Reading L.A.: The Los Angeles Times Takes On The Literature Of L.A.’s Architecture & Urbanism Throughout 2011

Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne has announced a new year-long project titled “Reading L.A.”

Esther McCoy's 1960 work: Five California Architects, a selection for February

Each month, Hawthorne will be examining Los Angeles through the lens of classic writing in the fields of Southern California architecture and urbanism.

He states the goal of Reading L.A. is to “discover new ways to think and write about the city as the urban landscape grows more crowded and our definitions of community, mobility and architectural innovation continue to shift.”

Another goal of this project is to simply fix a spotlight on the city and keep it there for a full 12 months.

Hawthorne writes that “compared with other American cities, Los Angeles has never been particularly interested in examining or talking about itself…

But as L.A. lurches toward a denser future, one where complete anonymity will perhaps be tougher to find, it faces a number of fundamental decisions about what kind of place it wants to be.  In that context, its determined refusal to look closely at itself can be a major liability.”

His selections are arranged chronologically, with this month’s titles, Louis Adamic’s The Truth About Los Angeles and Morrow Mayo’s Los Angeles, from 1927 and 1933 respectively.

From there, his selections for February  jump immediately to Carey McWilliams’ 1946 classic Southern California: An Island On The Land and 1960’s Five California Architects by Esther McCoy.

Although the selections for March through December were published since the 1960s, the subject matter covered therein does have roots in earlier times.

Hise & Deverell's Eden By Design, scheduled for review and discussion in September

We’re particularly looking forward to September’s discussion of Greg Hise and William Deverell’s marvelous 2000 work titled Eden By Design: The 1930 Omsted-Bartholomew Plan For The Los Angeles Region.

Hawthorne points out that some of the works are difficult (if not impossible) to find, but many of them are available through the Los Angeles Public Library. (Link to their online public catalog here).

Most of these selections can be found in The Metro Transportation Library collection as well.

We’re very interested to watch not only how this project progresses, but the ensuing discussion that will come out of his essays and reactions to them.

You can follow the project on the L.A. Times website’s Culture Monster section via the Reading L.A. heading, as well as Hawthorne’s Twitter feed with the hash-tag #readingLA.