Welcome to Los Angeles, home of movie stars, earthquakes, tar pits, revolutionary urban architecture and innovative, if flawed, infrastructure.
The latter two are the subject of “Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940-1990” at the National Building Museum, a look at how the City of Angels became the influential, traffic-choked place it is today.
The exhibit — photos, maps, sketches, videos and models — is neither “a celebratory exercise in talking about how L.A. is great and glamorous, nor an indictment,” senior curator Martin Moeller says. “It’s a balanced picture of how and why L.A. became this rich center of architectural history in the mid- to late 20th century.”
Much of L.A.’s development trajectory was due to the city’s swift expansion between 1940 and 1990, when it went from being the fifth-largest U.S. city to the second.
Moreover, the variety of industries concentrated in the city — aerospace, oil, entertainment, higher education — brought in not only a lot of money, but “people willing to take some risks and fund some innovative architecture,” Moeller says.
“It’s also a really creative area and implicit in that is this is an area that had a certain informality, a sense of individualism and freedom. That gives people the sense that they can try something.”
National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW; through March 10; 202-272-2448. (Judiciary Sq)