City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

(Photos and links to follow)

Day four of Postopolis! LA. All is going well. Over halfway through.

I have to buy a camera battery charger, and after a bit of research I head out to the quite wonderful Samy’s camera shop in Fairfax. Four floors stuffed with Hasselblads, Leicas, Nikons, books, software, film, paper, specialist services and knowledgeable staff. Nearby a Whole Foods supermarket is fairly extraordinary – busy, and full of organic, locally-sourced food, though not exactly at low, low prices. There’s a small recycling facility outside, and a few bikes, yet part of the real     footprint of the store is visible in the form of the large car-park outside. This all needs fixing (ideally by a smart home delivery network of grocery boys and girls, on bikes laden with sensors.) I’m particularly taken by the giant rusting arms which hoist billboards in to the sky. There are a few signs of closed shops here, and several of the billboard arms stand there empty, as if giant hands plaintively stretching up into the blue sky.

I catch the bus back from Fairfax, which drives along the vast 3rd Avenue, first past wide palm-lined streets of mansions, and then through Latino suburbs emblazoned with fabulous vernacular typography. The bus rides here are great, each a kind of moving census.

Earlier that day, I’d wandered around the quite unique Bradbury Building. As a tourist in Downtown, it’s near obligatory. It’s pretty special, though I was also taken by a ziggurat-like modernist block opposite, ‘The Angelus Plaza’, which turned out to be housing for senior citizens. Next to the Angel’s Flight funicular up to MOCA and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, those oldies – or “elders”, as they quaintly call them here, as if we are forest-folk – sure are lucky. Even better, they’re opposite the fantastic Grand Central Market.

As good as Whole Foods is, I much prefer this market. Described as ‘European-style market’ – which presumably means it’s not to be confused as a supermarket – It’s the real thing alright. As I’ve mentioned here before, I think public markets tell you a lot about the city, whether that’s a chic array of fresh flowers and furry chestnuts for the well-heeled of Zürich’s Burkliplatz, or the fresh fish, coffee and newspapers at Seattle’s Pike Place, or the lush produce for foodies at Melbourne's Victoria Market, or the bustling modernista Bocqueria in Barcelona’s Ramblas. Or best of all, the Mercat Santa Caterina in Barcelona, which combines ancient civic function with contemporary architecture by EMTB (see related entries one and two).

This one isn’t quite in the class as the Santa Caterina, but has the heritage (relatively) and is certainly full of life. The food itself sketches a picture of LA, comprised primarily of Latino and Chinese offerings. It’s all mariscos and tacos and beans and chop suey and chow mein. It’s busy too, the polyglot chatter providing another informal census. I could spend hours here, people-watching.

Yesterday’s overcast conditions prove to be a blip in a week of warm spring-into-summer sunshine during the day, clear blue skies that will later magic away the day’s heat from our base-camp pitched halfway up the LA skyline. It gets cold early and stays there, but we decide to stay up there too, all night. The rooftop location is an integral part of this particular Postopolis! experience. Amazingly many people stay out all night too, so thanks for the hardy denizens of LA for this.

Standout talks for me tonight are by the LAPD’s Chief of Counter-Terrorism Michael Downing, SINTRA’s Bryan Boyer, Stamen’s Eric Rodenbeck, Matthew Coolidge of the Centre for Land-Use Interpretation, and Christopher Hawthorne of the LA Times. It’s a very strong, varied line-up tonight. The contrast between the last session of the previous day (Mike the Poet) and the start of this one (the LAPD’s Downing) could not be stronger. This exemplifies Postopolis! to me; that we can have such a breadth of speakers – both articulate, informed and deeply concerned with the urban landscape of LA, in their own very different ways – and in a near-continuous flow which is appropriately disjunctive given the city, yet with hidden or oblique connections waiting to be uncovered (credit to Bryan Finoki, who happened to invite both.)

As weekend is approaching, the bar over the other side of the building kicks into party mode, and the music bounces around the corners of the Standard in our direction, the skyscrapers around us forming a kind of resonant chamber. During Fallen Fruit’s talk, 'Don't Stop Till You Get Enough' briefly spills out directly over us from a speaker mounted on the wall we're projecting onto, bringing a temporary halt to proceedings. Regine has head in hands, though everyone takes it in good humour, some even throwing a few shapes. After a word from Joseph Grima, the Postopolis!-side speaker falls silent again. (Though “You can be my lucky star” drifts across later on …)

The wi-fi is not holding up well to the demands of Postopolis!, though to be fair we are streaming the events to hundreds of people directly over the hotel’s internet connection. I’m also uploading a few hundred 4mb photos per day, as are others. Cesar, Jose, Ferris and the Storefront crew do a fantastic job in lashing all the equipment together with numbed fingers, particularly as two DV cameras have inexplicably burned out in the last day alone. We end up streaming via a MacBook’s in-built camera, propped in front of the speakers, connected directly over the side of the building to an ethernet socket in a hotel room about 4 floors below. Notes to follow.


2 responses to “Postopolis! LA, day four / Los Angeles”

  1. Sheona Avatar

    What a wonderful account of everyday transactions. On the touristic, I well remember my first physical encounter with the Bradbury building … after seeing it cinematically (unconsciously) in Bladerunner (1983/4?)…LEARNING about it in Brit’s lectures [along with the wonderful Arthur and Nina Zwebel courtyard houses, and the work of Julia Morgan] (1985) … and finally getting to it in person in 1991. Super!


  2. regine Avatar

    i wonder if ‘European-style market’ doesn’t just mean a bit chaotic and un-polished. i remember being told that in san diego they call “European-style room’ in cheap hotels the rooms that have no bathrooms.
    always enjoy reading your postopolis stories btw


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