"UNFIT: Los Angeles and the Empty Glass Box," Thresholds (2016). With Dana Cuff.

Many U.S. cities have had their downtown areas fall into this kind of desuetude [as in Los Angeles], and have made equally irrelevant attempts to revitalize them, but in none of the others does one have quite such a strong feeling that this is where the action cannot possibly be. —Reyner Banham

When Arthur Erickson’s second California Plaza building opened with fanfare in 1992, its fifty-two floors were seventy percent vacant, and the rest of central Los Angeles’s commercial real estate was one quarter empty as well. It was patently clear that the modernist office tower was no longer fit for work in Los Angeles. As a product of managerial capitalism and a tool for organizing work-time and work-space, the monofunctional office tower stood as an icon of downtown knowledge work and as a distinct signifier of the “organization man,” whose work life was separate from his leisure time and domestic life at home in the suburbs. The glass boxes that rose between the 1960s and 1990s sought to upgrade Los Angeles’s image as a modern city modeled on its more respected sisters: New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. In the post-war period, “virtually every high-rise office building in Los Angeles was designed in some version of modernism,” and the towers built were more imitative than distinguished, less numerous than the capacity of the center-city land cleared for development, and yet more voluminous than the demand for office space...

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 An excerpt from a 1937 “Hollywood Starland” map encapsulates the leisure lifestyle of Los Angeles at its zenith. Source: Library of Congress.

An excerpt from a 1937 “Hollywood Starland” map encapsulates the leisure lifestyle of Los Angeles at its zenith. Source: Library of Congress.