Eminent domain, compulsory purchase, compulsory acquisition, expropriation—international
terms which all mean the same thing. It is the action of a state to seize a citizen’s private property,
expropriate property, or seize a citizen’s rights in property with due monetary compensation,
but without the owner’s consent. In most cases, it is for some larger ‘civic’ cause, a necessity for
the progression of the society. Although many times used as a last resort, or for some truly
greater cause, it begs the question of what property ownership really means, and in the case of
the Haussmann system one wonders at the extent the idea can reach.
Eminent Domain encompasses a ‘last stand’ mentality where the private party holds out for the
last possible moment, attempting to take a stand against governmental power. Los Angeles,
California provides the perfect backdrop for a dystopic understanding of eminent domain, encompassing
interventions and additions to existing structures in the downtown area, providing
civic buildings with a mixture of low, mid, and high income residential to combat the growing
housing crisis in the LA area. Although questionably good and necessary given the amount of
vacancy downtown, it provides context for the debate over this political issue.
According to retail figures, an average of 15% of the total commercial square footage of
downtown skyscrapers in Los Angeles is vacant. In some cases, this rate reaches upwards of
25% annual vacancy. With all of this prebuilt, prime location real estate, downtown Los Angeles
can be transformed in to a safer and more consistently inhabited space. The idea stands in
stark contrast to the decentralized urban sprawl exhibited today, but downtown invigorations
and revitalization projects rarely are so totalizing. With the help of precedent projects from
Lebbeus Woods, Hernan diaz Alonso, Tom Wiscombe and others, this project attempts to take a
contemporary architectural point of view and adapt its principles to help visualize and critique
a poignant and problematic political concept.
Although permanent additions to the skyscrapers downtown, each of these interventions would
have to temporarily occupy the vacant space. Vacancy changes over time with tenants coming
and going, demanding a temperance of any foreign structure and flexibility to occupy a vast
range of different locations. The project encompasses a number of different design ideas to
satisfy different programmatic necessities, with some ‘pods’ becoming more temporary and others
remaining permanent structures attached to the existing buildings.
Status: School Project
Location: Los Angeles, CA, US