Sidney Architecture undergraduate, Georgemma Hunt, tells us about her trip to Los Angeles last year to research the impact of the Hollywood film industry on the city's global identity and its urban development in the last century.
This September I spent a month in Los Angeles where I began researching the impact of the Hollywood film industry on the city’s global identity and its urban development in the last century. I used this time to explore the city as much as I could and to visit as many different neighbourhoods as possible. Each exploration helped me to gather a much deeper understanding of how complex and multi-faceted the city really is.
The film ‘L.A. Plays Itself’ was a helpful starting point and encouraged me to refine my visual analysis of the city and to photograph any physical signs of the film industry within the urban fabric. I am particularly interested in the contrast between the so-called ‘Californian Dream’ and the high percentage of homelessness that can be found all throughout the city. Downtown L.A. is a key example of a city district that displays both extreme wealth and extreme poverty in direct juxtaposition. My walk from the ‘Financial District’ in Downtown towards the ‘Arts District’, an area that has been heavily gentrified in the last few decades, required walking a couple of blocks through ‘Skid Row.’ With tents lining both sides of the pavement, this was an extremely hostile environment wedged directly in between two very affluent areas of the city. It amazed me that these polar opposite conditions could exist in such close proximity. As I reached the end of this tented community and approached the beginning of the ‘Arts District,’ the first shop I came across was a recycled clothing store selling a dress for over $2500. How can these social distinctions exist so plainly despite no physical boundaries in place? Continuing my walk through the area, I noticed an armed cyclist with a uniform reading ‘Safety Team.’ It turns out that the Arts District charges occupants additional fees to pay for such security services in order to ‘deter crime.’ This is just one example of many that proves the reason for this constantly changing identity within a seemingly monotonous, sprawling city.
I also met with Ramsey Avery, a renowned Production Designer, to talk about the American film industry and his role more generally. This interview not only taught me about the requirements necessary to be a production designer in Los Angeles, but also that Hollywood had faced a significant decrease in demand in recent years and now was slowly on the rise again.
With all of the above in mind, I aim to continue this area of research through the analysis of films and relevant artists’ work discovered during my trip. I will analyse the impact of the film industry on the current architectural identity of the city as well as look at possible comparisons for future solutions to achieve a more balanced and connected identity.
Written by Georgemma Hunt
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