Creating a New World From Dreams

Posted: May 8, 2011 by scastaneda in Uncategorized

 

Exploring the way we paint pictures in our minds of places we have familiarized ourselves with is something Michele Foucault tried to accomplish.  Heterotopias are the places our thoughts and dreams reside while they are waiting to connect to our own reality.  Further research into heterotopic places have brought me to a place where I have analyzed heterotopias within a new settlement in particular the way immigrants have settled into the United States and have planted their roots.  In the process of starting a new life, aspects of past life and culture have made their way into their new communities.  An analysis of Mexican American Immigrants and the connection with their culture have brought me to a new “dream city” in Los Angeles.  This place is El Pueblo de Los Angeles also known as La Placita Olvera.

 

Heterotopic spaces are manifested within a community.  People of similar ethnic groups come together to make their own communities and infuse those communities with aspects of what they know to be “home”.  Heterotopia  is a term conceived by Michel Foucault to describe two separate spaces in time that allow the person to experience the same thing.  There are 5 principles associated with heterotopias that illustrate the physical or mental imaginative space within the human experience.  Utopian spaces are the real spaces we experience every day.  heterotopian spaces are the spaces in between the real ones that act as a highway or temporary place for our thoughts of a space to reside.

Without the thoughts that we assemble about spaces those spaces wouldn’t have the meaning attached to what we know about them.  The way that we perceive a space ultimately gives it its place in the world and its meaning about what makes it the way it is.

“Everyone can enter into the new heterotopic sites, but in fact that is only an illusion-we think we enter where we are, by the very fact that we enter, excluded.” –Foucault

 Sources:

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Olvera-Street.com – Culture, and the Arts. Web. 03 May 2011. <http://olvera-street.com/&gt;.

Foucault, Michel. Of Other Spaces (1967) Heterotopias.

“L.A. NOW | Census/Demographics | Los Angeles Times.” Top of the Ticket | Congress to Discuss Use of Geronimo’s Name in Bin Laden Mission | Los Angeles Times. Web. 03 May 2011. <http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/census_demographics/&gt;.

“Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles Facts & History: Los Angeles, CA.” Famous Wonders of the World: Best Places to Visit, See Travel Pictures. Web. 03 May 2011. <http://famouswonders.com/olvera-street/&gt;.

“Olvera Street Los Angeles | Flickr – Photo Sharing!” Welcome to Flickr – Photo Sharing. Web. 03 May 2011. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/31945172@N06/3226296819/in/photostream/&gt;.

“Placita Olvera Map.” Your Page Title. Web. 03 May 2011. <http://www.humnet.ucla.edu/spanport/spanish10/map.html&gt;.

Rogers, Tim B. “Henri Lefebvre, Space and Folklore.” The Free Library. 2002. Web. 03 May 2011. <http://www.thefreelibrary.com&gt;.

According to Jane Jacobs’, the famous urban building critique, She is best known for The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), a powerful and moving critique of the urban renewal policies of the 1950’s (Pruzan, April, 25, 2006). She states a misguided and untested field of study based off existing guidelines written by unwary planners is the wrong way to proceed with design. Along with these criteria, she has devised diversity requirements for the building locations.  The diversity requirements put forth by her are as follows; first, People must occupy a space in frequently in unplanned times (The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 194). Second, Most blocks must be short in order for good car circulation. Third, the district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition so that there is a diversified yield in goods and services. There must be a sufficiently dense concentration of people at the location for a variety of purposes.

The first project, the Balboa Theatre, Originally designed in 1924; nestled in Gas Lamp Quarter Historic District right in the heart of downtown San Diego, California.

Jacobs’ standards are definitely seen here in this project, with its wide sidewalks, old buildings; being the theatre itself, a mixture of businesses; including a mall and other smaller boutiques. The only criterion it lacks is the greenery feature of the commercial environment. When looking at the diversity of the city at this particular location using Jacobs’ suggestions you will find that the first portion, is fulfilled since we have a multiple array of interactions involving people shopping, exercising, working, and etc. occurring at this single location. The second portion involving the size of blocks is certainly satisfied as there are almost three blocks that are in front of this one theatre. The third criterion which is also fulfilled is the mingling of old and new buildings within a given area, which this portion of the street happened to do evenly. There are three other older buildings in front of the Balboa Theater along with an older street lamp design to keep the aesthetic of the authentic city intact. The fourth criterion demanding the dense population of people in the given area is also satisfied due to the massive amount of commercial property within the area that offer overnight stays for tourists. All in all the Balboa theatre would pass with flying colors as it fulfills most of Jacobs’ requirements.

