Fascinating Split-Screen Film Shows Two Versions of Los Angeles Seventy Years Apart

Los Angeles is a sprawling and forever-evolving metropolis that has tried on many faces over the years. That's never more apparent than in this short film, which pairs modern footage of the city with archival clips and syncs them, showing off just how much LA has grown and changed.

The New Yorker commissioned Filmmaker Kevin McAlester for the project, and his result is quite commendable for its adherence to the original, right down to the timing and tilt of the frame. The film focuses on Bunker Hill, an area of downtown LA (it's also my favorite b-side by the best band ever). Before the Second Street Tunnel was constructed in 1924, the hill separated downtown and the rest of LA. Eventually, its elevation was reduced, and it was ground zero for a large urban renewal plan put into place in 1959 (but not completed until 2012). Like other aspects of Los Angeles' expansion and renovation of the time, the plan was driven by heavy profiteering.

What's fascinating and perhaps a bit sad is that nothing seems recognizable between the two, save for the Los Angeles Public Library. Can you spot when it appears? Be sure to check out McAlester's site and Twitter for more. 

[via Gizmodo and The New Yorker]

 

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4 Comments

What this video tells me is that I would have loved to visit LA 70 years ago, but that there is now nothing worth seeing. Very boring architecture, at least in this video, but I'm sure there are plenty of places worth shooting.

Great video and well done all around! As a current Angelino, I had no idea downtown LA was so residential, it certainly has grown up a lot in 70 years as have many American cities. However, the one thing that struck me the most was how much CLEARER the air is. In the '46 video city hall is barely discernible but is now in full relief, as are most of the other current buildings in the distance.

As for the poster above, you can't judge LA from this video. Downtown has become an Oz of skyscrapers so you need to look up to see the results, not at ground level. Most of the rest of LA is much smaller scale, and harbors one of the most architecturally rich and diverse collections anywhere, from the majestic to the fanciful to the pedestrian, you just have to know where to look.

Great idea, well executed. That must have taken considerable research to find the footage and match up the scenes.

But I'm going to dissent with Chadd. I lived on Bunker Hill during my graduate school years (in fact my former apartment building makes an appearance in the film) and returned for a visit last year. It is a vibrant and cosmopolitan part of the city in so many ways - concert halls, museums, world class restaurants, the Central Market, a thriving Latino business district on Broadway, Angel's Flight, many beautiful heritage buildings including the Bradbury Building, walking distance to Little Tokyo and Union Station and the garment and jewelry districts, etc. Yes, the redevelopment erased a living neighbourhood but IMO it wasn't very special, particularly compared to other parts of town at the time. Today it is a bonanza for architectural and street photographers.

By the way, the library isn't the only recognizable landmark. The better-known City Hall makes several prominent cameos.

Trevor Jolly's picture

The 35mm B&W footage holds up well...appears sharper than the contemporary footage!