Sunday, July 22, 2007

Buenos Aires & LA

The American built environment is so utterly depressing, and sometimes it takes a visit to some far off country to show you just how bad it really is...

In Buenos Aires last month, I realized that if I encountered a street in Los Angeles that looked like any random alley in buenos aires, I would die of happiness at how walkable and beautiful that street was... It's such a simple thing, just comparing any street in the US to any counterpart in Argentina, and yet it shows just how horrible the condition of our cities is...



This is, for example, a small side street in suburban Caballito, near where I lived. This area isn't found on any tourist itinerary, and is composed almost entirely of middle- and lower-middle class families. And yet, the street is utterly gorgeous! In the background, a local church towers over small homes & mixed-use buildings built in the first-half of the century (compare, for example, '40's stucco garden apartments)... Everything is oriented towards the pedestrian, and the cobblestone street ensures that cars respect the residential speed limit.

It's such a common street for Buenos Aires, and yet it seems so beautiful to me when taken in isolation like this, especially when I look around at my surroundings...
In West Adams, where I'm living part of the week these days for work, there are many streets with homes from a similar era, but they are poorly preserved, and cars rumble by over cement at 40 mph, a hazard to those crossing what should be a quiet, safe street... Meanwhile, the commercial strips at the edge of these residential zones are all depressingly gray, surrounding by parking lots and obviously built to be as cheap as possible... Where is the pride? If not in one's city, then at least in one's own home or business?

In Morrison Ranch over in Agoura Hills, where our streets were recently repaved, we have the same problems as in West Adams... speeding cars chase children from the streets, while commercial development is built to be as indifferent to human beings as possible, the developers having gone so far as to cement over and fence off the small creek that divides the Hillrise district from commercial development in City Center...

Where is our pride?

1 comment:

Whitney said...

Hillrise in the 1960s...ah, it was so nature oriented. And not just Hillrise. The only thing out here at the time was Hillrise!