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Brent Dickerson: An Editorial

A Walk in Downtown


It's not often that a person has an opportunity simply to wander around pondering some part of the city for a few hours. The opportunity came my way last Sunday; and I strolled back and forth between the old Plaza and the Music Center a few times, taking in the sights, the people, the atmosphere on a drizzly Palm Sunday, calling to mind as I went along what various present sites represented to Angelenos in the past. There was a beauty to seeing the palm-bearing faithful crowding our cozy old Plaza Church and its environs and then, across the great gulf of the freeway, to see their spiritual devotion reflected by the even greater crowds in the spacious but embracing mass of the new cathedral. If only there would be some appropriate attraction to keep these many church-goers in downtown and enjoying themselves after services! But, most particularly at the Cathedral, almost everyone simply goes down to his or her car and drives away. After exploring the nooks and crannies of the Cathedral, I went on to lunch at Otto's under the Music Center--alone there, almost!--as I wanted to continue onwards to assess Disney Hall.

Those who know how I feel about the "old" buildings of Los Angeles' history--most on newdowntown (Yahoo Groups) have perhaps endured looking at a bit of my site on "A Visit to Old Los Angeles"--might anticipate that I would be horrified by the aesthetic of Disney Hall as contrasted with the look of the remaining old buildings in downtown from a hundred years ago or nearly. Not at all! While the old portions of Broadway or Spring may just look homogeneously old to some, in reality the many different designs of what are now "small" buildings strive with each other for our attention and create a remarkable visual dynamism; for me, Disney Hall renews this feeling of dynamism, in setting itself off also setting off the buildings around it--in giving us a relief from modern straight lines and upended shoebox buildings it renews the vitality of those self-same straight streamlined lines and upended shoebox buildings, meantime, in doing all that, reminding one of the old generation of beaux-arts etc. with their own decorated and much interrupted lines. And so I say that Disney Hall fits in as a positive, characteristic, and unifying force in the overall look of downtown. Downtown is not a museum either of steel-and-glass nor of plaster cherubs and concrete swags just as Angelenos themselves are not, and have never been, a homogeneous set of one culture or another. Our forte and dynamic are those of diversity and the yeasty ferment of different elements inter-reacting as they do nowhere else; let our streetscape show this as our people show it.

Downtown looked crisp and clean last Sunday. Those other pedestrians I came across on the streets had the open, proud looks of good citizens; those I spoke to showed the traditional friendliness which Southern Californians were once celebrated for--it lies just under the surface, that's my opinion. Our pueblo had a hopeful air of anticipation and potentiality on the streets that Palm Sunday. Let us keep that optimism; we have good reason for it.

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Editorial by: Brent Dickerson


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