In the second project, the Sydney Opera House (1957 – 1973) considered a masterpiece of late modern architecture. The project has large sidewalks and huge walk-ability as the concrete pavement stretches on for hundreds of feet which is satisfies the wide street category. The mixture of businesses is good but distance is what makes this portion of the requirement fail, there is a huge gap due to the isolation of the theatre from everything else in the city. Looking at the Balboa theatre, the Sydney theatre also lacks the greenery criterion as there is zero percent of greenery on the project site. When associating the site to Jacobs’ diversity suggestions this project seemed to fail most of them. The first suggestion, of multi-use interactions at a given site, is not fulfilled due to a separation once again from other surrounding buildings. The second suggestion, about the amount of streets to make quick turns isn’t even thought about as this is entirely a foot access facility. The third suggestion, involved the successful mingling of old and new buildings, which this site failed as it is once again separated. The fourth suggestion, regarding the density of the area due to the commercial district, is satisfied by the massive foot traffic generated by commercial buildings a mile away. All in all, the Sydney building would not pass as it fails most of Jacobs’ requirements.

In the third project, scheduled to be built-in 2014, the Temple to Tai-Pop designed by Reiser and Umemoto, The proposal sits on a very busy commercial district at which two subways intersect. This project has massive sidewalks and walking areas as this is intended to be an exterior recreational area so the greenery aspect is also satisfied. This project does not satisfy the mixture of business condition as it is bordered only by commercial high-rise buildings. When looking at the diversity of the city at this particular location using Jacobs’ suggestions you will find that the first portion, is satisfied since we have many uses for this site. The sizes of the streets are bigger and longer so convenience of turns is not possible, so it fails this segment. The third being ability of mixing the old buildings with the new. In this particular area there are no older buildings, so this segment also fails. The fourth and final portion involving the density of population in the area is satisfied due to the large commercial district it is centered in. All in all, this building would pass Jacob’s test even though it did not pass some of the underlying key points of the city life given by Jane Jacobs.

Jacobs’ necessities for city living turned out to be an applied criteria that one can use like a fast food menu to judge a city by its buildings, environment and social interactions. Some theaters fit her description better than others but there is one simple thing to remember when thinking of Jane Jacob’s critiques, as long as you have a good balance of old and new structures; and there are a lot of people surrounding these structures, then that portion of the city will live to see another day and stay a head of the curve for years to come.

The City. The Home of the Homeless

Posted: May 4, 2011 by aguilford in David Harvey

By: Aaron Guilford

In the city of Los Angeles we find that there is a system of divisions by classes which stipulates where we may live. The rich or “upper class” sometimes live in suburbs outside of the city while others have beautiful homes in the city in the more maintained areas. On the other extreme are the city’s homeless, who experience a very different living situation. While there is no physical wall confining them to any one area, there is an area where they are known to primarily inhabit and that is called Skid Row. In this area, the homeless are able to find food and occasional places to sleep and can sometimes avoid being harassed by police.

David Harvey wrote about these class divisions in his essay, “The Right To The City” in which he explained that with money comes power and with power comes the right to physical space. As people with financial power continue to own and control the more desirable areas, they prefer to keep the less desirable homeless people out of these spaces.  The solution was to set aside an area for the homeless which is defined by Third and Seventh Streets to the north

and south and Alameda and Main Streets to the east and west.  In this space, the homeless people do not own any particular piece of property but they are given an area that they can call their own.  Though this space is now referred to as Skid Row with an understanding of a place meant for the homeless, it was once a part of the city just like any other.  It was a place where seasonal migrant workers would spend their time and money.  Over time work became scarce and it became an area for cheap housing, prostitution and drug use. Over time this area took on the name Skid Row because of the skids of lumber that used to come down the streets, but most importantly the city proclaimed it as a space where the homeless were free to stay.

