Nick Hackworth

How Modern Architecture Lost its Way in L.A.

Essays & Reviews Newsweek

"I, who live in Los Angeles and not in London / Find, on thinking about Hell, that it must be / Still more like Los Angeles.” So wrote a gloomy Bertolt Brecht from his rather comfortable exile in Santa Monica.

Fascinating, significant, and flawed, Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940–1990—the first serious museum show to survey the growth of L.A.’s built environment—explicitly sets out to contradict the generic perception of the city as an incomprehensible, chaotic, and hellish sprawl. Instead, it argues persuasively that as the first modern and widely decentralized city in America, L.A. represents a new paradigm, one that has long been “a laboratory of cutting-edge innovation and planning in architecture and design,” where the future is constantly reimagined and articulated in physical form.

Which future and imagined by whom, however, prove to be salient questions.