Mapping of Narratives between Mexico City and Los Angeles.
. . . . . .
Visiting Mexico City for the first time, I’ve become aware of my own evolution of thoughts. From the beginning, I recall my naïve ignorance imagining the city as somewhat of a bigger Tijuana or maybe even a capitalist resort like Acapulco. Quickly after delving into different representations of Mexico, I saw a very different city; a metropolis plagued with many of the same curses of as any modern city in the world. It had about it a sense of vulnerability while Los Angeles seemed invincible, existing outside itself through many forms of representation. Mexico City was represented as a place of incredible amounts of cultural tension and lost identities. I felt empathy…or was it just pity on the people of Mexico? The harsh realities of my own prejudices or preconceptions became clearer to me in hindsight. The truth is that my sympathy was more of a patronizing sigh coming from the comforts of Los Angeles complacency.
I pondered about this sense of alienation on my visit. Heidegger mentions how the cognition of the moment and the sensation of the moment can never inhabit the same moment; that with modernity came the awareness that people were always already alienated from the time in which they were living. To say we cannot recognize the present inside the moment of presence is not to say that the present cannot exist. It is merely to say that it exists as felt, as experienced, not in the realm of the rational catalog but in the realm of the bodily sensation. Experiencing Mexico City as a “foreigner” with all of its moments of sensations, I was left with new impressions, the cognition of the moment filtered even more from my previous preconceptions to evolve further. I discovered a city rich in culture (even if a hybridized culture) and layers of histories (multiple histories) that existed within the same space bringing forth a strong Mexican identity; colorful, very different from the Mexico I have studied.
The two cities in many ways seems to mirror each other, while at the same time exposing transparent differences that imply the paradox of a unified fragmentation. Could this exist in Los Angeles, I asked? The cities seem to be transforming more towards the other, yet there are differences. Impressions of Mexico City expose its vulnerability as it asks many questions yet provide no answers. I came to the realization that although Mexico City seems to be desperately search for it’s soul, Los Angeles pompously lives off of the souls of others. It has become a blur to me which city is the one who has truly lost its identity? Borges once said, “There remains to exist the mystic sensibility that the past is more present, the present more haunted. “ In Mexico City, culture is always trying to exist within a society, each having to compromise and hybridize one’s own history to co-exist within the same space. This great melting pot of the most colorful and textural cultures from around the world eventually ends up melting themselves into the inevitable shades of gray, textureless and seemingly unreachable.
Or is it unreachable? I am left with questions. We can’t go back and change the history of Los Angeles. LA will always have the history of many and of none at all. Nevertheless, I ask myself how architecture can do the impossible. Can a space reveal its colors while still remaining gray? Can architects use ways of illusion in their designing of spaces just as a filmmaker uses it to pull the senses and emotions of a viewer into the scene, or as a poet uses rhythms and words to transcend a sensibility to another plane using the reader’s own preconceptions and memories? Can the architect use illusions to recontextualize a space to allude an inhabitant back to his or her own culture and identity, creating a sort of “thirdspace” within the existing?
My thoughts again go back to the role of the architect. Society is made up of individuals and relationships that create the definition of the society. The society in-turn ends up affecting the individuals back again, therefore changing society once again in a never-ending cycle. Therefore, interventions made within the city, when done with consciousness, can be used to transform relationships and create shared realities within a fragmented city, creating communities of unseen boundaries where none exists. Architects should confront the conflicts and make an attempt to stitch together the many positive and negative aspects; the charm of the fragment. The more we understand the memories and experiences of the individuals that make up the urban environment, the more we can make better choices when changing the fabrics of the city; choices that may one day create shared realities among the people of Los Angeles. With all of the dynamic facets within the city, all an architect can do is create a gesture, a gesture to show that we see them, we’re listening, a gesture to show that we’re trying to understand. This is the power of the gesture and the power of the architect.
. . . . . .