Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Grove

Hello All:

I'm coming to you live from Rick Caruso's vision for Los Angeles, The Grove.  Rick Caruso is a well connected successfully developer in Los Angeles whose claim to fame or infamy is these lux shopping mall that replicate a European street-scape.  In this case, The Grove was intended to simulate a Tuscan street.  I like the fact that it's an outdoor mall and it didn't totally trash the historic Farmer's Market next door.  A brief history of The Grove.  The mall was developed in the nineties as part of an overall scheme to reinvigorate the Beverly-Fairfax area.  The northern end of the Farmer's Market was demolished to make way for a parking structure and a commercial-retail building.  The central core of the Farmer's Market was left in tact, after all it is a historic land mark.  The central core is where the food stalls and kitschy tourist shops are.  The mall, depending on who you speak to, succeeds at some level.  It definitely draws people to the shops, restaurants, and movie theater.  The downside is that it created additional traffic issues in the area and spawned The Americana, a.k.a. The Grove on steroids.

Rick Caruso seems quite intent on turning Los Angeles into a giant Grove with trolley cars, ambient music, and twinkling lights in the trees.  Even more jarring is the faux historicism of the place. he architects evoke all the tropes of Tuscany.  Now they would like to use the Spanish Colonial/Mediterranean/Mexican architecture on Los Angeles.  What's wrong with the mix and match architecture and urban-scape that makes Los Angeles so unique?  Los Angeles does have historic architecture, it's just buried or unfortunately been taken down in the name of planning and development.  The idea of a cohesive architectural vision in Los Angeles sounds like what director Martin Scorese accused developers of doing to the Bowery, introducing a sense of conformity.  Here, the quality of conformity has never been part of the visual vocabulary.  Conformity is the antithesis of what Los Angeles is.  So, the idea of Rick Caruso coming in trying to impose a singular vision of Groves all over the city is disingenuous.  It shows his complete lack of understanding of what the city is about.

I suppose it's symptomatic of the direction of architecture and urban planning.  At least, for now, historic preservation has been immune to it.  We just try to save resources and use them to their highest and best use.  The Grove is a nice place to take tourists but as an urban model, no.

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