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A Tree Grows Downtown

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2007, at 10:38AM
A tree grows in L.A. Ed Fuentes

When you see these freshly planted palm trees where the leaning pole of the Arts District used to rise, it stands out as an invasion of a different visual culture. Thats when you realize that the lack of the L.A. icon is a very subtle characteristic of Downtown's landscape. You can see some palm trees at City Hall, the courthouses, larger hotels and sprinkled along the streets -- mostly standing alone -- but they are nowhere near as pervasive as elsewhere in the city.

Like everyone else, I have a fondness for these slender icons, but I also like how the lack of palm trees gives Downtown a certain look separate from the rest of Los Angeles.

Whenever an art director wants to identify L.A. in a shot––even with music videos based in South L.A.–- you will see palm trees in the background as a visual clue of location. It may explain in part the popularity of Downtown standing in for other urban cores -- there are no long lines of Canary Island Date or Mexican Palm trees to hide, giving the streets a neutral background.

Tree next to Hope Even the L.A. Live development seems to be going away from the signature palm. They've recently installed trees on the Nokia Plaza, and they've got branches and leaves like normal trees do. I'm sure the temptation was there to use the palm's decorative landscape crutch to make L.A. more "L.A.".

In the case of the MURA lofts, the addition of palms looks like a outsider's attempt to define Downtown as a larger part of Los Angeles, giving the development a generic California look that doesn't acknowledge either Little Tokyo or the more industrial Arts District.

If you see any interesting trees around Downtown, take a shot and place them in the blogdowntown flickr pool.

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