Why Fix When You Could Demolish?

Wiping the Architectural Slate Clean in Salt Lake City

Los Angeles is particularly intent on demolishing its architectural history. And it’s so wasteful when there are so many interesting old building about. I know that many old buildings are not quite earthquake-proof, but they could be made so without driving ugly bolts through them visible from the outside. A classic example is a building in West Los Angeles at the southeast corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Butler. Its rear has a beautiful old mural showing the aftermath of California falling into the ocean “after the next big one.” Unfortunately, the owners of the building have dozens of ugly bolts sticking out of the mural (see below).

Mural Entitled “The Isle of California” with Earthquake Bolts Destroying the Image

This is a typical tendency in California. We know how to build, but we don’t know how to preserve. Instead, we prefer to wipe the architectural slate clean and build something inadequate, with the specious reasoning that we could always ’doze it and start over again in a few years. It’s all part of a larger tend in which we throw up new buildings, but have no interest in maintaining old ones. I for one would love to see the mural above touched up with the bolt heads either covered or removed.

We are not just talking about buildings. Our freeways were so lovely when I moved to Southern California in 1966. Then they started getting rattier and rattier, with ugly potholes. When CalTrans started using concrete to re-pave several freeways, what we got stuck with is an ugly patchwork of variously colored concrete patches interspersed with asphalt, the whole thing looking like a crazy quilt with enough transitional bumps to send your wheels in unwanted directions.

Then, too, are our fast trains that have to go twenty miles per hour because the tracks in many urban areas cannot take higher speeds.

It’s time to consider such things as repair, maintenance, and refurbishment when we look to evaluate our structures and transportation.