Thesis Abstract

The Pre-Centripetal City:
The Freeway and the form of West Los Angeles

Alexander Charles Elias

Master of the Arts in Architecture
University of California, Los Angeles, 2006
Professor Dana Cuff, Chair

This thesis analyzes the transportation infrastructure and urban space of West Los Angeles and the freeway’s part in structuring it. Albert Pope’s 1996 book Ladders provides and analytical and methodological springboard for the arguments herein, which are situated in the discourse of infrastructural urbanism. The central argument of the thesis is that west Los Angeles is a Pre-centripetal city that displays the characteristics of both centrifugal and centripetal development. Inhabitation of the freeway is considered under Michael Foucault’s “three great variables” of territory, communication and speed and provides an experimental basis from which to proceed with subsequent historical and formal analyses of the area’s urban form. The adoption of the automobile was the result of the city’s dispersed form, not its cause. The fragmented street grids of west Los Angeles are evidence of its development and are the primary characteristics of the pre centripetal city. Analytic maps of the city and diagrams compliment the written analysis and development a catalogue of urban schema that contrast with those presented in Ladders and are unique to west Los Angeles. The thesis concludes by arguing that the effects of freeway construction in west Los Angeles differ from those of other American cities because of the unique physical characteristics of the city. These characteristics are specific to time as well as place, making west Los Angeles a fully-realized late 20th century American city, the experience of which is dominated by the inhabitation of its freeways.