“There’s this incredible urgency and creativity about how to rethink cities and how to reintegrate use and place,” he says. “That is the great riddle, the great success story. We are beginning to reinhabit our central cities and unsegregating our suburbs. It’s a positive, inspirational story, but also an aspirational one. As yet, it is a very small percentage of our footprint, but mostly we all live in the modernist dystopia of suburbs and shopping malls and parking lots. It’s a common experience, but it is part of a big long arc that we’ve gone through culturally.”
Currently Graham is working on a book on the history of Los Angeles through the neighborhood of Echo Park, which will rely on interviews and a house-by-house timeline of how the city evolved into what it has become versus what it was conceived to be in the 1880s. The book will focus on a local perspective, which will offer an understanding of the larger journey of American cities through racial, economic, political, and cultural changes that have taken place since the late 19th century.
Ultimately, Graham is fundamentally interested in Los Angeles and California. “It is so interesting, so complex, and continuously evolving and eluding simple solutions,” he says. “California is a complicated, interesting place. It’s quite a laboratory to be in to look at policy of all kinds.”
All photos of Wade Graham courtesy of Calvin Lim