Though Skid Row’s homeless are not imprisoned in this area, we can look at where else they can go. They can physically walk anywhere they want and find themselves in places like Glendale or Burbank, but in these areas homeless are seen as eyesores and are told to keep moving or they are escorted to Skid Row by the police. What we find in this scenario is that the people’s right to an area is dependent on one’s spending power. Whether it’s buying goods or owning property, it is this financial power that enables you with the right to be there. Since the city officials know of this fairly large group of homeless, they set aside this area so that they most likely will stay here and not bother those that do spend money.

Harvey explains this power in the context of “surplus”. Surplus is anything above and beyond what it takes to survive, otherwise known as profit. The people of this city that have money to spend put it into the system in terms of goods and labor at businesses. Through this surplus in labor, workers receive wages and in return gain rights to be in the areas that they choose because they themselves have power in their spending capabilities. What Harvey points out in his critique of surplus value and gentrification, however, is that people with a lot of spending power may choose to benefit from the potential surplus value of the property in which “lower income” or even homeless people live. This area is generally less desirable, and thus property values are depressed. As investors purchase and redevelop that properly, it gains surplus profit therefore providing them with more money and power. In turn, lower income people that originally inhabited this area have less economic power, and thus are often forced out or can no longer afford to occupy the area where they once lived.

This is the case that I found at the north corner of Skid Row on 3rd and Main St. This area likely had low property values and was purchased by a developer in the past few years.  The buildings were then demolished, flattened, and turned into a large paid parking lot and a new mixed use upper class residential building. Although this area was recently inhabited by the homeless, the people with financial power were able to take away the rights of the homeless and push them out. Being that the homeless are displaced from an area in which they were welcome to stay for many years, we see that they really find themselves with no real right to the city in the eyes of the people with surplus control.

Citation

Harvey, David. “The Right to the City.” New Left Review Sept (2008): 23-40.

“History of Downtown Los Angeles “Skid Row”” Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. Web.

<http://www.lachamber.com/clientuploads/LUCH_committee/102208_History_of_Skid_Row.pdf&gt;.

Heterotopias: The Homeless Lens

Posted: April 21, 2011 by michelleavila in Michel Foucault

Under the Bridge

The location of someone’s home means somewhere comfortable to end a long day, a job is to have somewhere to make a living off of, a day of relaxation can mean just a day to stay in your pj’s all day and watch movies, but in the Los Angles area there are 82,000 people are homeless on any given night, location, work and relaxation is nothing but an everyday struggle. Through their eyes the streets become heterotopias for them to live in and make the streets a lifestyle to the best extents that they can. According to Michel Foucault in “Of other spaces, Heterotopias” “there are real places – places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society – which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.” (Foucault) The following goes through the process of comparing six principles that show how unused spaces are converted into useful necessities and how the homeless might take advantage of these heterortopias and make the spaces accommodate for them.

Principle I: In the so-called primitive societies… crisis heterotopias, i.e., there are privileged or sacred or forbidden places, reserved for individuals who are, in relation to society and to the human environment in which they live, in a state of crisis. (Foucault)

“There are privileged or sacred places, reserved for individuals who are in relation to society and to the human environment in which they live in, in a state of crisis.” Almost suggesting there are places in the world meant for people to occupy. When it comes to being homeless, there are now many options for them to have a place to go to and actually have a place to sleep over night. Homeless shelters and homeless campsites offer temporary housing for them to take advantage of. To society that includes the upper class, middle class and even some lower class, the working class, a space such as this would not be for them. But in the eyes of a homeless, it is an opportunity to start all over the next day.

Homeless man getting a check up

Principle II: A society, as its history unfolds, can make an existing heterotopia function in a very different fashion… have one function or another. “Everyone has the right to their own little box for their own little personal decay.” (Foucault)

 When a homeless person is sick and needs immediate attention to their illness they are allowed to go to the hospital, just as any other individual would. in some cases there is a group of doctors that have developed a mobile clinic, that acts as a heterotopia, that now drives to homeless areas and parks anywhere to assist these people with free Medicare and assistance on the spot.

