Revitalizing The Sunset Strip: Learning from Rock 'n' Roll on Los Angeles' Sunset Boulevard

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    A partial elevation of the Sunset Strip.
    Kelsey Malott
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    An oblique plan of the Sunset Strip as per its Rock ‘n’ Roll revival between the late sixties and early nineties.
    Kelsey Malott
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    A plan of the Sunset Strip showing billboard locations along the curved boulevard.
    Kelsey Malott
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    A partial elevation of the Sunset Strip near North Kings Road.
    Kelsey Malott
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    A billboard analysis of the Whisky-a-Go-Go, axonometric drawing.
    Kelsey Malott
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    A partial elevation of the Sunset Strip circa 1967, between North Clark Street and Hilldale Avenue, including the Whisky-a-Go- Go.
    Kelsey Malott
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    An analysis of the implementation of the pay-to-play requirement circa 1986, at the Rainbow and the Roxy Theatre. Axonometric drawing.
    Kelsey Malott
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    A partial elevation of the Sunset Strip circa 1973, near North Wetherly Drive.
    Kelsey Malott
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    An analysis of The Comedy Store exhibiting the three ecologies of the Sunset Strip in a relevant and revitalized way. Axonometric drawing.
    Kelsey Malott
Author
Kelsey Malott

Examining Committee Members

Committee Member
Internal Reader
External Examiner
Robert Sherman

Since the set-up of major motion-picture productions, Los Angeles County has been regarded as the entertainment capital, with West Hollywood at the forefront of the music industry. Beginning in the 1960s, a revitalized music scene filled the nightlife of a 1.5-mile segment of Sunset Boulevard, commonly referred to as the Sunset Strip, with Rock ‘n’ Roll. Songs written in the Hollywood Hills and first performed at Strip venues would be discovered, recorded, packaged, promoted and sold all along the same boulevard. Although this period of Rock ‘n’ Roll should be heavily criticized for its inequality in regard to gender, sexuality and race, it was through its civic purpose and integration into the local vernacular that Rock ‘n’ Roll found its success on the Sunset Strip. It encouraged the counterculture of this urban boulevard by considering the pedestrian scale and blending commercial content with Strip specific artistry. Today, as proposals for development along the Strip are submitted to the City of West Hollywood, citizens are infuriated by their lack of relevance or homogeneity to the local vernacular. What these designers are failing to realize is that successful architecture on the Sunset Strip understands the Strip’s existing environment by examining the everyday, the particularities, and the ecologies, which do not fit traditional urban tropes.

This thesis investigates the key contributors to the Rock ‘n’ Roll era of the Sunset Strip’s overall success. It considers how Rock ’n’ Roll provided a foundation for the architectural and urban ecological renaissance of the Sunset Strip using the attraction of popular culture, print media, and capital flows. Building on research and previous work done by Ed Ruscha, Reyner Banham, and Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown this thesis will follow learning from ordinary and everyday architecture. By revisiting Reyner Banham’s The Architecture of Four Ecologies, this thesis identifies and analyzes this period of the Sunset Strip’s urban environment through the reinterpretation of three new ecologies: Billboards, Flyers, and the Musician’s City. Each ecology is accompanied by an architectural case study, and interview with a relevant Los Angeleno. These ecologies are followed by a brief note on the challenge of staying relevant in the dynamic landscape of the Sunset Strip. Through a nonjudgmental investigation, this research intends to help inspire a renewal of architectural practice out of the everyday landscape and the commercial vernacular.

Project Date
Completed