Alternative Urban Pattern Prototypes: Looking at Pomona/Los Angeles

The complexity within the formation of urban patterns is always beyond any mere comprehension of the form itself. A case in point is metropolitan Los Angeles. Within its various developmental stages, determined by the availability of new technology in transportation, altered by social and racial class structures and facilitated through modern financial techniques – the urban formative process of the metropolis Los Angeles defies any typical urban development prototype and has long been a controversial topic among design professionals. On one hand, it is regarded as a paradigmatic urban development pattern given its diverse, flexible economic sectors including financial, business services, fashion, high-tech and music recording, and its multi-racial demographic compositions; on the other hand, it is considered a devastating failure of urban design/planning represented by its endless urban sprawl on the form. Today, in a new era of rapid developments of technology and financial instruments, we have one of the best opportunities to re-examine the developmental patterns within the urban context of Los Angeles to further understand the perplexing theoretical and practical urban issues and thus contemplate and develop new thinking (proposals) that would further sustain vibrancy of urbanism in the region. The city of Pomona, with its identity as one of the collection of cities within the metropolitan boundary of Los Angeles and as an independent urban entity in its own right, will provide rich and challenging focal point for the studio. Pomona\’s multiple dimensional linkages with LA, together with the spillover of economic forces from the metropolis, have typically influenced the developmental market cycles and corresponding financial structures that facilitate, if not determined, its own urban formation. Located within a 30-minute drive from downtown LA, the city of Pomona is well surrounded by a modern infrastructural network of freeways and nearby Ontario International airport. Linear railroad tracks – a palpable symbol of the past modernization – have intersected the city center creating an evident physical boundary within the downtown area itself that awaits remediation. Its rigid urban grid-pattern as most American cities possess, based on utility and driven by real estate speculation, illustrates the morphological consequences of urban interventions in the past. With a population of 170,000 of whom more than 50% are Hispanic, and 1.1 million people residing within a 10- mile radius from the town center, Pomona\’s social diversity and cultural heterogeneity has been an active component in forming the architectural past and the current urbanism of the city. However, spatial urban voids left over by the modern infrastructure construction or as the undesired physical products of the operation of capital market and ownership structure are increasingly becoming barriers to a vibrant urbanism in cities at the scale of Pomona.Pedagogical FrameworkThe pedagogical structure of the studio is two-fold: first, the students will study the development of Pomona at the regional and city scale during the first three weeks of the term. A multi-disciplinary approach is encouraged so as to broaden the understanding the historical trajectory of developments in the region and in the city with a particular emphasis on real estate market mechanisms and economic forces among the confluence of many variables comprising of formal representations including planning regulatory systems, and social class structure. Secondly, based on this platform of intellectual play with form and its underlying forces at the regional and urban scale, students will narrow their focus to individual sites chosen from the seven potential study areas, all of which are critical urban developmental nodes of the city. With the emphasis on programmatic repositioning of the sites and alternative real estate financing structur