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L.A. under the Influence

The Hidden Logic of Urban Property

2009
Author:

Roger Sherman Architecture and Urban Design, Inc.
Foreword by R.E. Somol

L.A. under the Influence

Using game theory to understand how competing public and private interests shape the contemporary urban landscape

Roger Sherman contends that it is property stakeholder negotiations, rather than more commonly accepted factors like history and planning, that not only shape a city but also influence the development of its smallest common increment: the individual parcel. Through a series of case studies in Los Angeles, Sherman applies game theory to scrutinize the behavior of these intersecting private and public interests, revealing an alternative logic of architectural composition.

L.A. under the Influence is a highly original work that restructures the very fundamentals of urban understanding. Its word craft is brilliant; its implications profound; its appreciation of the perverse realities of design is inspired. This is a textbook that no planner, architect, NIMBY activist, urban designer, developer, or city politician should be without.

Dana Cuff, director, cityLAB; professor of architecture, UCLA

In the American city, property rights involve not one but numerous stakeholders, some connected to the parcel by title and others through less formal arrangements, whether political, economic, or cultural. Negotiations between these stakeholders over the use of property are frequently complicated, even convoluted.

In L.A. under the Influence, Roger Sherman contends that it is these negotiations, rather than more commonly accepted factors like history, symbolism, and planning, that not only shape a city but also influence the development of its smallest common increment: the individual parcel. Through a series of case studies in Los Angeles, Sherman applies game theory to scrutinize the behavior of these intersecting private and public interests, revealing an alternative logic of architectural composition. Making extensive use of diagrams, photographs, and a range of negotiation models employed within game theory, including pecking order, negotiated access, multilateral exchange, and tit for tat, he identifies the characteristic features and behaviors of this new spatial logic.

For Sherman, these models offer an exciting new role for architecture in urban planning and design. Sherman urges architects to utilize design strategy as a means of mediating between the various stakeholders involved in a project, identifying and creating affiliations between otherwise conflicting interests. The architect’s willingness to engage with these negotiations, he argues, has the potential to produce formally and spatially audacious projects as well as recover the social and political relevance of architecture itself.

L.A. under the Influence

Roger Sherman is principal of Roger Sherman Architecture and Urban Design in Santa Monica, California. He is codirector of cityLAB, an urban design and research think tank at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Department of Architecture and Urban Design, where he is adjunct associate professor.

R. E. Somol is director of the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

L.A. under the Influence

L.A. under the Influence is a highly original work that restructures the very fundamentals of urban understanding. Its word craft is brilliant; its implications profound; its appreciation of the perverse realities of design is inspired. This is a textbook that no planner, architect, NIMBY activist, urban designer, developer, or city politician should be without.

Dana Cuff, director, cityLAB; professor of architecture, UCLA

Roger Sherman theorizes and illustrates how the order of the city can only be made legible when it is understood as a series of overlapping, negotiated territories. Moreover, he argues, only by calculating and visualizing the sites, forms, and terms of the new, negotiated city, can the architect establish a leading role for design in the processes of urban development.

Richard Sommer, University of Toronto

L.A. under the Influence offers a stimulating and underexplored path for enriching architectural practice.

Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design