Treehuggers

Warren Techentin was invited to participate in The Infrastructural City: Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles, a book Kazys Varnelis was editing which compiled articles by a number of commentators who each were asked to re-look at Los Angeles through the lens of Reynar Banham’s Los Angeles: The Architecture of the Four Ecologies. Varnelis asked the participants to examine the city through its proliferation of infrastructures as the best way to understand Los Angeles or perhaps any city. 

Varnelis states on his website varnelis.net that “Modern architecture was obsessed with infrastructure. It served as the basis upon which modernism could realize its plans. The greatest American example of a modern city served by infrastructure, Los Angeles is an ideal case study. Today however, Los Angeles is in perpetual crisis. Infrastructure has ceased to support architecture's plans for the city. Instead, it subordinates architecture to its own purposes. The city we uncovered is a series of networked ecologies, complex interlinked hybrid systems composed of natural, artificial, and social elements, capable of feedback not only within themselves but between each other.”

Treehuggers looks at the network of trees in Los Angeles as not merely an element of beautification — as they have been typically used — but as a strategically deployed infrastructure enlisted by boosters, cinema, media, government agencies, and real estate developers to transform the dusty grasslands and scrub-brush of the Los Angeles basin into an exotic, luxurious landscape to insure its on-going growth and legitimization. Moreover, the article looks at how trees themselves have developed networks and communities of their own — deeply enmeshed in arguments being made for the emergence of sustainable cities, enshrined in codes seeking to preserve neighborhoods from losing their character, and sacrificed in ritual fits of vigilante violence whether to rectify perceived property rights or express one’s rage with the city. 

Click here for an excerpt of Treehuggers.

See a review of the book at The Los Angeles Times.

Additional discussions of the essay can be found at these blogs: mammothdpr-Barcelona blog, and thoughts on everything...