Recently in Places re; architectural renderings, a Postwar nascent homemaker rehabilitation movement, the Los Angeles River and hospice design

Back in April, Susan Piedmont-Palladino published “the Uncanny Valley“, about architecture, digital drawing and photo-realistic rendering. She first argues.

Architecture demands an intersection; but not a total eclipse. When reality eclipses the imagination, the result is banality; when the imagination eclipses reality, then we have abandoned architecture for the untethered spheres of science fiction, or gaming, or art. It’s at this point that images become ends in themselves rather than representations of a plausible new reality.

She then identifies two specific tells of uncanniness in this context; 1) deployment of perspective and 2) a performative inclusion of (happy) people in a drawing.


Later, Barbara Penner explored how the issues of gender, disability, and user-centeredness have been relegated to the far margins of architectural history. Yet, we read.

Home economics comprised not only corporate consultants like Frederick but also university-based researchers such as the ones pursuing disability studies, who had a different audience and approach…Cornell’s College of Home Economics had a dedicated department of housing and design in which an all-female staff of seven instructors taught subjects ranging from furniture refurbishment to farmhouse planning. Over many decades, they developed a distinct mode of design education and practice characterized by cooperation, skills sharing, and a highly customized body-centered approach.


Then in May, Vittoria Di Palmaand and Alexander Robinson reviewed the epic struggle for control, which characterizes the history, between Los Angeles and its river.  With a hopeful look towards recent and ongoing attempts at an arts-led, DIY, revitalization.

Indeed, the remarkable activity generated by the Los Angeles River — which as yet remains largely a concrete channel bisected by a thin course of water — testifies to the profound power of the city’s desire for ecological redemption and urban rebirth, and to ways in which civic or even poetic acts have found purchase within a byzantine network of managerial interests. Nonetheless there remains the distinct possibility that moneyed interests will distort the original ideals. Even as Los Angeles seems to pulsate with the river’s irrepressible spirit, the river’s future is clouded by a fog of unresolved social, technical, and environmental factors.


Finally, Dr. Nitin K. Ahuja raises some concerns regarding trends “toward more formally ambitious hospice design” which utilize “evidence-based design” and “best practices” or on the flip-side, domesticated, home-hospice like spaces.

In the end although, he does believe in the merits of palliative care, he favors an “unbraiding of its clinical, economic, and aesthetic justifications. As far as aesthetics go, I’m with Nuland — I’ve seen enough vulnerability at the end of life to know that a bit of grisliness is inescapable.


Caballeros roping a grizzly bear. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photograph Collection.

From Wild L.A.: Mountain Lions, Grizzly Bears & the Land that Once Was by Nathan Masters, an article which explores “the ecological history of a landscape destroyed by more than 240 years of settlement…Prior to Spanish colonization, the vast Los Angeles Basin and the nearby inland valleys hosted an expansive prairie ecosystem.

A zone comprised of an invisible pattern of ownership and maintenance jurisdictions, railroadlands and easements

Though there is strong advocacy for the river’s renewal and restoration, there is as yet little constituency for understanding the river as it is and as it will be in the future, for the infrastructural sublime, for the freakological, for the river as artifact

David Fletcher, Pg 50

In “Flood Control Freakology, Los Angeles River Watershed” David Fletcher explores the possibilities of a narrative of freakology for conceptualizing the current and future conditions of the LA River. To be precise Fletcher’s piece is less about pontificating or suggesting a vision of the future freakological, at least not in the design or project(ive) sense. The boys at Mammoth in their entry for this week do though, and they examine the design approaches which could be applied. Or more precisely they explore the implications of freakology for design. How does one curate these ecologies, what role could a lo-fi (see Faslanyc) or experimental land or aqua-scape open for architects and scrapers of all sorts? One things for sure, I agree it would require a disciplinary, bi-polarity of a sort (for some further thoughts on disciplinarity read me and Carl Douglas here and here).

As for Fletcher, for me there were a couple of key takeaways from his piece. The first was his point on narrative, just the emphasizing of it’s importance. But is his writing a narrative? Certainly, the following images of the river are. Perhaps, more figurative than speculative though. Figure as in “a phantasm or illusion“, even.

In Fletcher’s narrative though the Los Angeles River is no longer a single physical entity but rather a “zone comprised of an invisible pattern of ownership and maintenance jurisdictions, railroadlands and easements.

One key point which highlights the paradox of the River’s future perfectly is the result of the same water and conservation pressure facing Owens Lake and southern California at large. No longer does the river see much seasonal flow adjustment in fact most of the River’s average flow is made up of the discharged treated and untreated wastewater from city and LA basin. Thus, hopes for the re-clamation and re-greening of the LA River corridor will inevitable run into the constraints caused by growing demands for water in the LA Basin. As more water is reclaimed for human usage the available water for these idyllic re-inventions of the River will Fletcher warns, face a harsh reality. Problematically, these same factors will also the raise the concentration of pollutants (and salts, remember the estuary) etc if as flow levels diminish and thereby bring with them there own new ecological problems and likely niche freakologies.

Within the context of a discussion of lo-fi and experimental interventions I was struck by the role played by physical trash in creating/capturing organic sediment. As Fletcher noted on Pg 42, such freakologies actually help to create an organic structural substrate for new vegetative communities and island ecologies.

Finally, one topic, which after this reading I am interested in learning more about, is the role and existence of the estuary/Bay and the LA Port (the busiest as far as I know in the nation, by volume at least). I imagine there must be a good thesis or two which explore new models of interfacing with the LA River’s estuary and Port confluence. Have any authors explored this estuary/bay as a -scape?