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Arts and Entertainment

Photos: Explore The Future Of Los Angeles At This Creative USC Exhibition

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A new interactive exhibition at USC creatively imagines what the future of Los Angeles might hold in store for us.

The exhibit, entitled L.A.T.B.D., draws upon architectural models, historical records, fictional narratives, seismic predictions and a choose-your-own-adventure-style game to explore ideas about a Los Angeles that is yet to be determined or, rather, T.B.D.

To create the project, architecture and design writer Geoff Manaugh—the 2015/2016 USC Libraries Discovery Fellow—mined the libraries' archives and interviewed a diverse array of experts on L.A., including seismologist Lucy Jones and filmmaker John Carpenter. Manuaugh also collaborated with London-based architects Smout Allen who helped create stunning models to demonstrate the city's imagined futurescapes.

The exhibition is free and open to the public at USC's Doheny Memorial Library, and will be on view from now until Jan. 31, 2016. This Saturday, Manuaugh and the Smout Allen team will also be there from noon to 1 p.m. to talk about the installation and answer questions.

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More than just idle or purely fantastical speculation, L.A.T.B.D. draws upon the city's past, looks to present day concerns and explores tangible ways that L.A. might grow and hopefully best serve itself in the future. "What I wanted to do was not to be prescriptive, and say, 'This is the future of Los Angeles or this is what Los Angeles will look like in ten years,'" Manaugh tells LAist. "What I wanted to do was look at various alternative scenarios that could be the future of L.A."

With the help of Nathan Masters, who writes about Los Angeles history, and others at USC, Manaugh dug deep into the libraries' special collection. In his research he uncovered old photographs, publications and technical reports from the past, many of which looked to the future of L.A. Manaugh says he encountered many historical documents that addressed issues that we're still talking about like the effects of mass transit and the electric car.


You choose how the story of L.A. unfolds with the exhibition's guide (Courtesy of Geoff Manaugh)
To get different perspectives and insights on the future of L.A., he also spoke with people like Jones, Carpenter, Syd Mead the concept artist of Blade Runner, as well as astronomers and others whose work is connected to the city. Drawing on all these sources, Manaugh created a text for visitors that reads like a choose-your-own-adventure game. From sea-level rise flooding neighborhoods to demographic shifts and corrupt politicians, the visitor can follow clues about how the city will take shape.

"We didn't really know what the installation would look like, but we also didn't know what the future of L.A. would turn out to be," explains Manaugh. "So, we wanted to take advantage of that, instead of trying to pretend we knew what form the city would take next. We wanted to build it into a game narrative or an interactive fiction, so that there are different outcomes depending on different choices."


Game cards from the exhibit to explore future of L.A. (Courtesy of Geoff Manaugh)
To further explore this possible futures of L.A. in a visual way, Manaugh collaborated with architects Mark Smout and Laura Allen to design and manufacture hypothetical models for the exhibition. "The models were constructed to resemble a kind of game board, but are actually modeling a specific scenario in the future of L.A.," Manaugh says. One model shows a theoretical power station that could take advantage of Southern California's seismic activity to generate sustainable power for L.A. from the movement of the earth. In another, huge pendulums would be placed beneath the city's streets to function as seismic counterweights to protect against earthquake damage. And another shows how freeways could be reinvented as a massive astronomical device, which was inspired by L.A.'s long history of astronomy in Los Angeles—a component of the research that pleasantly surprised Manaugh.

"The role that architecture will play in conversations about the future is something that I think is under-appreciated even within the field of architecture," Manaugh explains. "Architects can really join the conversation about the future, not just what the city will look like, but how we generate power, where our water comes from—those kinds of things. That's a really key part of the future of the city."


The models for L.A.T.B.D. by Smout Allen (Photo by Stonehouse Photographic]
Manaugh also sees the exhibition as offering visitors the chance to see the value of historical archives like those at USC, which can show what came before and where things might go in the future. "It's a bit like looking at the ingredients in a cookbook," he explains. "If you know what's in the recipe, you can guess about what it might taste like."

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L.A.T.B.D. will be on display in the first-floor Treasure Room inside USC’s Doheny Memorial Library through Jan. 31, 2016, and is free and open to the public during the library’s regular operating hours.