PHOTO ESSAY | Los Angeles Architecture

There are few cities in the world more perplexing than Los Angeles. The reasons are many. The Outlaw Urbanist will take a closer look at some of those reasons in a multi-part, photo essay series. Today, we look at a small selection of Los Angeles architecture. There are hundreds of interesting, even gorgeous historical examples of Art Deco and Modernist buildings in Los Angeles. There are an equal number that can be simply described as curious. The sample in this photo essay is designed to be eclectic rather than exhaustive.

Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire Boulevard in Mid Wilshire/Central LA (Photo: Mark David Major).

There is an odd, symbolic symmetry about the impenetrable, foreboding facades of the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple in Mid Wilshire/Central L.A. and the Screen Actors Guild Building down the road on the Miracle Mile. The architectural message could not be clearer: beware to all those who do not belong here (you know who you are).

Screen Actors Guild Building on the Miracle Mile of Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles (Photo: Mark David Major).

We interrupt this photo essay for something cool: an example of the classic California Style house or bungalow (depending on your definition of size) and a Modernist residential house, both located a few hundred feet south of Wilshire Boulevard in La Brea.

A classic California style house in La Brea (Photo: Mark David Major).
A Modernist house in La Brea (Photo: Mark David Major).

Based on quantity alone, the prototypical strip mall in Los Angeles has a L-shaped typology. Two-story buildings with double loading (at ground and above) of small retail units, connected by external stairwells and walkways, surrounding a small parking lot (see below). Who would go to L.A. and take photographs of ubiquitous strip malls? Probably only The Outlaw Urbanist. These strip malls have the architectural vocabulary of a proverbial bull in a china shop.

A example of the prototypical Los Angeles strip mall on Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown (Photo: Mark David Major).

Truth in advertising at the American Cement Company Building (now the Concrete Studio Lofts) on Wilshire Boulevard at the western perimeter of MacArthur Park. Across the street is the ‘tent city’ of the homeless living in MacArthur Park. The homeless problem in Los Angeles might be the worst of any American city I’ve ever witnessed. It is disgraceful the City of Los Angeles/State of California has not capitalized on the ‘tiny house movement’ to tackle the homeless problem. The result is the distinctive urine aroma of MacArthur Park.

American Cement Company Building (now Concrete Studio Lofts) on Wilshire Boulevard in MacArthur Park area (Photo: Mark David Major).

False advertising at the Park Plaza Hotel across the street at the northwestern corner of MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. Everything about this building screams ‘courthouse,’ the building envelope (absent the sculptures) echoes the classical architecture of the Hall of Justice in Downtown Los Angeles. However, the Art Deco building designed by Curlett & Beelman was originally for the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks as Elks Lodge No. 99. Today, the hotel is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.

Park Plaza Hotel in MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles (Photo: Mark David Major).

Pretend deconstructivism in Kohn Pedersen Fox’s facade design for  the Petersen Automotive Museum along Museum Row of the Miracle Mile on Wilshire Boulevard in La Brea, Los Angeles. It is a big red box building with vertical, metal sliding covered by a false ‘piggly wiggly’ facade. The building is dramatic from faraway but extremely disappointing up close, especially the big red parking garage at the back, which creates a blank wall along the long length of a full urban block on South Fairfax Avenue.

Petersen Automotive Museum on Museum Row of the Miracle Mile of Wilshire Boulevard in La Brea, Los Angeles (Photo: Mark David Major).

A common theme of historic buildings in Los Angeles is gorgeous (often Art Deco) high-rise buildings with converted or attached ground level retail units at the base. There is nothing wrong with the impulse but it is often accomplished so poorly (in terms of design) that it is akin to the most beautiful woman who ever lived (BTW, that would be Audrey Hepburn) garishly painting her toe nails like a common street whore. There is a lot of this type of ‘architectural whoring’ going on in Los Angeles.

Art Deco building on Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown (Photo: Mark David Major).

We conclude this eclectic photo essay of Los Angeles Architecture with some cools things: a ‘green wall’ along the street facade of an Modernist apartment building in Beverly Hills and the Art Deco styling of the building typology for the Observation Pit Building at the La Brea Tar Pits, which was recently reopened after being closed for twenty years.

‘Green wall’ along the street facade of an apartment building in Beverly Hills (Photo: Mark David Major).
Art Deco styling of the building typology for the Observation Pit Building at the La Brea Tar Pits (Photo: Mark David Major).
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PHOTO ESSAY | Downtown Los Angeles

There are few cities in the world more perplexing than Los Angeles. The reasons are many. The Outlaw Urbanist will take a closer look at some of those reasons in a multi-part, photo essay series. Today, we begin with Downtown L.A., which uniquely combines fascination and frustration for any architect, urban designer, and planner with a good conscience.

