“Never Built” is a fascinating new show at the A&D Museum in mid-Wilshire featuring fabulous, sometimes visionary plans for Southern California that never happened. As part of KCRW’s Design and Architecture coverage, we produced this four part  series  on some of the most fascinating projects that were never built. 

Elysian Park plan. Courtesy of Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research

Elysian Park plan. Courtesy of Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research

What was almost built in Chavez Ravine near downtown? A lot of people think that the community of people who lived there were kicked off their land to build Dodger Stadium. The true story is that they were moved out to build a massive, ultra-modern public housing project designed by one of the superstars of 20th century architecture, Richard Neutra. The plan was to house 3,300 families in a sprawling complex of 24, 13-story towers and 163 two-story garden apartments. Below, why the project was never actually built, and a bit of nostalgia for what might have been.

The show is open July 28th through October 13th at the A&D Museum. 

A row house by Richard Neutra. Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles Photograph Collection

Home in Chavez Ravine, Los Angeles 1953 UCLA, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library

Thanks to Bullfrog Films for the use of audio from their documentary film “Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story.” And to Richard Montoya and Culture Clash for the use of sound from the audiobook of their show “Chavez Ravine.” And to Caitlin Borzi for production assistance. 

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9 Comments »

  • Texas Rabbits said:

    "The plan was to house 3,000 people in a sprawling complex of 24, 13-story towers and 163 two-story garden apartments. Below, why the project was never actually built, and a bit of nostalgia for what might have been." interesting fact
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  • A new exhibit celebrates the “what ifs” of LA architecture | Which Way L.A.? said:

    [...] Listen to Matt Holzman’s feature: Never Built: A modernist masterpiece in Chavez Ravine? [...]

  • Ron Lopez, PhD said:

    Although the Elysian Park Heights complex was never built, I believe that was a very good thing. It was an effort to maximize 'hi density' housing in an area that had been low density. Previous low-density plans that were consistent with existing housing types in L.A. (but also had the low-rise 'garden apartment' component) were discarded. It was also part of an effort to integrate public housing while also promising the former residents of the Chavez Ravine community first choice at the new housing – a promise which was not kept, even for other units in the city. Also, the planned parking would have been woefully inadequate. In particular, the 13 story towers, which appeared in numerous other complexes, proved to be disastrous (no elevators, for one thing) and in other areas these towers became especially problem ridden. Public housing shifted from being seen as a temporary place to live to long term occupancy for the very poor, and the political enemies of public housing nationwide cut costs, downgraded the facilities, reduced maintenence , and allowed such facilities to fall into disrepair. Had they been built, were they still standing, they would be seen today like other failed monuments to social engineering – as perhaps slightly more elegant than average disaster zones.

  • Patrick said:

    your article was an eye opener

  • Pedro said:

    Muy bueno el articulo

  • Be Fair said:

    It's funny how they can take the land from minorities to build public housing/dodger stadium. Why don't they do the same thing in South Pasadena? Los Angeles has needed the 710 freeway extended through South Pasadena and connected to the 210 freeway for several DECADES now. There's a reason there's a ton of traffic in LA but not connecting this freeway extension is SHAMELESS. It's because the area is mostly white and not poor. Shame on LA City Council members for not doing the same thing they did to the poor Mexicans in Chavez Ravine. Always in their best interests right??????

  • RobbyLivingSocial said:

    This is amazing! I've never personally taken the time to think about my own city in these terms. For every project, there must have been a countless amount of alternative plans. Super intriguing!! Can't wait to go see it.

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