Going Infrastructural | #mammothbook

What do we see when thinking about Los Angeles? Are we visualizing The great American gizmo described by Banhamas the city where you can get by without any infrastructure… it is independent of any physical or social infrastructure beyond that by which it may be ordered from catalogue and delivered to its prospective user.” Well, according to Kazys Varnelis, Los Angeles is The Infrastructural City.

Sam Jacob wrote in his review:

Just as Denise Scott Brown took Robert Venturi to the extreme of Vegas in order to understand the generic issues of cars and the landscape, Varnelis take us to LA in order to understand the issues of the Networked urbanism as it applies everywhere. In extremis, we see infrastructure not simply as the servicing of urban fabric, but an active element in the making of contemporary urban-ness. Here, the gas pipe is as important as the piazza, drainage channels become a new kind of agora.

In a really interesting and motivating initiative, our friends from mammoth will be coordinating an online discussion of The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles (edited by Kazys Varnelis and published last year by Actar), as an experiment in the cooperative reading and discussion of a text.

As Varnelis explains in the introduction to The Infrastructural City, Los Angeles is perhaps the American city most fully indebted to infrastructure for its existence and survival and he quotes Banham, who wrote in 1971, in his book Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies:

Conventional standards of planning do not work in Los Angeles it feels more natural (I put it no stronger than that) to leave the effective planning of the area to the mechanisms that have already given the city its present character: the infrastructure to giant agencies like the Division of Highways and the Metropolitan Water District and their like; the intermediate levels of management to the subdivision and zoning ordinances; the detail decisions to local and private initiatives; with ad hoc interventions by city, State, and pressure-groups formed to agitate over matters of clear and present need.

If this is still not enough to join the group, please note that the so-called “club” will work as described at mammoth’s post:

“For each of the twelve chapters, mammoth will post a piece summarizing and commenting on that chapter as a conversation starter, but we hope that a rich discussion will spiral out from that central hub, through comments, through other participating blogs [currently including mammoth, faslanyc, free association design, Nam Henderson, Andrew and Peter of the polis blog, quiet babylon and us, dpr-barcelona] – we’ll provide links to posts at other blogs discussing each chapter as they’re posted], and into other corners of the internet (twitter, etc.). To that end, participation in this discussion — this “book club” — is open to any and all interested readers. In order to join us, all you need is a copy of The Infrastructural City, a bit of time to read along, and an interest in discussing landscape, architecture, and infrastructure.”

Discussion on the first chapter, “Owens Lake”, will start on Monday, April 26th, in order to give all interested persons an opportunity to pick up the book and join the group before the discussion gets started. After that, we’ll be discussing one chapter a week, taking a break on every fourth week. You can take a look at the schedule here.

Finally, If you’re using twitter, you can follow the conversation, announcements, and so on using the hashtag #mammothbook and join the “twub” that was created for easy following the conversation.

Some shots of the book:


You can read some reviews of The Infrastructural City at Places Journal, Archidose, and We Make Money Not Art and Design Observer.


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