Are Brussels and Los Angeles Sister Cities?

I’m not going to stretch the similarities between the two (very different) cities, but I read an article today that suggested they are at least encountering similar challenges. Both Brussels and Los Angeles experienced post-WWII sprawl-booms, both saw their central city empty and deteriorate as the moneyed sought the urban fringe, and both are now considering ways to unify dissimilar built environments inhabited by a plurality of ethnicities and micro-cultures. Both are cities of neighborhoods—how to unify without destroying? Both play larger roles on the global stage than the urban experience they offer suggests. Both are more car-centric than is good for them.

Shovels have apparently already hit the ground in Los Angeles to begin the construction of a true Central Park, downtown, on a sloping parcel at the foot of Frank Gehry’s iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall. And a public-private-partnership, in which the Concert Hall would take over management (and programming) of the park, is supposedly in the works.

I thought of Brussels when I read the article, in part because I was also wading through the reader for European Urban Studies and had recently finished an article by Eric Corijn that proffered Parc Leopold as the central focus of a reworked European Quarter in Brussels, and in part because the designers in Los Angeles had to consider (and incorporate) the fact that 92 languages are spoken in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Without knowing what the future holds, I envision eventually returning to Los Angeles to work in (some aspect of) urban planning. I just had no idea that such direct similarities exist between my former home and my current one.

Here’s the article:

{from; by Adam E. Anderson}

[Image by Douglas Jamieson / June 23, 2010]

Having spent several years in the LA area, one of my proudest achievements was eventually being somewhat able to navigate the cluster f*ck of traffic and sprawl of its satellite cities. That’s not to say I don’t love LA, but the city is hard to define exactly where IT rests. After 5pm little (in LA standards) takes places minus the isolated events of Staples, small venue concerts like the Wiltern, or the Disney Concert Hall. The rest of the action is scattered about the 110, 5, and 405 in the towns of the likes of Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice, etc.

[Image via Rios Clementi Hale Studios]

A quicker then the city could handle boom after WWII sent the city in a spiraling sprawl, and with the addition of poor planning left the city with essentially no core, no public transit, and no parks.

So it is encouraging to see such a focus of urban development taking place in what might the most challenging city to do it in, but I might also add with the most opportunity. We wrote last week about the Wilmington Park under construction, and this week highlight even a grander attempt at unifying the city core, the downtown Civic Park project. keep reading at


This entry was posted in architecture, Culture, How We Build, Placemaking, urban design, What if?. Bookmark the permalink.

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