterish, optimistic terms from vantage point of an elite, and that which it fears it will become, looked at in noir, pessimistic terms from the point of view of its critics and its immigrant and underclass population”[7].


Philip K. Dick’s novel,” Do Androids Dream of Electric sheep? “- From which Blade Runner was adapted, is set in San Francisco[8] . Partly because of the studios and Ridley Scott’s vision of the movie, after several rewriting the screen, location was changed to Los Angels, however as Mike Davis summarized, in the early writings they have also New York and Atlanta in their mind, but in the end, they decided to stick with Los Angeles, Largely because of decision to film in Bradley Building (Frank L. Wright’s famous building in L.A) identified the location unmistakable. Accidentally or thoughtfully, this decision turned out to be an ideal representation for future of the path that Los Angeles was taken at that time; Los Angeles’s huge shift to privatization and the boosterish image-based re-developments by inviting celebrity architects for refining the downtown into another mannhatnizing skyscrapers grave land. Simultaneously rising economical and social gap between the poor and super luxurious cliques. As the opening sequence of Blade Runner, unmistakably portrays the Los Angeles, ‘as seen from Terminal Island, Looking north towards downtown across a smoke-belching industrial landscape, is the caricature version of the refineries and cat-crackers of Torrance and El Segundo.’[9]

However except the title, Los Angels 2019, there is no other indication of Los Angeles in the move. In reality, the Blade Runner city is an image of a generic world city, rather than any one particular conurbation. It is a conceptual montage of many different urban phenomena, drawn from a variety of sources and layered top of each other. Thus the final set has elements from different contemporary New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and etc… Never less is more combination of irrelevant spectacles, montage rather scramble.


In his book City of Quartz and Ecology of Fear, Mike Davis describes the consequences of the militarization of life for public space in Los Angeles. Since the riots of 1992, there has been an increasing recession. Harsh cutbacks have been introduced, an astonishing number of murders have been committed (despite the ceasefire between the gangs), and the arms trade in the suburbs has expanded dramatically. These developments have led to a social schism that is articulated architecturally in a series of exterior barriers- shopping malls, gated communities, entertainment parks, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs)- are protected and isolated. The complex has been built around the idea of the American ‘Main Street’ and reaches back to the era in which cars were only a sporadic occurrence and citizens could participate light-heartedly in public life in the cit. A board shopping mall is situated in the midst of an area that is surrounded by buildings where visitors have to park their cars. Not only are all the entrances to the obligatory car parks monitored with camera, the parking charges must also be paid in advance. Homeless people and poor people within this device are refused entrance to this closed-off area by the security services in attendance. Similarly in the Blade Runner, the good city sits above the city (ghettoes), and is only accessible by vehicles (spaceships), totally is isolated from the ground. It is the advanced version of current public isolation in Los Angeles.


Mike Davis in his book City of Quartz comprehensively talks about the formation and evolution of noir. For him the genre noir from the unconsciously response -as an act of depression- to studios ‘s humiliation to further evolution of more deliberate language of creativity sits shoulder with shoulder with the dreamed-factory ideological capital of the Los Angeles’s boosters. And perhaps it wouldn’t exist where it wasn’t because of the Los Angeles: ‘Noir, often in illicit alliance with San Francisco or New York elitism, made Los Angeles the city that American intellectuals love to hate[10]’.

In contrast Noir was like a transformational grammar turning each charming ingredient of the boosters into a sinister equivalent.’

In his book, Mark Davis categorized Bald Runner as noir revival, setting it in the context of an ongoing struggle between utopians for control over the representation of Los Angeles.

Bald Runner's Los Angeles is not the same as Gotham city or Metropolis, is not a William city, but an endless un-spectacular vista of 'great plains of ageing bungalows, dingbats and ranch-style houses.

To fully understand Los Angeles; one to the right and its Luxurious buildings, its immense sunshine, its diverse culture, its openness, its spectacle, Second to the left, its departed social-strata, its broken public realm, its poverty, its stolen identity, its gloomy landscape, its noir.

Blade Runner shares both as in one hand is an explicitly spectacular production, whit its astonishing sets and stunning effects, and, at the same time, an implicit critique of the spectacle as a culture of death. It is clearly a product of the image industry and yet intellectually detached itself from it.


BBC news Wednesday, 23 April 2003

LA trouble spot 'wiped' from map.

“South Central Los Angeles has been removed from the map of LA, in an effort to rid the area of its international image of riot and poverty. “

Whenever it comes to tackling any problem, the first and easiest way is always ignoring the problem.

Two decades after all the debates, examinations, the only conclusion is breaking from the past and starting a new community. That is what the City Council passed, as if this way an infection will be cured. Or as activists, Ted Hayes puts

“Because it is so bad they figure that if they put a new name on the badness the badness will go away, they are saying now it is no longer an inner city, it is a new community without anything changing.”

