Everyone is talking about Never Built: Los Angeles, the new exhibit that just opened at the A+D Museum, because it's thrilling and sad and really fun (assuming you're an LA nerd, which we're assuming you are). The tour through dozens of gamechanging projects that could've been built in LA, but weren't, shows just how much vision there is for the city (some good, some bad), and also how easy it is to snuff vision out here. The show--put together by Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin, and designed by Clive Wilkinson Architects--features projects that would've seriously altered LA (or parts of LA) as we know it: a comprehensive subway system, a vast(er) freeway network, a thorough parks network, a nature center in Griffith Park designed by John Lautner, Disneyland in Burbank, a manmade island off the coast of Santa Monica, a redesign of the entire Civic Center with underground roads. There are tons of great models and drawings, a little working monorail, video renderings of some of the lost projects, and an enormous LEGO version of a 50-story Catholic cathedral designed by Lloyd Wright. It's all really delightful.
But that's not entirely the point--some of these things were never built because they're insane or awful, but a lot of truly great projects died at the hands of risk-averse developers or risk-averse politicians or risk-averse NIMBYs (often all three, actually). As a press release puts it, "The stories surrounding these projects shed light on a reluctant city whose institutions and infrastructure have often undermined inventive, challenging public schemes." And it's easy to see how nothing's really changed (there are projects in the show that only died in the last few years), but Never Built throws down a gauntlet: are we really going to keep letting this happen? Anyway, go see it, remember that Los Angeles deserves great big ideas, and deserves to see them realized too.