Looking Back: One Year of people[PLACES]spaces

Looking Back: One Year of people[PLACES]spaces

This week marks the one year anniversary of people[PLACES]spaces.  To kick off the celebration of this milestone, we’re taking a look back at where we’ve been in this past year.  

I started people[PLACES]spaces based on the premise that too often conversations about architecture and design focus exclusively on the object, ignoring the people who interact with it.  The title borrows loosely from a sociological concept that a “place” is a space activated by people.  We try to keep that framework in mind in the stories we tell about cities, buildings, and objects.  Sometimes the design conversation is literal, as we talk about the style and form of a building or a park.  Other times we take a much broader interpretation of design and urbanism, as in our voter guide series.

people[PLACES]spaces launched with just three stories: a rant about the renovations (and specifically the stolen pedestrian space) at what used to be the tallest building in Los Angeles; a discussion of the future of downtown L.A.’s Pershing Square; and even a collection of photos of an art installation of giant inflatable rabbits.

The new car passenger loading lane that took an enormous chunk out of the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles, July 2016.

The new car passenger loading lane that took an enormous chunk out of the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles, July 2016.

Even this design-focused blog could not escape the ubiquity of politics in 2016, especially as it became clear that voters in Los Angeles would be facing a number of ballot initiatives that would shape the future of our city.  Much of the fall was focused on our voter guide posts, in which we addressed every state, county, and city proposition on the ballot in L.A.  Although many of the ballot measures did not directly impact the form of the city, all of them should be important to the people living in the city.  Thanks to L.A.’s unusual schedule for municipal elections, Measure S on the March 2017 city ballot, once again gave voters the potential to radically change the future form of the city.  So we spent much of the beginning of this year focused on the dangers of that extreme anti-growth measure.

The challenge of researching and writing endorsements is that the voters do not always agree with your assessments.  But I am very proud to say that in both the November and March elections Los Angeles voters expressed their strong support for a growing and more inclusive city that believes in expanding public transit, improving and growing park space, and funding housing and support services for the city’s homeless population.

Luckily, it hasn’t all been serious political issues.  Interspersed over the past year was a series of stories in and around Washington, DC, including the ICEBERGS installation by James Corner Field Operations at the National Building Museum, an appreciation for one of U.S.’s most unloved airports, and the problematic ways we tell our nation’s history through the lens of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.  (Okay, that last one was pretty political.)  Though most of our stories are local to Los Angeles, we even reached as far afield as Rio de Janeiro, for some reflections on how the city was portrayed as the Olympics host.

We’ve looked at design from beginning (with a story about Peter Zumthor’s renderings for LACMA), to end (with a story about the potential demolition of the beloved Amoeba Music store in Hollywood).  We’ve talked about online advertising (support your favorite websites by supporting their advertising!) and holiday decorations.

We’ve talked about what happens to a city’s infrastructure when 750,000 people gather to make their voices heard, what happens when planners don’t think about how people actually use the city’s infrastructure, and what happens when we put profits over people.

More recently we’ve launched our new First Impressions series, which tries to bring a new perspective to the traditional “architecture review” format.  We believe that it’s impossible to pass a final judgement on a place before it is even open to the public, so we have approached our stories on the new Los Angeles State Historic Park and Wilshire Grand Center as beginning of a conversation.  We look forward to observing these places over the months and years to come, and reporting back about how they grow and change over time.

The new Los Angeles State Historic Park, April 2017.

The new Los Angeles State Historic Park, April 2017.

For a website dedicated to design, architecture, and urbanism, we have covered a broad range of topics in a relatively short span.  As we move forward we plan to continue to expand the conversation about design in our focus on the human dimension of our built environment.  We look forward to many more years of people[PLACES]spaces.