Skip to content

A Genealogy of Los Angeles Futures

Beginning in the 1930s and extended through the 1970s (with outliers) Los Angeles experienced a drastic expansion in the aeronautics industry in both military and corporate terms. Los Angeles also saw rapid growth that shaped its urban center and created the vast network of suburban communities that characterize the surrounding areas. Tensions arose between the utopian visions of technological development, single family homes, a seemingly never ending capacity for expansion, and the threats of environmental degradation, reconstituted communities and impending nuclear disaster.

[still from Kenneth Anger’s film Lucifer Rising]

These tensions can be seen in each of four Omeka exhibits created as a final project for DH 101 in the fall of 2012 at UCLA. The exhibits cover architectural design, the rise of the aeronautics industry, the state of mass transit planning and implementation and the rise of several homegrown spiritual and religious movements.

Past Visions of Transit Futures

My contribution to this project focused on policy dreams of mass transit. While the last of Pacific Electric’s rail lines were being overtaken by weeds, Los Angeles planners turned to several clever new technologies for solving the problem of LA’s over-reliance on the automobile: monorail, steam buses, subways, underground buses, the people mover. Los Angeles was actually never at a loss for ideas and grand proposals for a future of fluid mobility. But it couldn’t seem to make the ideas stick, despite a growing consciousness of environmental impact.

This project created an Omeka exhibit to present historic sources of some of the more ambitious schemes to solve LA’s addiction to hotrods and highways, expressed both as pictographic displays and detailed planning documents. All documents came from the Dorothy Peyton Gray Transportation Library maintained by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (commonly called Metro).

[1960 Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority Rapid Transit Program 4]

[Transportation Technology Incorporated People Mover]

Credits: Dan Phipps, Morgan Currie, Claire Moler and Stacy Wood. Advisors to this project: Professor Johanna Drucker and David Kim.