Epidemically Everywhere and Discernible Only in Glimpses
The future of Los Angeles as imagined by architecture firms MILLIØNS, Freelandbuck, and Rios Clementi Hale Studios.
Everywhere in LA: densification. But not all uniform and abstract. In LA, different forms of density emerge in different places. As the gap between incomes and home ownership widens, various kinds of collectives, born of friendship and financial necessity, take up residence in new architecture.
In the Hills, new domestic subcollectives. Extended and malleable clans of families and friends increase the average household size by a factor of four. The old idea of defined rooms—living, dining, kitchen, etc.—gives way to a new interior landscape. A single, thermally-radiant surface with sunken conversation pits turned towards the city. Above the single ceiling surface: privacy and respite from communal life.
In the expansive Flatlands, a new kind of density takes root in a new urban form: the high-rise semi-homestead. A multigenerational, multigender, multiracial, and multiethnic collective—verging on postgender, postracial, and polyethnic—invents novel practices of economic and residential cooperation. The first architecture to fully capitalize on the sharing economy, owners and renters together subsidize their bills by managing several floors of collectively owned, short-term units for temporary occupancy by permanent nomads. Home + Housing + Hotel. Total photovoltaism. Rainwater harvesting. Distributed microagriculture. Intergenerational care and communal microfinancing. A life only partially but still meaningfully insulated from the instabilities of the outside world.
In the Canyons, new happy countercultures. Solar cults of the body, naked and centered. Intellectual cults of music and movement. Off-grid cults of shared labor and optimism. Always the site of experimental lifestyles, LA’s Canyons now give rise to semi- sufficient neomonasticisms of durability, care, and repair. Living alongside but outside mainstream culture. In place of sustainability—an idea bankrupted long ago by consumerist greenwashing—emerges a paradoxical ethic of excessive subsistence.
Throughout the entire city, a new zoning mandate replaces more traditional building codes: all new architecture must now demonstrate a clear strategy for the reception and display of moving images. Twentieth-century “air rights” rules, protecting views to the landscape, are replaced by Public Imaging Regulations ensuring views onto multi-story images. Superblock mediatheques proliferate. Cathedrals to the transmission, projection and contemplation of electronic signals. Gigantic visual rooms for a culture that no longer wants to watch, but wants to be images. Beginning at dusk, outdoor immersive environments soak rooftops and vertical surfaces in social media feeds, rendering everyday lives in widescreen Real Time. High definition, low resolution. A ray of sunshine falls onto life.
THROUGH A WINDOW - LOS ANGELES 2038 - DAY
A city familiar but different—denser, reformatted, alluring. The skyline set against the mountains, artifice eclipsed by natural uplift. Rising from backyards are microtowers, miniatures of downtown’s glass towers, diffuse and decentralized, a form of density that matches LA’s character—relaxed, informal and at ease. A slow density of accumulating rooms stack one on the next like blocks in a playful balance.
Sam, did you see our new Redfin Estimate? It’s up another $25,000!
ERIC (SAMANTHA’S PARTNER)
Wow, who would have thought that when we bought our house 5 years ago. All my friends at work can’t find anything in the neighborhood.
We were really lucky. With the cost of housing now, I don’t know how any of them will ever buy.
With this new equity, do you think we could finance construction of a rental unit?
The city is frequently the result of unplanned contingencies.
Mom called again yesterday. She left a message. Her dementia seems to be getting worse.
CAREN (RACHAEL’S SISTER)
I wish there was some way to move her to Los Angeles. She really wracked by pervasive homelessness and soaring real estate prices, a city council woman calls for a radical new housing subsidy.
HELEN (COUNCIL WOMAN)
Los Angeles can no longer evade the question of how to deal with the rising cost of housing!
Do you believe that accessory dwelling units on their own are the solution to the problem?
No, it must be accompanied by policy that recognizes the human right to shelter. And not just any shelter, but a home that extends access to the American Dream to every Angeleno.
Lotte stands at her bedroom window, looking at her empty backyard through her phone. Nico, her child who is moving away for college soon, approaches her.
NICO (COLLEGE STUDENT)
Mom, what are you filming?
LOTTE (EMPTY NESTER)
Look through my phone, I just made this little house for our yard with this app.
Are you thinking about renting out a guesthouse? It’s cute.
No, that’s where I would live. I don’t need all this space here. Renting out this big house will help pay the bills.
Aron scrolls through rental listings one last time, nothing within his price range.
I don’t see how this is ever going to work. Even if I do start driving for Uber after work, there is no way to cover the rent.
MERCE (ARON’S FRIEND)
At my place we are splitting the rent four ways, but each of us still gets a bedroom.
I can afford a small place, there just aren’t any of those on the market.
River looks down from their two-story stack in Highland Park and speaks loudly on the phone to their neighbor, Zeke.
I heard Silver Lake has a stack 4 units high. The Highland Park Neighborhood council is really pressuring the community to build one 5 boxes high to gain interest. I’m thinking about investing in a few more units.
Forget Silver Lake. In five years time, the Highland Park skyline will be nothing to sneer at. I’m thinking about adding a couple units myself.
As the sun sets, golden light pours through the windows to the cozy interior of a new microhome.
RIOS CLEMENTI HALE STUDIOS
Los Angeles is a city born out of a relationship between the wild, natural environment, and the infrastructure that supports our inhabitance of this wild urban place.
From obtaining the natural resources essential to the functioning of the city, to establishing a transportation network to carry people and goods across its wide terrain, Los Angeles has long been dependent upon public works programs to overcome the environmental and geographical challenges of its locale. As the population has exponentially grown over the past 40 years, these systems (particularly freeways) have been unable to accommodate the increase, which has resulted in impediments to connectivity. Because of this, the city operates as a series of enclaves—cities within the city—instead of a unified metropolis.
We believe we are at the beginning of anew era. Los Angeles has invested in a public transportation network that seeks to mitigate (and relieve) vehicular congestion—promising a new connectivity across the landscape. We anticipate a future where autonomous vehicles will increase traffic efficiencies (further reducing congestion), making the vast seas of parking lots and garages obsolete and opening up new territories for housing and open space.
As we imagine this future, we can also imagine a city in which the infrastructure of roads and freeways softens, allowing for the re-emergence of the wild back into the city fabric. Streets, acting as channelized waterways that carry stormwater to the ocean, are transformed into naturalized bioswales that enhance infiltration, replenish the aquifers, and serve to mitigate the effect of debris flows in neighborhoods at risk of mudslides following the seasonal fire-then-flood cycles. The city, then, becomes a vast network of linear parks and habitat corridors—connecting the ‘flats’ of the city with the terrain of the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains.
We imagine new ecological corridors traversing and connecting communities that have historically been park-starved, providing much needed open space and tempering the environment by reducing the heat island effect. Simultaneously, these spaces provide opportunities for a network of community gardens to support wellness and healthy living in neighborhoods that have typically had limited access to healthy food options.
Our future LA imagines an urban landscape that, rather than resisting the natural environment and utilizing infrastructure to keep it at bay, coexists with its wilderness, fusing cultural, environmental, and biological systems into a synergistic network that enhances the lives of the people, fauna, and creatures that inhabit it, serving as a new sustainable model for living in the urban wild.