The Memory Machine | Option Studio

Option Studio: Flatness Expanded: Infrastructural Speculations
Instructors: Michael Maltzen, Jeremy Jih
Term: Fall 2017


The Los Angeles landmark is an architectural paradox. As point-reference, it indicates a specific location in the city, in opposition to its analogous surroundings. But as visual indicator, the Angeleno landmark references places and fantasies that are external to the city. These markers position themselves as artifacts of otherness. They are Assyrian palaces as operating rubber factories, Mayan temples disguised as Hollywood homes, cartoon housecats hustling tires off the side of the freeway. And yet, these civic markers of otherness operate in aggregate as distinct beacons in the urban fabric. The Angeleno landmark is both verifier of location and suspender of the real. It is both fact and myth. It is utterly Angeleno.


But in a city populated with spectacular landmarks, the image of Los Angeles is nebulous. What is the image of a city founded on image fabrication? Los Angeles has built itself off of an industry of relentless visual replication and production. But the city lacks an infrastructure dedicated to the fabrication and consumption of its own visage. Los Angeles awaits a space both comprised of and made for the recycling, reconstitution, and curation of its image…


The Angeleno Image can be distilled into a hypothetical intervention: Image Infrastructure. Image Infrastructure identifies Los Angeles as a city without memory—or, at the most, a city committed to self-lobotomization, the erasure of its own memory. Image Infrastructure understands Los Angeles as lacking a specific and local form of monumentality or publicness, eternally struggling to overlay foreign architectures and narratives on its areas of entertainment, gathering, and spectacle. Image Infrastructure identifies and consolidates these conditions. It poses the celebration of collective memory as a panacea to Los Angeles’s eternal identity odyssey.


Image Infrastructure deploys Characters as containers of collective, civic memory.  Working in aggregate, the Characters transform into an urban armature of memory. This Cast behaves as a narrative-network, where collective, civic memories become programmatic elements. The Characters are not semiotically transparent, but in composite they communicate an encyclopedic imagery of Los Angeles.


The assemblage of The Cast on a given site generates a new civic condition: The Memory Machine. As a new, contextual urbanism, the Memory Machine overlays a mental map—a certain knowability—of the image of the city onto the given location. Using The Cast as acupunctural elements, the Memory Machine weaves in recognizable but shocking, unexpected, or even utterly banal urban conditions. The Memory Machine layers, collages, crashes image-references like urban strata onto the site.


The Memory Machine operates as an architectural essay on form and content. It poses the Los Angeles metro station as a spatial argument, where form and content function as agents of memory. On the given site in the Arts District, the metro form (as two perpendicular axes) frames four quadrants within its surrounding context. These quadrants are a neighborhood-scale revival of Reyner Banham’s four ecologies.  While Banham’s four ecologies focus on the disparate conditions present at the scale of the city, The Memory Machine in this specific context generates four ecologies predicated on conditions of the site. These new four ecologies and their generative Characters become containers for the production and consumption of the collective memory of Los Angeles.