The Public Interest

L.A. Freeway: The Automotive Basilica

Christopher Knight

Winter 1984

THESE cliches form the popular image of Los Angeles: endless sunshine, Hollywood magic, and alluring cars. Together, this trinity conjures a picture of paradise, of the good life-sun-soaked beaches, backyards and barbecues, the icy glamour of klieg lights and the jitter of instant fame, status sensuality at 55 mph on an endless ribbon of freeway. Every heaven must have its hell, though, and L.A.’s is painted as a raging inferno of sun-baked brains, cheap dreams perpetually shattered, and overheated traffic jams.  This image of L.A. as a Boschian garden of earthly delights has long been a fixture of our popular culture. Rarely are any of its features the subject of lucid examination. However, David Brodsly’s L.A. Freeway: An Appreciative Essay gives us the most profound analysis of its subject since Reyner Banham’s Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies. In the process, the cliche of an automobile culture is restored to its proper place as a vivid California icon.

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