In practical terms this reproduction will only cost the city erecting new signs but it is not totally a new invention in Los Angeles, as the city itself from the beginning formed by marketing the mythical images, that were either entirely artificial or partially stolen. As the result – by standing front of this immense propaganda machine and trying to logically grasp of a

Los Angeles unlike other metropolis grew not because of heavy industrialization, rather than by vast immigration of old rich businessmen and menial labors. The first boom in Los Angeles started by massive advertising the image of the Promised Land [11], designed specifically for the rich.

For more than a quarter century an unprecedented mass migration of retired couples, transformed the small town into a real estate giant, the boomtown without the necessary urban infrastructures.

[1] Sarah Chaplin and Eric Holding, Addressing the post-urban, the Hieroglyphics of Space,Pp184

[2] Richard Lehan emphasized that ‘probably no city in the Western world has a more negative image’

‘ The Los Angeles Novel and the idea of the west’ in David Fine, ed,, Los Angeles in Fiction, p.30.

[3] Quoted in City of Quartz, Mike Davis, Pp23

[4] From the middle nineties, Lummis edited influential magazine Out West (Land of Sunshine) simply promoting an advertising for settlement; so-called 'Arroyo Set’: writers, antiquarians, and publishers who at beginning twenty century created a comprehensive fiction of Southern California as the promised land of millenarian Anglo- Saxon racial odyssey. They wrote scripts the giant real-estate speculations that transformed Los Angeles from small town to metropolis (Los Angeles as the ‘new Rome’)

Mike Davis, City of Quartz, Pp27

[5] As Mike Davis explains the formation of Los Angeles unlike other metropolis wasn’t based on industrialization, rather the immigration of the old rich petty businessmen or mental labors (writers and filmmakers) as he categorizes the immigrants boom to Los Angeles during early 1930s; ‘the very structure of the long Southern California boom-fueled by middle-class saving and channeled into real-state and oil speculations-ensured a vicious circle of crisis and bankruptcy for the mass of retired farmers, small businessmen ad petty developers.

[6] Only a few works directly attacked the studio system, like the story: what Makes Sammy Run? By Budd Schulberg, Mike Davis, City of Quartz, Pp40

[7]. Peter Wollen, ‘Ridleyville’ and Los Angeles, the Hieroglyphics of Space. p. 243

[8] Mike Davis, City of Quartz, 1990

[9] Peter Wollen, ‘Ridleyville’ and Los Angeles, the Hieroglyphics of Space

[10] Mike Davis, City of Quartz, Pp21 also as Richard Lehan has emphasized’ probably no city in the western world has a more negative image’


Wednesday, April 29, 1992, around 6pm, networks stopped their daily schedules to report live, what was first shocking: More than two hundred angry protesters were gathered on street, stopping every passing vehicles and beating their passengers. Reporter reminded audiences “this is live, this is south central Los Angles”.

After six days of riot, at least 58 died, and 12,111 were arrested and estimated damage was up to nearly $1 billion.

For six days constantly, TV channels broadcasted the events step by step as it was like a sport event. Millions viewers worldly were entertained by live footages of civil war, fire and looting.


It is no longer a question of false representation of reality (ideology) but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real.

The original idea for this essay came after readying Mark Davis’s book, “City of Quartz”. Before readying the book, I though, I knew enough about the Los Angeles. Despite I never visited the city; I watched all its fairy productions. For me Los Angeles was resemblance of giant film set with a content consistency. But my premature judgment started falling apart after the south central incident. For the first time I could see the city naked with all of its dirt. At first the main question was why it happened, and later how we should deal with it. Since then for two decades tones of materials have been written from left and right. Hence it appears that the result was nothing except another blaming show and still the main problems are unsolved.

Or, Are we sure that there was a problem?

This is perhaps my main hypothesis: Instead of criticizing the same old argument about the spectacle and Disneyland, or trying to construct the notion of the morality of simulation, I will discuss the duality within the process of simulation especially in case of Los Angeles.

But instead of conventional approach, I will examine my Los Angeles through the lens of Blade Runner.

This is the city of Los Angeles: dim but simultaneously luminous.


Tragedy is consider symmetrical, a clash between two alike forces. That is why in tragedy there is no winner or loser. It does not proclaim a conclusion. It does not condemn, it is inclusive rather exclusive.

There are many definitions for the tragedy, which eventually all of are originated form Aristotle’s:

“Tragedy, then, is an imitation of a noble and complete action, having the proper magnitude; it employs language that has been artistically enhanced,…, it is presented in dramatic, not narrative form, and achieves, through the representation of pitiable and fearful incidents, the catharsis of such incidents” Poetics Pp.3

Aristotle indicates that the medium of tragedy is a drama, not narrative; tragedy shows rather than tells. Thus, tragedy stands higher than the history because the history simply relates what has happened, while tragedy dramatizes the current to what may happened. History thus deals with the particular, and tragedy with the universe (cosmos): it creates a cause-and-effect chain that is progressively will substantiate out of its frame. What happened in the stage will be eventually repeated in any time, at any situation.

