Scenery as an asset: assessing the 1930 Los Angeles regional park plan
Parks, Playgrounds and Beaches for the Los Angeles Region, the 1930 report produced by Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm in association with the urban planning firm Harlan Bartholomew and Associates, sought to mitigate unprecedented urban expansion and preserve Los Angeles' popular image as a natural paradise by allowing for the creation of an interconnected system of parks and recreational spaces. In advocating a mixture of traditional landscape aesthetics characteristic of nineteenth-century urban park planning along with more modern social-scientific transportation and regional planning proposals, the report addressed a wide array of issues ranging from recreation and public health to nature appreciation and automobility. Underlying these divergent concerns is a minefield of shifting ideas about the value of nature and its place in the modern metropolis. The report did not embrace an environmental agenda. Rather, it sought to preserve and create scenery. Under the rubric of 'scenery as an asset', the landscape envisaged in the park plan was cloaked in images and ideas associated with nature while it advanced a cultural agenda that reinforced the dominant ideology of progress, technology and commercial development. This essay examines the cultural and intellectual under-pinnings of the proposed park plan as a means to explore the myth of comprehensive planning as an environmental cure-all.