 Principle III: The heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible. (Foucault)

 For a homeless person a place in the street during the day means a space that has to work for the day and change constantly to make time pass fast. A park can be a place for them to past time during the day. It has multi purposes as far as different times of the day for them. For a while they can sit in front of a basketball court, for example, and take this as entertainment. Later they can talk a walk through the park and take it as exercise, maybe they have an instrument they play and they stand at a park entrance and play, which can mean work to them. All this can happen in one location for them. A park is also a place where interactive conversations and experiences can occur for them which can then give this a heterotopia purpose.

Entertaining for money

Principle IV: Heterotopias are most often linked to slices in time – which is to say that they open onto what might be termed, for the sake of symmetry, heterotopias. (Foucault)

 For a homeless person who does not have a place to call permanent it is hard to create a space of memory. Many of them carry very small amount of belongings because they look at it as never knowing what can happen and so they do not want to have a lot of belongings to loose. Others take this space as an opportunity of travel. Whether it was for fun or for necessity. The time span of a homeless, getting from one place to another, represents the heterotopia space.

Principle V: Heterotopias always presuppose a system of opening and closing that both isolates them and makes them penetrable. (Foucault)

The heterotopia that can be a nightmare for the homeless is the spaces that isolate them from society. A space in which is open for certain class and not optional for the homeless. Many times in places that the homeless roam there is a certain limit that they stay or they are simply not welcomed to hang out at. Persian Square in Down town Los Angeles, is a park where throughout the day you’ll see any homeless sleeping and spending time, but at night it’s known to be a place where the homeless go to take baths. It is obvious that they made it approachable and it makes sense that the homeless would be tempted to take baths there but if they get caught doing so they will be arrested.

 Principle VI: The last trait of heterotopias is that they have a function in relation to all the space that remains. This function unfolds between two extreme poles. Either their role is to create a space of illusion that exposes every real space, all the sites inside of which human life is partitioned, as still more illusory. (Foucault)

The most personal space one can create. A park, a freeway underpass, a bridge, an alley etc… These are all examples of locations that the homeless tend to pick to make a space that would represent their home for a long-term stay. A place in which people notice walking down the street but would never appreciate like the homeless and would never imagine to put up a unit type space to live in.

A Homeless House in Los Angeles

Being homeless is a challenge within itself, but is also as much as a challenge as someone would let it be for them. Though they have harder times being accepted by society and certain places will not let them use their services, they are still human and as humans we strive to survive and make the best of what is put in front of us so that we can create the space around us to what fits right for us as individuals. The spaces mentioned do have a purpose for the homeless who occupy them but for people of higher class, these spaces had never meant anything. You would have to experience them through the lens of the homeless to actually understand the capabilities of these spaces.

Capitalism: The Untold Story

Posted: April 20, 2011 by snoussik0 in Naomi Klein

Capitalism Vs. Socialism (source: http://www.theworkzine.com)

By: Karim Snoussi

Today we live in a world of crises. We are witnessing economic meltdowns, disproportionate wars, surging food and oil prices, extreme poverty, and rising unemployment, which has sparked uprisings all around the globe. With the recent protests in North Africa threatening to spill over to the Middle East, economists are predicting skyrocketing oil prices that could contribute to a much deeper depression of world economies. Some people blame the current economic crisis on the Bush administration’s mishandling of wars and budget mismanagement, others blame it on wall street’s Ponzi schemes that were fueled by greed. Other people think that this is just another cycle that the world economy, “based on capitalism,” is going through and, with time, the market is going to correct itself and everything is going to go back to “normal.” A number of other people are using this crisis to lay down the foundation for the argument that capitalism is a flawed system that is doomed to fail. Naomi Klein is a well-known social democrat activist and writer; most famous for her criticism of the Iraq war, Israeli policies, and big corporations.