Downtown L.A. could be incredible urbanism. In fact, it should be incredible urbanism. Instead, it comes across as lazy. Downtown L.A. is alive but not necessarily well. It has ‘good bones’ including some stunning pre-World War II buildings. However, Downtown L.A. desperately needs large doses of TLDC (tender, loving design care), which appears somewhat lacking at the moment.

View along S. Broadway in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).

There were actually a LOT of people in Downtown L.A. on a sunny, warm Sunday afternoon, especially to the south in the Jewelry District. The street level of many buildings has been converted into small, retail units. However, it is haphazardly done for the most part. On one hand, it is good to see the people and retail units. On the other hand, it is such low rent quality that it deters from the innate advantages of the building space above. There are a lot of historic buildings in Downtown L.A. BEGGING for rehabilitation. A few renovations are progressing but not nearly enough. It is deeply frustrating. A lot of the new buildings are design disasters that most often successfully promulgate blank walls in downtown.

Pre-World War II building in the process of renovation (Photo: Mark David Major).
Conversion of ground level entry space into small, low quality retail units at the historic Palace Theater building in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).

Given the history and money surrounding the film industry in Los Angeles, you would think residents and the city would take more care in rehabilitating the plenitude of old historic movie theaters but most often it appears to have been mindlessly done (e.g. Palace Theater above and Los Angeles Theater below) on a ‘cash in’ basis only.

Conversion of ground level entry space into small, low quality retail units at the historic Los Angeles Theater building in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).
Internal street arcade in the Jewelry District of Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).

The gorgeous Bradbury Building (below) in Downtown L.A. was designed by Sumner Hunt and designated an architectural landmark in 1977. Its interior and rooftop were the settings for the climatic scenes of Ridley Scott’s science fiction classic Blade Runner (1982).

Bradbury Building designed by Sumner Hunt in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).

The government sector to the north in Downtown L.A. effectively demonstrates the danger of single-use districts. Whereas the Jewelry District was populated and lively on a Sunday afternoon, the government sector was deader than a graveyard, except for the cars racing through the area.

Distant view of the Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).
View of Los Angeles City Hall in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).

Los Angeles City Hall (above) was the exterior for the Daily Planet in the old Adventures of Superman series from the 1950s. The O.J. Simpson criminal trial occurred in the building to the left in 1994-95.

Hall of Justice in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).

The Modernist building where the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning is housed in the government sector has a plaza attached to it, working hard at being as empty as the day it first opened, no doubt. The ironic symbolism seems appropriate.

Modernist plaza attached to the Administration building containing the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).
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NOW AVAILABLE | The Biblical City I | The Tanakh

The Biblical City, Part I – The Tanakh covers in detail more than two-dozen biblical references to the city in the Old Testament. It is commonly accepted there is anti-urban religious stereotype with origins in the earliest suburbs, the social reform movement of cities in the late 19th century, and mass suburbanization in the post-war period, which has radically remade our cities over the last 200 years. But is God really anti-urban? There are over 700 generic references to the ‘city’ in The Tanakh or Old Testament. Can they tell us anything about urbanism today, given the innumerable problems of language, translation, interpretation and our own evolving conception of the city over time? This course examines this in more detail in an attempt to answer these questions. In the Old Testament, God is not anti-urban. Quite the opposite, there is evidence of God as the architect, designer, and planner. The city itself is often seen as a symbol of strength and an ideal to achieve, because God’s plan for humanity begins in a garden without sin but concludes in a redeemed city (1.5 hour course).

Key concepts: city, strength, metaphor, Old Testament, Tanakh, urban, and wisdom.

Instructor: Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A

Check here to purchase this  course ($12.49), which includes an one-and-a-half hour video presentation and PDFs of the course notes and slide handout.

Note: We are beta-testing with these our course offerings so if you have any issues accessing the course material, please do not hesitate to contact us at Thank you!

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Planning Naked | July 2016

July2016Planning Naked | July 2016
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

Your (hopefully) hilarious guide to everything about the latest issue of APA’s Planning Magazine


Note: In all likelihood,  one of the better issues of Planning Magazine in the last 15 years from the point of view of objective reporting and displays of good old-fashioned, common sense… or, at least, the first half of the issue. Things start to spectacularly fall apart beginning on page 27.

In the words of Marvin Gaye, what’s going on? Is there a new editor at Planning Magazine? Has Planning Magazine adopted new editorial guidelines? There’s little objectionable content about the first 12 pages of the July 2016 issue (From the Desk of APA’s Executive Director and News sections). It’s almost reading bliss.

