By request from one of my students and another professor in the department I have organized a day trip to Los Angeles for my course on LA Art and Architecture. In the morning, we will tour the Neutra VDL house and after lunch, in a classic Googie style diner, we will be guided on a public art and architecture tour by the ever-most talented, witty, and knowledgeable, me.
Ha, ha, okay so yes, I jest. Last year we did a similar trip and were led by a guide from the LA Conservancy. Not that the tour was terrible or anything, but our tour guide basically gave us the facts: this person built this, on this day, in this style, and this is the story, blah, blah, blah. And yes, the facts are important, but I want my students to think more imaginatively and critically about the design of downtown LA. I don't want them to simply memorize buildings, they can do that from reading a textbook. I want them to think about how it feels to be a pedestrian in downtown Los Angeles, what the terrain feels like, how the city changes from the Diamond district to Bunker Hill, etc. And most importantly, I want them to think about the relationship between public and private space. How are relationships of power, communicated through building design, public art commissions, and outdoor seating arrangements? Yes, I will point out to the them the important sculptures and tell them who the artists are, but since we are actually going to be in the city and out of the classroom I want them to do more than go on a passively guided tour of the city. I want them to go on an actively guided tour of the city, and engage with the city on a grander scale.