A talk on Los Angeles and the Swiss “Horizontal Metropolis”

On September 20, 2017, I was invited by Paola Viganò’s Lab-U urbanism team to give a talk on Los Angeles and Switzerland at the EPFL (Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne). The talk was one among various contributions gathered for the “Bernardo Secchi Day 2017,” organized annually by Paola and her team in memory of the late, great Italian architect, urbanist, and engineer Bernardo Secchi (1934-2014). The topic of the 2017 edition was “The urbanism of hope,” and you can see the whole program by clicking here.

My talk re-cast, in more condensed form, the one I had presented on July 19, 2017 at the Los Angeles Ecovillage. Here is the link to the video along with the slides:


Sitting in at my presentation was Matthew Skjonsberg, a Wisconsin-born architect and urban designer who was just finishing his PhD at Paola’s Lab-U. Part of Matthew’s more recent doctoral research has been about L.A. and the civic movements currently endeavoring to resurrect the Olmsted park-system plan of the late 1920s as well as, among others, the California Cycleway which around 1899 promised to connect Los Angeles and Pasadena but was never finished. Although I didn’t talk about those elements in my presentation, we agreed during the after-conference time that we should merge our perspectives in order to write an essay on how both Switzerland’s urban tradition and L.A.’s recent rediscovery of its urban past can offer new hope for a – seemingly – desperately sprawling metropolis. During December, 2017 and January, 2018 Matthew and I sat together and wrote a joint essay entitled “A civic hope: From Lausanne to Los Angeles” which, we hope, will soon appear in the conference volume.


A now defunct warehouse in the Malley suburb of Lausanne

Along with Matthew’s PhD supervisor, Elena Cogato Lanza from Lab-U, we are hoping to create an exhibition about the Lausanne–Los Angeles axis, highlighting many of Matthew’s important research findings on civic design and park systems, and showcasing a number of fascinating archive discoveries he made recently. It should be up by next fall, along with a symposium on metropolization, horizontality, civic design, and the future of L.A.

Stay tuned…


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One thought on “A talk on Los Angeles and the Swiss “Horizontal Metropolis”

  1. Los Angeles and Lausanne potentially have lots to learn from each other — Los Angeles could benefit from Lausanne’s canny ability to keep large patches of forest and park close to the city centre and its suburbs, and Lausanne could learn how to have more popular arts-oriented urban spaces, such as Leimart Park (http://www.leimertparkvillage.org) — and maintain them year-round, not just in summer. Integrating culture and nature in people-oriented public spaces. Anyway, the utopian/archival project you two are working on is timely and intriguing. I’m staying tuned in for more …

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