Naomi Klein Book (source: http://www.tomsito.com)

In her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Klein describes the horrific events she witnessed during her visit to Iraq after the invasion. She is very critical of the privatization of Iraq’s economy as facilitated by multinational corporations. She affirms that capitalism is the cause of this corruption and unjust war, and she suggests that democratic socialism is the solution. In p. 569 of her book, she states, “Democratic socialism, meaning not only socialist parties brought to power through elections but also democratically run workplaces and land holdings, has worked in many regions, from Scandinavia to the thriving and historic cooperative economy in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region. It was a version of this combination of democracy and socialism that Allende was attempting to bring to Chile between 19870 and 1973.” In chapter 16, p. 328 of her book, Klein goes on to describe the US as a free-market capitalistic democracy, but is it? I argue that the United States is neither capitalistic nor a free-market. But first let’s define the two political systems, Socialism and Capitalism.

Bernie Madoff (source: http://www.politicolnews.com)

According to the encyclopedia of Britannica, Socialism is “a system of social organization in which private property and the distribution of income are subject to social control, rather than to determination by individuals pursuing their own interests or by the market forces of capitalism. The term is also applied to to political movements whose aim is to put such a system into practice (Socialism).” I would also quote from Britannica that “Capitalism, also called free market economy, or free enterprise economy, is an economic system in which most of the means of production are privately owned and production is guided and income distributed largely through the operation of markets (Capitalism).” Accordingly, socialism relies upon an organized power structure where the distribution of wealth and individual income is controlled. This control goes against the free-market and social individual freedoms. Therefore, we provide an environment for this social organization to breed corruption, greed, power, and control. On the other hand, capitalism strips the power away from the government and gives it back to people. It is a pure free-market system that allows the market to regulate the prices and production through supply and demand. According to the definition, if the economy is not a free market, it can’t be called capitalism. If the government proclaims capitalism or a different form of capitalism, it doesn’t mean it is the case. Stating the United States is a regulated capitalist system, it does not abide with the definition and putting ‘regulated’ next to ‘capitalism’ is like putting ‘dictatorial’ next to ‘freedom’. I don’t believe a dictatorial free society can exist. Moreover, In a country that is free of corruption and its citizens are treated equally, capitalism does not allow for big corporations to emerge because there will be equal opportunity for companies to compete. Still, any system that goes unchecked will breed corruption. People have to always be politically active and make sure no one is above the law. Because capitalism calls for a small government, it is easier to control. In the case of socialism that calls for a central organization, it is much more likely for corruption to occur.

Klein is trying to make the argument for socialism while comparing it to our current economic and social system, which she calls “capitalism.” In fact, I believe the United States’ current economy is neither based on capitalism nor socialism nor a free-market. Although our leaders are suggesting that the economy is a free-market capitalism, they are not allowing it to function as a real free-market capitalistic system, due to regulations and wide spread corruption that enable the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. Now that we have all these regulations and the American government is bigger than ever, the top 1% of Americans own 34.6% of the wealth and the top 20% own a shocking 85% of the wealth, leaving 15% of the population with only 15% of the wealth (Domhoff). They have created a system that only benefits them and gave it the name, “free-market capitalism.”

There are multiple reasons why the United States economy is not a free-market capitalism:

The government regulates interest rates.

The government uses bailouts by taking the tax payer’s money and distributes it to private companies.

The federal reserve keeps printing money, inflating the dollar and driving commodity prices up (Brouwer).

The Federal Reserve dictates to the other banks what to do.

The government decides for the people what countries they should make business with.

The government signs free trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA.

The government uses subsidies and tariffs.

— The Federal Government collects income tax, which was introduced until 1861 in order to fund the Civil War with a rate of 3% and has been rising since then. None of that money collected today fund any function of the government. It is collected by the IRS and directly transferred to the Federal Reserve Banking System to pay off the debt that was accumulated over the years (Terrell).

The list can go on and on. I believe that these interventions affect the cost of goods and services, and result in artificial prices. When people give the government power to control prices they cannot proclaim a free-market democracy, as Klein is claiming in chapter 16, p. 328 of her book.

