Air Manifest: Los Angeles 1955, 1965
Instructions for the Reconstitution of Historical Smog
International House of Architecture
Studio X Istanbul is pleased to present Air Manifest: Los Angeles 1955, 1965, an exhibition of “air urbanism” conceived by The International House of Architecture and mounted in conjunction with the Istanbul Design Biennial. The term “air urbanism” refers to several interrelated atmospheric and urban phenomena. In particular it describes an unexamined architectural and urban fixation on air as well as the technical, cultural and esthetic dimensions of air and air effects in the postwar period.
Air Manifest: Los Angeles 1955, 1965 extracts two critical periods of archival atmospheric data from the Los Angeles Air Quality Management District (AQMD), an agency that records LA air quality, chemical composition and particulate saturation. The project reads LA smog as a prevalent, visually intrusive protagonist and as an airborne registration of the city’s material history narrated at molecular level. Taking data samples from the AQMD archive, Air Manifest describes a process for reconstituting historically accurate smog.
One of the first massive "smog attacks" struck Los Angeles on September 14, 1955. The city’s attention to smog toxicity had increased following the First National Air Pollution Symposium (1949), sponsored by the Stanford Research Institute. This symposium marked the coordination of experts in the “air-pollution field” and the emergence of an administrative and scientific assemblage that organized territorial jurisdictions through Air Pollution Control Districts (APCD) or Air Quality Management Districts (AQMD) in every county of the state. These air bureaucracies helped manage air quality assessment, pollutant recording efforts, as well as concomitant issues of risk, liability and enforcement. Smog police officers were trained to locate and evaluate sites of air emission infractions, anticipating Ralph Nader’s 1960’s declaration that the “smogging of a city or a town has taken on the proportions of a massive crime wave.”
Air Manifest’s second date, August 13, 1965, is drawn from the week-long Watts Uprising. After decades of resistance to the methods of the Los Angeles Police Department, an unremarkable roadside incident between California Highway Patrolman Lee W. Minikus and 21-year-old Marquette Frye began a series of increasingly violent clashes with law enforcement. Businesses along the city’s commercial strips were set ablaze, leading to numerous residential fires. In this case, an entirely other coordination of police tactics, accusation of criminality and atmospheric release is at play. As the smoke of burning building debris billowed into the sky over Watts and spread over the LA basin, particulate matter spiked, registering an unusually direct correlation between social history, political events, and atmospheric composition.
Exhibition conceived and designed by the International House of Architecture (Adam Bandler, Marcos Sanchez, Mark Wasiuta).
Design Assistants: Jessica Bandler, Andrés Macera, Derya İyikul.
Support for the exhibition by GSAPP, Columbia University, and Studio-X Istanbul.