Greeks saw this importance of the drama - in difficult times- as the only remedy for residing the satiability. Roman heavily used it as a political tool in order to unite the distressed public.

The facts that tragedy was a simulation of the universe, beyond any define classes; various audiences would digest the similar pain. Aristotle defines the goal of tragedy to simulate the catharsis. The word ‘catharsis’ originally means ‘purging’ and Aristotle seems to consider tragedy as a medical metaphor , using the pity and fear to purge and clean the harmful emotions , leaving the audience better experiences . Later he relates the tragedy to the pleasure, reaching the level of contemplation.

Back to the Michell Serres and definition of the state of plague. Tragedy was the only cure for the society.

When there were no absolute enemies, when there were no certainties. It is practice of reality rather the fictional fantasy. It is representation of current reality. It is morphine for the citizens to relive the pains.

Two Definition

“Architecture is understood to be a special bridge between the real and fantasy

Architecture is always about a story and that is why most tales are set in the city. From distant to recent history, architecture is considered a tool for storytelling: stating the authority either in a constructive form of palaces or shrines or in a destructive form of urbicide. In both, architecture is an artifact; is staging the fact rather than causing the fact: in other word, architecture does not create history (factional); history (factional) creates the architecture. But, history (factional) only concerns the wartimes, winners and losers, construction and destruction of the city (Michell Serres, state of war).

But as Michel Serres explains there are times of uncertainties, when enemies and friends are obscured, when society is on verge of collapsing (civil war): Stage of Plague.

Architecture is always about a story and that is why most tales are set in the city. From distant to recent history, architecture is considered a tool for storytelling: stressing the crisis either in a constructive form play or destructive form of riot. In both, architecture is a representational: is bridging the fact to fiction. Fantasies are often told in respond to the exciting reality (crisis). Within this respect they work in two ways, first they operate as machines, gathering victims to rebuild lost, they brings hopes, envision goals, promise prosperity. They are productive, every innovation and development has started from a fantasy. They are futuristic, idealistic. But at the same time they can be a remedy for reveling the pains, a distraction machine for the society. They operate like dramas, tragedies, which superficiality disconnect you from the reality and take you to the land of fantasy. Their successes are related on douse of spectacle, amount of representation, extend of special effects. In other word the history (fictional) does not create the architecture; architecture creates the history (fictional).

“The origin of plays is one foundation of Rome. The origin of spectacle, of representation, is political foundation. Foundation returns to equilibrium, to standardization.” Michell Serres, Rome the Book of Foundation, Pp214

I have to stop here to first clarify the word ‘history’ as it sounds vague here. What I meant as the “History’ is the written stories, either factional or what we commonly regard as a history, which is record of wars, victories, natural crisis, etc… and fictional, which is known as a play (For example the ‘Orestia’ by this definition is piece of history.) The first version is about the kings and the cities (artifact) and the second is about the society (polis).

Now after clearing this confusion. This introduction was essential for entering the definition of architecture, as I shown above, obviously there are clear boundaries between two definitions.

“In both recent and distant history, they have been those who claim that the sense of a work of architecture, like music or poetry, resides in the design rather than in the realized building… others have argued that only the realized work has meaning, and that the drawings are irrelevant once the work is constructed. “ Stan Allen, mapping the unmappable, Pp31

Originally Architecture was only considered as a building (artifact). Authorities always hired architects after the standardization. Architects relentlessly were busy building monuments, which they were nothing but another statement for the already told story. Monuments either were referential to the king’s victory or to a public suffering of a lost. In both stories had been already conveyed, the architect’s task was only to translate them into forms. In another word, Architect’s main challenge was “How to tell a story” rather “what the story to tell”.

“Architectural drawings work notaitonally, and can be compared to musical scores, texts or scripts… the drawings as artifacts are unimportant. It is rather a set of instruction for realizing another artifact.” Stan Allen, mapping the unmappable, Pp32

Now put these two soundly separated topics in comparison, to see clarity: a bridge between the fictions and facts. Starting with Michell Serres as he totalizes, founding a city consists of standardizing the nonstandard, the passage from the stage plague to stat of war. If we considered a city as an artifact a city, a place when the architecture (artifact, building) is up to built, the passage from the nonstandardized society to stable is necessary, and this is relevant in process of architecture, the passage from the depiction of reality (drawings) to constructed reality (buildings). But architects are known for designing theatres, arenas, few design a play. They designed the container rather than contained.