Corruption Vs. Dictatorial (source: http://www.2politicaljunkies.blogspot.com)

In her book, Klein should not compare socialism as an ideology with the current system that she calls, “Capitalism.” She should either compare the United States, a self-proclaimed capitalist, with China, a self-proclaimed socialist; or compare capitalism with socialism as ideologies. As we can’t blame socialism for the genocide committed in the past century in countries such as Russia and China, we cannot blame capitalism for the wars and the financial crisis where the United States is responsible. Instead, I suggest we should stop pointing fingers at at different social systems because our societies function with neither of them and turn our focus on our corrupt leaders and elites. The divide and conquer tactic has long served them to the point where we live in a society divided on so many issues including race, class, gender, politics, economy, welfare etc… People should unite on one cause, which is to end corruption and make sure that no one is above the law. Perhaps Klein should have focused on the corruption that led to the war and not criticize any political system because our societies function with neither of them.

To show the extent of impunity that some politicians enjoy, here is one of multiple corruption cases in the government. If it wasn’t for corruption, Dick Cheney, former CEO of the world’s second largest oil services corporation, Halliburton, would have never become Vice President of the US. In turn, he would have never provided falsified intelligence information to Collin Powel that was used as a pretext to invade Iraq. According to Bloomberg Business Week, Nigerian government filed corruption charges against Cheney and Halliburton in early December, 2010 (Bala-Gbogbo). Later on, after pressure from the U.S. government, Nigeria agreed to drop the corruption charges in exchange for a $250 million settlement. It is important to point out that Iraq sits on the world’s second largest oil reserves. If there was true capitalism under just law, Dick Cheney would have never reached office in the first place.

Social Class (source: http://www.anti-capitalism.org)

In an interview with A.V. Club Klein suggested that the U.S. should nationalize its oil companies just like Saudi Arabia and Iraq. I believe further nationalizing the U.S. economy is going to lead to a catastrophe. If our government officials can’t run the government how can we trust them to fully run and manage companies? Aren’t the same people who head these multinational companies also running the government? Dick Cheney is one example, but there are multiple examples of deep ties between the government and big corporations. If these companies work under the law, they would have never reached the power and the excess of wealth that they enjoy today. Not only they enjoy impunity but also the full support of the government with policies such as ‘too big to fail.’ Nationalizing companies and handing them to a corrupt government is submitting to this organized power structure that has been leading the country into bankruptcy. Klein’s solution only facilitates more grip for the rulers on America’s wealth. The opposite should be done, more power to the people and less for the elite. No to the concentration of power in fewer hands.

Pointing fingers (source: http://www.artfire.com)

I believe we need to stop pointing fingers at different social systems because our societies function with neither of them. People are divided and while we are pointing fingers at each other our corrupt leaders are gaining more control of our institutions and our private lives. We need to stop dividing and start uniting against one goal, which is ending corruption and taking the corrupt ones to trial to set the example. The problem is not Free-market Capitalism since it has never been one in the first place; instead, it’s the anti-free market policies of the Federal Reserve and the Federal Government, along with corporate fascism.

Works Cited

Bala-Gbogbo, Elisha. ”Nigeria Withdraws Charges Against Cheney, Halliburton.” Bloomberg Businessweek. 17 Dec. 2010. 1 May 2011 <http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-12-17/nigeria-withdraws-charges-against-cheney-halliburton.html&gt;.

Brouwer, Kurt. ”What Causes Higher Prices & Inflation?” Market Watch. 2 Feb. 2011. 1 May 2011 <http://blogs.marketwatch.com/fundmastery/2011/02/02/what-causes-higher-prices-inflation/&gt;.

“Capitalism.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 15th ed. 2nd vol. 1992.

Domhoff, William G. ”Wealth, Income, and Power.” University of California at Santa Cruz. Jan. 2011. 19 Feb. 2011 <http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html&gt;.

“Socialism.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 15th ed. 10th vol. 1992.

Terrell Ellen. ”History of the US income Tax.” Business Reference Services. Feb. 2004. 1 May 2011 <http://www.loc.gov/rr/business/hottopic/irs_history.html&gt;.

Paradise Lose – Los Angeles and Bali

Posted: April 20, 2011 by nimadesandradewi in Uncategorized

By Ni Made Sandra Dewi

Los Angeles grew from a small pueblo along side the Los Angeles River to the sprawling metropolis known today. In the begging Los Angeles had one plaza (urban space) and one vital connection to nature (the river) as the city grew the connection of the people to an urban place has lost the important of the earlier model.

