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Futuristic Malls of Days Past

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History often proves unkind to ideas and plans once touted as the wave of the future. Take much of Downtown LA, such as the elevated walkways and segregated vehicular/pedestrian zones.

And then there’s the Civic Center Mall. LAist found ourselves strolling through this partially subterranean development located northeast of City Hall that contains a subterranean parking, restaurants, mix of retail operations, miscellaneous amenities (e.g. shoe shine booth), and City operations (DOT). Plus lots of unflattering florescent lighting and beige tile. This development was also the erstwhile location of the Children's Museum.

The most captivating element is hidden behind mustard yellow curtains -- the Triforium Control Room. This controversial relic of the future by intriguing artist Joseph Young was noted for its pioneering use of new technology to incorporate static sculpture with light and sound, and even contained a quartz glass carillon. We tremble with excitement at the prospect of someday gaining access into what must look like a 1970s sci-fi movie set.

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The troublesome legacy of the redevelopment era in Downtown LA engenders cynicism about this commercial and retail environment. In addition to the lack of linkage to the physical fabric of downtown and wholesale demolition of what connected the site to the area's history, most noticeable now is its rejection of the street. It’s all too painfully obvious how scared of cities people were during the 1960s and 70s. And because of some major environmental design deficiencies and social miscalculations, many of these anti-urban developments rightly failed.