I come not to bury Planning Magazine but to (in part) praise it. “It’s Time to Rethink Temporary Use” by David S. Silverman in the Legal Lessons section (pp. 13) is praiseworthy. “Traditional zoning is often a clumsy tool to address the regulatory land-use issues raised by” alternative, often temporary uses. If this sanity continues, I may have to retire the “Planning Naked” column on The Outlaw Urbanist.

Leave it to Rio. “Rio Gets Ready by Michael Kavalar (pp. 14-18) reports on Brazil’s preparations for the 2016 Olympics next month and pacification; “an official government policy of structured military occupation of informal communities with the intent of fully incorporating them into the formal city.” This is a well-written, informative piece that balances the positives of legacy projects associated due to the Olympics with local tensions arising from a pacification policy that predates these legacy projects. The article successfully touches on these topics, giving them some context, without losing sight of their complexities (for good and ill) in terms of politics and planning.

Taking the long view. “Winning at Their Own Games” by Kristen Pope (pp. 19) takes a brief look at adaptive reuse of facilities in Lake Placid, New York and Park City, Utah after the Olympics left town. “London’s Olympic Legacy” by Ben Plowden (pp. 20-21) follows the same story in a little more detail after the London Olympics with particular focus on London Transport. Both are interesting, informative pieces lacking the soapbox of Planning Magazine’s usually hidden agenda in the past. Again, what’s going on?

To Shop or Not to Shop, that is the Question. “From Bricks to Clicks” by Daniel G. Haake, Jeffrey M. Wojtowicz, and Johanna Amaya” (pp. 22-24) provides the ‘meat’ of this issue about the effects of e-commerce on neighborhoods, which was touched on by James Drinan in the From the Desk of APA’s Executive Director section. The piece is a thoughtful consideration of the issues surrounding increased freight deliveries of e-commerce without resorting to the standard ‘default’ answer of larger road widths and bigger floor plates in the post-war period. The creeping evidence of planning sanity is a blessed relief to this long-time victim. This article is well worth the read for planners.

It’s the business model, business model, business model. “Big Box Bust?” by Andrew Starr covers Wal-Mart’s announced closure of 154 locations nationwide, 102 of which are Wal-Mart Express stores experimenting with smaller floor plates and pared down merchandising serving a smaller (usually poorer) customer base. Starr correctly points out that ‘mindless’ application of Wal-Mart’s long-term business model for its big box stores (‘but that’s the way we’ve always done it’) on the site selection process was a likely culprit for the retailing giant incorrectly siting its Express stores; not that a ‘big box’ floor plate is necessary to survive and thrive in retail in today’s world. He points to the success of the Dollar General and Dollar Tree brands in fighting off competition from Wal-Mart Express stores as a counter example. Again, another good article; concise, objective, and spot-on.

Sigh, and there it is… mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money. The highlight box for “The Road to Quito” by Greg Scruggs (pp. 27-33) states “Habitat III is a ‘clarion call for planning’ that planners will pay more dividends for the profession” (our emphasis), which sounds so self-serving as to be repulsive. I don’t even want to read this article but, for anyone who might enjoy reading Planning Naked, I will. “In 1976, a bunch of Hippies…” Oh. My. God. Not a good start. Now the name-dropping, legitimacy by association. Sheesh. Now a list of pleasant sounding, meaningless bullet points using ‘synergy words.’ I can’t… go… on. This article has everything that is wrong with planning masturb… excuse me, the planning profession. The July 2016 issue of Planning Magazine was going so well until this stink bomb was dropped into the middle of the issue. Guess I don’t have to worry about retiring this column yet.

Hard core issues through a soft core lens. “One Size Does Not Fit All” by Katy Tomasulo (pp. 32-36) does have some interesting information about the housing recovery and statistical trends in the housing market. However, the author is too lackadaisical about filtering through the developer/homebuilder ‘post-war’ paradigm (e.g. suburbanization) to get at the real core of the issue. For example, NHB states they know Millennials want to become homeowners eventually (true) but that does not necessarily translate into big suburban homes (implied but false). The ‘smaller’ lot sizes discussed are still too big and don’t capitalize on the small house movement to increase affordability, etc. There’s some informative stuff in this article but the reader needs deploy critical thought to really dig for the takeaways. Good intentions but soft focus… and we all know the preferred pavement material for the road to hell.

