L.A. Under The Influence: The Hidden Logic Of Urban Property

In the American city, property rights involve not one but numerous stakeholders, some connected to the parcel by title and others through less formal arrangements, whether political, economic, or cultural.

Negotiations between these stakeholders over the use of property are frequently complicated, even convoluted.

In L.A. Under The Influence: The Hidden Logic Of Urban Property, author Roger Sherman contends that it is these negotiations, rather than more commonly accepted factors like history, symbolism, and planning, that not only shape a city but also influence the development of its smallest common increment: the individual parcel.

Through a series of case studies in Los Angeles, Sherman applies game theory to scrutinize the behavior of these intersecting private and public interests, revealing an alternative logic of architectural composition.

Making extensive use of diagrams, photographs, and a range of negotiation models employed within game theory, including pecking order, negotiated access, multilateral exchange, and tit for tat, he identifies the characteristic features and behaviors of this new spatial logic.

For Sherman, these models offer an exciting new role for architecture in urban planning and design.

Sherman urges architects to utilize design strategy as a means of mediating between the various stakeholders involved in a project, identifying and creating affiliations between otherwise conflicting interests.

The architect’s willingness to engage with these negotiations, he argues, has the potential to produce formally and spatially audacious projects as well as recover the social and political relevance of architecture itself.

Roger Sherman is director of Roger Sherman Architecture and Urban Design and adjunct associate professor of architecture and urban design at UCLA, where he also is codirector of cityLAB, a think tank studying contemporary urbanism and its implications for architecture.