Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940-1990, Wim de Wit and Christopher James Alexander, editors
(Los Angeles, CA: The Getty Research Institute, 2013)
Published in conjunction with the current exhibit with the same name at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Overdrive presents a comprehensive overview of the development of Southern California in general and Los Angeles in particular the fifty years starting at the beginning of World War II. Unlike most architectural histories the time period covered starts at the beginning of the war and not the first postwar decade. The role of the defense industry and its growth in the early war years was one of the reason that so many were attracted to California not just workers for the manufacturing plants but also for a generation of designers, of which Ray and Charles Eames are just one example.
A press release describes the book as “A Fascinating Study of Architectural Innovation in Los Angeles”, which presents an investigation into a new urban history. It focuses not only on the history of the region and the development of its architecture but also how all of this past connects to the future. The essays are organized in the four broad categories, title respectively transformative landscapes, engaging modernism, developing communities and engineered audacity. All essays help to make the case for the unique character and development of modernism and modern architecture and its significant impact on other parts of the country and abroad.
Michigan in the postwar years provided the objects for this new lifestyle with its cars and furniture pieces and California in general and Los Angeles in particular gave us the new lifestyle itself and the designs and buildings that to house those objects. This book as an extension of the exhibit provides a better understanding of all the factors, people and developments that made this possible. It is interesting to note that while the Overdrive exhibit is taking place in Los Angeles, a conference and exhibit is scheduled for Cranbrook in Michigan just outside Detroit to celebrate the design and designers of that same period reinforcing that relationship between Los Angeles and Detroit.
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