With apologies. “Whatever Happened to HAMP and HARP?” by Jake Blumgart (pp. 36-37) is informative about the failure of the Federal programs, HAMP and HARP, established in the aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crisis to assist homeowners, but blatant in excusing the Obama Administration, Democratic Congress, and the banks for the failure of these programs by laying the blame at the feet of those very same homeowners (“If a financial institution was promising you something too good to be true, most families—after having been through what they had been through—said, ‘I’m not touching this…”). Right about the symptoms, wrong about the cause, so the conclusions are counter-productive.

More softer core. “Ever Green: Connecting to Nature in a Digital Age” by Tim Beatley (pp. 38-39) is interesting but harmless news fluff. Of course, most extinctions these days are due to the unprecedented growth of the world’s population in the post-war period. Extraterrestrial colonization and/or a massive, human depopulation event are the only substantive answers to the problem. It’s very scary that the second seems far more likely than the first.

In defense of fast food. I’m not sure about the purpose of Bobby Boone’s Viewpoint article “Fast Food’s Bad Rap” (pp. 44). Is ‘persecution of fast food’ even a thing? Sounds like a ‘first-world’ problem.

Planning Naked is a new series of observations and comments about a recent issue of Planning: The Magazine of the American Planning Association.

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The Geography of Thought Policing

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a satire of the article “The Geography of Hate” by Richard Florida about ‘hate’ groups published in The Atlantic on May 11, 2011 and recently re-tweeted by Florida on June 26, 2016 in the aftermath of the Brexit results to leave the European Union. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s simple definition of hate is “a very strong feeling of dislike” so a ‘feeling’ (the overall quality of one’s awareness or thought) is being monitored and mapped in the original article.


Goodthink concentrates in certain regions, which correlates with secular religion, Obama votes, and ‘self-identified’ elitism

Goodthink (“orthodox thought of the political left”) abounds in our glorious nation, comrades! However, there are still pockets of crimethink (“orthodox thought of the political right”) to be eradicated. We have much to fear from crimethink. And not just from individuals suffering from the insanity of ownlife (“free will”). All citizens must participate in crimestop (“ridding themselves of unwanted thoughts interfering with the ideology of the political left”).

Since 2000, the amount of crimethink has climbed more than 5,000 percent, according to the Ministry of Truth. This rise has been fueled, as all citizens graced with goodthink know, by ignorance, racism, xenophobia, and fascism. Most crimethink merely espouses violent theories against the goodthink; some of them are stock-piling weapons and actively planning attacks against our glorious state.

But not all people and places goodthink equally; some regions of the United States – at least within some sector of their populations – are a virtual artsem (“artifical insemination”) of goodthink. What is the geography of goodthink and crimethink? Why are some regions more susceptible to one or the other?

The Ministry of Truth maintains a detailed database of crimethink, culled from the prolefeed (“steady stream of mindless entertainment to distract and occupy the masses”). The Ministry defines crimethink as “beliefs or practices that attack or malign goodthink people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: “immutable characteristics” means that any speech advocating religious persecution does not qualify as crimethink unless, of course, Christians are the subject of that persecution, which is goodthink. For example, ISIS beheading Christians does not qualify for categorization because the executioner may convert (i.e. mutable) to the crimethink of Christianity on the road to Damascus at some unknown date in the future.

The map below, created by the Ministry of Truth, graphically presents the geography of goodthink in the United States. Based on the number of goodthink groups per one million people across the U.S. states, it reveals a distinctive pattern, which dictates the amount of thinkpol (“thought policing”) required of all goodthinking citizens in their communities.


Goodthink is most highly concentrated in the broader regions associated with New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, concentrated in the Northeast, Great Lakes, and the West Coast. Two states have by far the largest concentration of crimethink groups – Montana with 13.8 groups per million people, and Mississippi with 13.7 per million. Arkansas (10.3), Wyoming (9.7), and Idaho (8.9) come in a distant third, fourth, and fifth.

Minnesota has the most effective thinkpol with 1.3 crimethink groups per million people, nearly ten times less than the leading state, followed by Wisconsin (1.4), New Mexico (1.5), Massachusetts (1.6), and New York (1.6). Connecticut (1.7), California (1.9), Rhode Island (1.9) all also have effective thinkpol per million people.