At this moment Los Angeles is one of the most populous city in United States (after New York) with a land area of 498.3 square miles. Its is a dispersed city because of the outburst farm development in early 20th and one of the other big cause is the development of streetcar and rail road systems.

The growth of modern transportation – especially automobile – has helped shaped the growth of the city to the extent that the business and social life is dependent upon the continued use of automobile. The dependency of automobile affects the development of the city; it makes the possibility for suburban development, and the planning of housing is based on the automobile easy access. Los Angeles becomes a decentralized city.

As Jane Jacobs stated in her book The Death and Life of the Great American Cities, “ A growing number of planners and designers have come to believe that if they can solve the problems of traffic, they will be thereby have solved the major problem of cities”.

This decentralize resulted in suburban area where people becoming more interested in owning private housing which creates less interaction within the community because of the lack of shared space and thus resulting individuality within the community.

Los Angeles can learn from Balinese architecture and develop urban spaces for communal interaction. Los Angeles must be looked at from the standpoint of the individual and their interaction in a larger group setting. The Balinese model illustrates how families / home owners/ tenants can share certain programmatic elements of a dwelling to combine resources and create shared spaces while enabling important social interaction.  The shared context in Balinese housing are the kitchen area, where family share the kitchen and dine together which then resulting in more interaction between the community as a whole. It is to deconstruct the idea of a house as a single family social units and material status object.

Fortified Learning

Posted: April 20, 2011 by Zanchy in Mike Davis

   by Vardan Kazanchyan

Humans are social beings with an innate desire to learn and think creatively.  Research shows that we possess many methods for acquiring, sharing, and displaying knowledge.  So why is it that our creativity decreases during junior high? Some theorists believe it is because students, primarily those in public schools, are bored because of an outdated and mundane curriculum.  They suggest that creativity only reemerges when students explore their own interests through what they call “self-guided learning.”

Public schools in the United States use a panopticon curriculum that fails on many levels, including the concept of measuring one’s intelligence through multiple choice testing.  According to Alfie Kohn, a critic of education, we have more multiple choice tests in public schools than ever before in our history.  Many other curriculums, and more importantly countries, don’t even use standardized, or multiple-choice, testing as a measure of one’s intelligence.  However in the United States, public schools use it as a basis for student placements.

Howard Gardner states that not only do human beings have many different ways to learn and process information, but that these are independent of each other.  This leads to multiple “intelligences” as opposed to a general intelligence factor among abilities.  Schools, in general, do not pay attention to different intelligences and challenging students in ways that would be intriguing and personal to their own methods of working, thinking, or motivating; standardized testing also fails to account for these things.

Mike Davis, in his book City of Quartz, describes a population that has become obsessed with surveillance and security; our schools are designed around this same principal.  “This obsession with physical security systems, and, collaterally, with the architectural policing of social boundaries, has become a zeitgeist of urban restructuring, a master narrative in the emerging built environment of the 1990s.” (Davis 223)  Not only do public schools curriculums disregard multiple intelligences, they also compartmentalize subjects, classrooms, and students – another key factor that attributes to disinterest in schools.  Students are assigned a schedule that is meant to keep track of their whereabouts throughout the day.  They are required to be in class, even if it is of no interest to them.  Classrooms are designed as a multiplying entity that is placed and organized within the school.  Classes take place inside the classroom and are designed so that they are generally indoors with very little access to natural light and scenery.  Students are placed in an uninspiring location and expected to learn.

