A visit to Los Angeles reveals a city of contradictions and extremes. *
“Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.” Frank Lloyd Wright
Earlier this year I decided to take a trip to Los Angeles. There wasn’t one specific reason as to why I decided to go but the combination of architecture, film history, culture and the fact that I havent been to California since I was 5 all seemed good enough. I went with many preconceived notions of what L.A. was about. Hollywood, sprawl, smog, gangs, homelessness and celebrity all came to mind. I left with a great appreciation for the city and everything that goes along with it, both good and bad.
Using AirBnB I was able to find a cheap but really nice apartment in the middle of Hollywood. Staying in Hollywood sounds like the typical tourist thing to do but it was centrally located between Downtown and Santa Monica. This cut down on the amount of time I spent using public transportation. I also walked as much as I could. Because L.A. is so large and spread out, I devoted a day to each area I was interested in seeing.
Day 1 – Hollywood, Hollywood Hills and Griffith Park
Some words that come to mind to describe my first impressions of Hollywood are “cheesy” and “dirty”. It was filled with lots of horrible little souvenir stores and a ton of homeless people. Once I got past that, I started to notice all of the things that made this such a magical place in the 40’s 50’s and 60’s. There are some great art deco buildings along with some of the more famous Hollywood landmarks. And even the Walk of Fame won me over. The Hollywood Hills and Griffith park were beautiful and interesting to explore. The Griffith Observatory was one of the highlights of my visit and offered some of the best views of the city. I also stopped by the Ennis House by Frank Lloyd Wright which might be one of my favorite buildings he has done besides the Robie House and The Unity Temple in Chicago. I ended the day at a Dodgers Game.
Day 2 – Downtown Los Angeles and Echo Park
L.A. has a very efficient and clean subway system which is impressive compared to how crowded the city seems. It got me from my apartment to downtown in 15 minutes. L.A.’s downtown is a mix of great old buildings and anywhere USA skyscrapers. The Los Angeles City Hall was amazing with great views from the observation deck. Another highlight was the Bradbury Building, whose atrium was famously used in the film Bladerunner. The Walt Disney Concert Hall (architect: Frank Ghery), Caltrans District 7 (architect: Morphosis) and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (architect: Rafael Moneo) were all impressive. I noticed while walking around downtown that I recognized a lot of it from various movies and tv shows which was kind of strange. Echo Park was great for people watching and pretty relaxing. I’m a huge fan of the movie Chinatown so I found it cool to hang out where part of it was filmed.
Day 3 – More Hollywood, Beverly Hills and The Eames House
Walking through Hollywood in the morning was actually quite peaceful. I was able to stop by Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and see the famous hand prints in the courtyard without a ton of people walking all over them. I continued on to Beverly Hills and then to The Eames House in the Pacific Palisades. This was another highlight of my trip. I had seen many pictures and read all about the Eames House over the years but actually seeing it in person made me appreciate it and Charles and Ray Eames even more. The house which is refered to as Case Study House #8 lies on a bluff surrounded by trees overlooking a meadow and the Pacific Ocean. The House itself was amazing and made even more so by the fact that it has remained undisturbed since Ray Eames died in 1988. Seeing the house gives you an immediate sense of the Eames themselves. They were pioneers of modern design and balanced that with playful curiosity, all of which is evident upon visiting the house. It was very picturesque and I would move in tomorrow.
Day 4 – The Getty Center and UCLA
The Getty Center (architect: Richard Meier) was massive and a bit overwhelming. I could have spent a few days there. Alone the buildings that make up the Getty Center probably would not leave a huge impression on me, however, as a campus they are extrordinary. The grounds were beautiful and the views were even more so. After the Getty I visited UCLA and just walked around for a while. Since school had not started yet the campus was pretty silent. Like downtown Los Angeles, UCLA is the college you see in every Hollywood movie. I found much of it instantly recognizable without having been there before.
Day 5 – LACMA
My flight did not leave until 10pm that night so I spent half the day at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It is a collection of 5 or 6 separate buildings devoted to different periods. I spent most of my time in the modern art gallery and was also able to see a special exhibit on Van Gogh. I then took a look at the La Brea Tar Pits which were right next door.
To me Los Angeles is a city of contradictions and extremes. In between all of the sight seeing I saw things I will probably never forget for better or worse. Seeing the waves crashing on the beach from the Eames House will always be linked to seeing a nearly naked, homeless woman eating food off the ground. Every time I think of how relaxing and beautiful Echo Park was I will also think of the filthy guy relieving himself in the middle of it. While walking through neighborhoods with multi-million dollar homes it was hard to imagine that only a few miles away were areas with some of the highest crime rates in the country. While it is true that homelessness, crime and poverty can be found in all major metropolitan areas, the contradictions of Los Angeles seem to be more out in the open. It was this mix of glamour and grittiness that made Los Angeles one of the most interesting and vibrant cities I have ever visited. The further I get away from my experience the more I realize that I want to go back.
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* This post was written by Peyton