But beyond their locations, what other factors are associated with crimethink? With the help of the Ministry of Truth, I looked at the social, political, cultural, economic and demographic factors that might be associated with the geography of crimethink. I also considered a number of key factors that shape America’s geographic divide: Red state/Blue state politics; income and poverty; religion, and economic class. It is important to note that correlation does not imply causation – we are simply looking at associations between variables. It’s also worth pointing out that Montana and Mississippi are fairly extreme outliers, which may skew the results somewhat. Nonetheless, the patterns we discerned were robust and distinctive enough to warrant reporting.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “might be” also means ‘might not.’ “Red state/Blue state politics” means there is an implicit political agenda associated with the article.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “It is important to note that correlation does not imply causation – we are simply looking at associations between variables.” Translation: this entire article is statistical bullshit but the author is hoping all goodthinking readers are stupid enough to draw conclusions, that are, in fact, not supported by objective, rigorous interpretation of the statistical analysis.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Montana and Mississippi are fairly extreme outliers, which may skew the results somewhat.” Possible translation: if  Montana and Mississippi are removed from the data set, then the correlations fall apart and this article can’t posted to the prolefeed; not that it should have been in the first place.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Nonetheless, the patterns we discerned were robust and distinctive enough to warrant reporting.” Translation: reporting doublethink promotes groupthink (the last phrase was coined by the notorious crimethinker, William H. Whyte).

California_GeoofTP-thumbFirst of all, the geography of crimethink reflects the Red state/Blue state sorting of American politics. Crimethink is positively associated with McCain votes (with a correlation of .52). But we already knew that because it’s a self-evident truth that any state that did not vote for Barack Obama in 2008 is racist; made obvious by their refusal to concede electoral college votes to a man of color.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It is not self-evident. It is only the starting point of the author’s initial assumption for compiling and analyzing the data set in this manner. However, the author is careful to hide this initial assumption because doubethink pomotes goodthink. The author is also unclear whether these correlations represent the R value or R squared value. The editor’s rule of thumb for R values: unsquared=0.75 or less is most likely a mess.

California_Florida_GeoofTP_5-11_chartConversely, goodthink groups voted for our glorious leader.California_GeoTP_5-11Goodthink and crimethink also cleaves along religious lines. Ironically, but perhaps not surprisingly, higher concentrations of crimethink are positively associated with states where individuals report that religion plays an important role in their everyday lives (a correlation of .35), indicating the true value of our secular religion.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Whether a R-value or R-squared value, a correlation of 0.35 means bullshit.California_GeoTP_5-11_chart5The geography of crimethink also reflects the sorting of Americans by education and human capital level. Crimethink groups were negatively associated with the percentage of adults holding a college degree (-.41). The geography of goodthink and crimethink also sorts across economic lines. Crimethink is more concentrated in states with higher poverty rates (.39) and those with larger blue-collar working class workforces (.41). Higher income states with greater concentrations of goodthink workers provide a less fertile medium for crimethink. Crimethink was negatively correlated with state income levels (-.36), and the percentage of goodthink workers (-.48).

EDITOR’S NOTE: Most of these correlations appear to be nonsense, all with r-values (?) mostly well below 0.50.

Citizens, if you want to succeed in the United States and earn money, it’s best to adopt goodthink (even if you don’t really mean it, see Arianna Huffington and the Huffington Post). You will be well compensated for groupthink: discipline your ownlife and crimestop yourself!

The geography of crimethink follows the more general sorting of America by politics and ideology, religion, education, income levels, and class. But the presence of crimethink does not necessarily lead to crime. A 2010 study of “Crimethink and Think Crimes” by the Ministry of Love found no empirical connection between the two. Tracing the association between crimethink and think crimes between 2002 and 2006, the Ministry found that while the amount of crimethink grew substantially, the number of think crimes did not – in fact such crimes actually decreased slightly.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “the presence of crimethink does not necessarily lead to crime… no empirical connection.” Again, this unmasks the author’s article as nothing but goodthink propaganda since there isn’t any relationship between crimethink and actual crimes. The author’s article is, in fact, only promoting thinkpol (“thought policing”).

But the Ministry found a strong connection between crimethink and adverse economic conditions, particularly unemployment and to a lesser extent poverty. This proves citizens should adopt goodthink to avoid the classic crimethink-aggression thesis of the Ministry of Love, which, as its name implies, links aggression to high levels of crimethink. “When people refuse to adopt goodthink, the resulting economic hardship leads to crimethink and frustration,” wrote the deputy assistant undersecretary for the Department of Mutual Masturbation in the Ministry of Love. “They take their frustration out on goodthink citizens.”

Even if crimethink is not directly connected to crime, crimethink arises from the same underlying economic factors that are dividing Americans by class, ideology and politics. Crimethink, like think crimes, are strongly associated with ownlife. The geography of crimethink in America reflects and reinforces the need for more robust thought policing of crimethink.

Remember: Big Brother is watching… and watching goldfish positively correlates with cancer rates so watching goldfish is also crimethink for the greater good of our glorious citizenry. Crimethink clings to bibles and guns!

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Blogging about the heathens destroying our cities…