Fielding - Light, Learning and Color

The deficiencies in education are not only through the curriculums but through the architecture as well.  Not many schools are designed with a focus on the natural and built environment.  School leaders are more conscientious about controlling every aspect of the school rather than allowing education to prevail through the natural interest that every human being possesses.  Again, human beings have an innate desire to learn, and learning is a process that can happen at any given time in any place.  Instead of worrying about policing students, public education should focus on hiring architects to design inspired and creative spaces and schools.  Davis argues that “in Los Angeles, once-upon-a-time a demi-paradise of free beaches, luxurious parks, and ’cruising strips’, genuinely democratic space is all but extinct.”  (Davis 227) These same principals apply in education in that every classroom, every room that has the potential to house education, is controlled by some kind of authority.  Students are spared the freedom to learn within their own interests, on their own time.  The standardized curriculums used in public schools do not believe in the potential of the student, but rather of the potential of fear.  Fear is a tool used in the same sense as the panopticon, in that it is an idea that is incorporated into the minds of students and teachers alike.  Teachers feel that if they don’t teach what they are supposed to, that they will be fired.  Students feel that if they don’t take the tests seriously, they risk their futures in a good college.  But who decided that kids should be dictated at in order to learn?  Today, many new private schools make use of curriculums that were designed first with the student in mind, and teachers that are capable of changing the day’s lessons according to what they observe or feel is appropriate.

Referring back to the notion of learning occurring anywhere and at any given time, it is important for schools, in at least the high school level, to be able to provide students with the ability to explore sites that fall outside of the classroom or even the school.  Schools should focus less on an outdated curriculum and try harder to encourage students to follow their own interests and excel in areas of study they actually have interest in.  In addition, architects designing new schools should expand on the notion of the classroom, and provide spaces that connect with the environment on a physical level with obvious moves that reveal the intent of the architecture.

Richard Neutra - Corona Elementary School

Richard Neutra’s Corona Elementary School is a school that was designed to try and abolish the stronghold of boring, authoritarian environments of public schools by providing an outdoor classroom that was made available through an oversized sliding door.  This simple move gives kids the ability to learn outside the classroom in a natural environment with sunlight and foliage, something most California schools fail to provide.

At Merrylee Primary School, in Glasgow, a landscape architect has designed an “Urban Jungle” so that children can learn to respect nature within school grounds.  So why is it that the notion of any form of landscaping in public schools is quickly ‘resolved’ with an uninhabited quad with no real relationship to site or context?  The design of schools has been so dumbed down to boxes that it has become a norm that is unacceptable.

Good use of architecture, with close relation to curriculum, preferably an updated system, is a crucial factor in education.  Schools in the United States have become so obsessed with safeguarding and surveying students that they have completely severed us from our own interests and our creative abilities to excel in areas of interest.  Classrooms are designed to block out sunlight so that the luminance can be controlled artificially.  Classroom designs follow methods that were produced for factory environments and not for modern day’s “thinking” society.  We are teaching our youth to be much more critical of the world around them, yet we place them in repetitive, uninspired spaces diminishing their perceptive abilities because we overlook the space of the classroom as a learning tool.  We possess many methods for acquiring, sharing, and displaying knowledge, and taking advantage of our environments is what we should focus on, not meeting deadlines or taking tests.  Efficient educational practices should focus on catering to the multiple means of learning people possess in order for kids to excel in school.  The strict enforcement of a standardized curriculum, by public education leaders, creates disinterest and low morale, and generally only works on a portion of the students..  Finally, cost-saving design, or lack of good architecture, and an obsession with security attributes to an education system in which the learning environments are devoid of inspiration and individuality, and only concerned with the policing of students.

Works Cited:

Cohen, Bronwen. “Space to develop: How architecture can play a vital role in young children’s lives.” CELE Exchange 2010/6 2010: 1-7.

Davis, Mike. “Fortress L.A.” City of Quartz. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. 223-260.

Doris C. C. K. Kowaltowski, Giovana Bianchi, Vale´ria Teixeira de Paiva. “Methods that may stimulate creativity and their use in architectural design education.” 13 November 2009: 1-24.

Kohl, Herbert. “The Educational Panopticon.” 8 January 2009. Teachers College Record. 2011 <http://normsnotes2.blogspot.com/2009/03/educational-panopticon.html&gt;.

Kohn, Alfie. Standardized Testing and Its Victims. 27 9 2000. <http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/staiv.htm&gt;.

Randall Fielding, AIA. “Learning, Lighting and Color.” 2006. Design Share. 2011 <www.designshare.com/articles/1/133/fielding_light-learn-color.pdf>.