Los Angeles Ground Zero
A Study Of East Coast vs West Coast

458 Los Angeles’ Ground Zero, with the palms of Playa Vista. CLUI photoA LOOK AT THE WEST COAST'S World Trade Center Ground Zero, located in a lot in Los Angeles, near Culver City (for the moment), makes for an interesting study in the contrast between the two big American cities, their respective landscapes, and the differing versions of culture that they represent.

Built as a set for Oliver Stone’s latest film, which is called, simply, World Trade Center, LA’s Ground Zero is a 1 to 1 scale re-creation of the original, recreating one acre of the 16 acre New York Ground Zero site. It was built on land that is part of Howard Hughes’ old aircraft plant, which was intended to become Dreamworks’ new movie studio, but has just remained a former aircraft plant instead. This was where Howard Hughes took off from for his last test flight, crashing his plane into a couple of houses in Beverly Hills, nearly dying. Since the closure of the plant, the hangars and open spaces have been used nearly continuously as a film production location. It has housed everything from the Titanic to the Planet of the Apes. And now, Ground Zero.

In New York, the Ground Zero is sort of negative space, a below grade excavation - the city is a fully built three dimensional landscape after all. In Los Angeles, land of surfaces, the pit was simulated by building walls up from the ground’s surface, creating a positive space. The walls, appropriately, are made of stacked shipping containers, the architectural digits fashionable to modernist designers, and in great supply, due to the Port of LA/Long Beach’s imbalance of trade with Asia, a product of our consumer culture.

LA's Ground Zero is made for a fictional film, while in NY Ground Zero is an artifact, a documentary remnant from a real event. In LA Ground Zero was intentionally and painstakingly created from scratch, with new materialscrews built thousands of beams out of styrofoam, and made contorted rebar out of foam rubber; an additive process. In NY, the site was made by clearing away waste material that had cluttered randomly on the site by the chaos of collapsing buildings; a reductive process. Ephemeral and transitory, the west coast Ground Zero will go away, while the New York version will continue to be a sacred shrine. But LA’s Ground Zero will have an impact too, a lasting impression, as only big Hollywood movies can, and will have an effect on our memories and history, whether we like it or not.

Like the original, the LA site is off limits to the public, and heavily guarded. The film will be out in August, maybe by September 11. In the meantime, at the moment, views can be had from the bluffs above, between the gaps of some of the monopoly homes of Westchester.