It has always been thus. LA. Two simple letters that instantly evoke a fantasyland on America’s left coast. At a recent lecture presented at the LA public library, I was apprised on just how elemental this concept has been throughout our history. Of particular interest was the idea that, unlike Las Vegas, themed environments were interwoven into the very fabric of the city’s identity. That is to say, themed environments were not simply relegated to leisure or entertainment venues, they are our houses, restaurants, workplaces, etc. Hollywood and Art Direction are inseparable from the parent entity, Los Angeles. The lecture was punctuated with a photo of the Hollywood sign with a giant Oscar being hauled above it by helicopter – recalling the giant airborne Christ statue in La Dolce Vita, the photo was used to suggest that Los Angeles itself is one colossal themed environment.
ADG members take note: the lecture mentions one of our own, Harry Oliver, many times as an influence. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if any of his work bubbles to the surface as the ADG archives take flight. Additionally of interest, our archivist told me that the presenters have been invited to repeat the lecture at the ADG in the near future. I dearly hope they accept, and if so, I highly recommend you attend. My posting here of the audio is no substitute for the visual presentation, which is rich with fascinating images. Who says we have no culture in LA – pshhhht.
From The organizers:
Most cities build monuments out of stone, Los Angeles builds them out of fantasies. From backlots to theme parks, L.A. has long been a city of imaginary worlds. There are Mayan temples that show movies, cruise liners that bottle Coca-Cola, and Babylonian palaces that manufacture tires. Join Zed Adams and Eric Lynxwiler on a tour of faux reality, as they chronicle the history of one of L.A.’s most distinctive contributions to 20th century architecture and design: the themed environment. Drawing upon the photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library, they guide you through the history of Angelenos living, working, and playing in a city of fakes.