It’s hard to sum up all of the things that interest me: urban history, urban planning, public space, heritage conservation, cultural landscapes… If pressed, I would say that I write about the visual practices of urban planners and the consequences of those practices for cities and the people who live in them. This seems to be an appropriately pithy elevator speech, but it leaves out so much…

At the moment, I’m working with an amazing team on a digital public history project. Funded by the USC School of Architecture and the USC Libraries, Bunker Hill Refrain focuses on a neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles that has a deep and storied history. The project is an example of crowdsourced cataloguing and using collections as data, two relatively recent concepts in a libraries and public history context. Our work focuses on a collection of household survey cards compiled by the Works Progress Administration in 1939. The cards provide important evidence documenting the social life of the racially and ethnically diverse Bunker Hill neighborhood that was cleared in the 1960s through urban renewal. Over the next few years, the team will be working on making this formerly hidden collection amenable to analytical and computational use by scholars and the public. Stay tuned for updates!

Previously Published Research and Reviews

Model, Medium, and Metaphor: Planning and Design Confront the Natural World  (2020) Journal of Urban History

Makers Mark: New Works Deepen the Field of Suburban History (2020) Journal of Planning History

“Kevin Lynch in Los Angeles: Reflections on Planning, Politics and Participation” with Tridib Banerjee (2019) Journal of the American Planning Association Vol. 84:3-4

A Cloud Burst Erupts: Visual Rhetoric and Los Angeles’ Grand Intervention” (2016) Journal of Urban Design, Vol. 21; 6

“Cultural Acropolis” (2015) Bunker Hill in the Rearview Mirror: The Rise, Fall and Rise Again of an Urban Neighborhood. Available at Amazon

“Picturing Planning: A World Worthy of a New Yorker Cover” (2015) Journal of Architectural and Planning Research Vol. 32: 3, 199-216

Beauty Controlled: The Persistence of City Beautiful Planning in Los Angeles” (2014) Journal of Planning History, 13(4), 296-321.

“Regulating Visual Blight”, “The City as Textbook”, “Tinker Toy Urbanism”, “The Politics Of Food And Culture”, “Planning A Great Civic Park” and “Finding Public Space on Private Beaches” (2012), Planning Los Angeles, David C. Sloane, Editor, APA Planners Press, Chicago. Available at Amazon.

Visualizing Cities, Past and Present” (2011) Journal of Planning History, 10: May, 164-170.

Works in Progress

I’m still working on that book about the Los Angeles Civic Center (and yes, it has been forever…). As part of the research, I was honored to receive the John Nolen Research Award in 2019 that enabled me to visit the Gordon and Brysis Whitnall archive at Cornell University. Over the summer, I spent a couple of hectic weeks in Ithaca, learning more about L.A.’s first planner and although I didn’t find what I had hoped about the civic center, Whitnall turned out to be an engaging subject. At some point, I’ll write up that story. It’s full of ambition, radical politics and family intrigue.