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  • Brendan McKay


My wife and I almost chose to live in Downtown LA when we moved out from the East coast. Where we're at on the West side of LA is beautiful, and has a ton to offer - proximity to the Pacific, breathtaking hikes in the Palisades and Malibu, and best of all, the treasured reverse commute. Having spent nearly a decade living in the city proper of Boston, it took me a while to get used to seeing so much sky in Santa Monica when you look up. Where did floors six through 26 go?

At the same time, I miss some of the grit and grime that comes with living in, and within, a city - tall buildings that amplify midday sun a thousand times over and cast dark shadows in the early evening. Those dark, unexpected-but-still-expected corners with unsavory history. Ill-lit streets that make you think once or twice before turning down at 1 or 2 in the morning after a few beers. I've always had a fondness for those elements of a neighborhood, particularly when it comes to photography. You literally don't need to do a thing to convey the mood and feeling of that particular place - just point, and shoot, and let the bigness of it all fill the frame.

Upper limit @ twighlight

The other element I love about cities is the architecture, and specifically building facades. I've always found it a little hard to fully take these structures in from the vantage point of the human eye, and the enormity of it all can be pretty impersonal. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that you get everything in 3D, and that the proximity to ten and twenty stories is just difficult to relate to. Transposing that into a 2D image, the lines, shapes, shadows and colors take on a whole new dimension (or lose a whole new dimension? har har har...). DTLA, I've found, is pretty spectacular at showing off in this regard.

Half 'n half


One of my favorite watch/horological periodicals, HODINKEE Magazine, did a profile on brutalist architecture in London in their second issue, chronicled by Steven Pulvirent. The photography is beautiful and the piece does a remarkable job detailing a style of architecture that I think is underappreciated and, at face value, extremely cold. I recall a few buildings from our time in Boston that fit this profile, particularly City Hall and the Erich Lindemann Mental Health Center. The winter weather in Boston certainly provided an appropriate foreboding backdrop to these buildings, which is probably why I never really noticed them in the ways that I should have. Brutalism is a little fewer-and-farther between in LA but it exists, beautifully, nonetheless.

Don't forget to look up the next time you're down (town).

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