monuments and palm trees

In Learning from Las Vegas, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s 1968 study and revindication of American commercial vernacular architecture, the architects claimed, for that oft-maligned landscape, a new monumentality. The Las Vegas Strip, the gas station, and the billboard were not eyesores to be eliminated or ignored but rather the harbingers of a new urbanism, of a new age of architectural symbolism. “Gas stations are all right,” they claimed. (p. 35)

The palm trees in particular, signifiers of Los Angeles’s good climate and good life, part of “nature,” but purposely inserted into the city’s built environment, are the most potent condensers of some sort of essence for the city. Consider Reyner Banham’s observation [in Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies]: “Here on Slauson Avenue, or Rosecrans or the endless mileage of Imperial Highway, little beyond the occasional palm tree distinguishes the townscape from that of Kansas City or Indianapolis.” (pp. 41-42)

“Monuments and Mediocrity: Landmarking Los Angeles” by Mariana Mogilevich in Future Anterior: Journal of Historic Preservation, History, Theory, and Criticism, v. 11, n. 1

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