Over the last few months, we've been featuring some favorite articles from our past issues to celebrate our 15th year. Today, we bring you a feature from our May/June 2007, one of the first to be available in print and online. The territory covered is one we're passionate about here at FORM—the evolution of Los Angeles. Written now over seven years ago, we hope it gives you a chance to think back and forward about our dynamic city.
By John Southern
Step out of your car on a typical residential street in the San Fernando Valley or West Los Angeles, and all you may hear is the far off hum of traffic doing its mechanical Foxtrot on one of the region’s many freeways. The density is remarkably horizontal in nature; there is little evidence that you are in a metropolitan area of more than 13 million people. Fly into Los Angeles, however, and you get an entirely different picture. The Los Angeles metropolitan region stretches out before your eyes, seemingly infinite in its scope—an almost unfathomable conglomeration of freeways and streets, industrial districts, parks, downtowns, and residential neighborhoods. Hundreds of cities form an urban patchwork of hyper-development that only in recent years has begun to show signs of slowing its outward march into the surrounding desert.
Because the city has traditionally eschewed verticality in favor of flatness, Los Angeles is poised to evolve into a vibrant hybrid of hyper-stratified urbanity and suburban expansiveness in the twenty-first century as it introduces denser (and it is assumed more vertical) housing conditions atop the lower density of the suburban strip. This hybrid has the potential to redefine the way we understand both urban and suburban domestic environments, as these two housing typologies collide to produce a context that questions the very definition of what a city can be.