The center of Van Nuys is the Civic Center. The raison d’etre of this pedestrian mall: nobody comes here unless they are forced to.

Here is where you come to file small claims, to appear before a judge, to file plans for a room addition, to borrow a book, to speak to your Councilwoman, to talk to a cop, to ask for an extension of probation.

You can also push your shopping cart full of belongings here, plop on a bench, open a bottle of vodka and drink yourself silly without interference. There are guards, guns, and security cameras, but they are aimed at the general public, not intoxicated people covered in four weeks of dirt.

There is one glorious structure, built in 1933, the Valley Municipal Building. And then there is everything around it, including the “new” library (1964), the “new” LAPD (1965), the Marvin Braude Center (1994), the Van Nuys Courthouse East (1965), the Van Nuys Courthouse West (1990), the James C Corman Federal Building (1973) and the double decker County Parking Facility at 6170 Sylmar Ave. an $850,000 symphony of concrete opened in 1968. Also vast and comprehensive: the LAPD Motor Transport Facility at 6170 Tyrone Ave. where cop cars are prettied up behind fences.

If you want to register a new business you can come to the Los Angeles County Registrar at 14340 Sylvan St. and make your way past half a dozen aggressive hucksters passing out business cards in which they offer, for a fee, to transact your business for you.

If Van Nuys were a 1962 film by Michaelangelo Antonioni, its stark, barren, nuclear winter surroundings would make for an immensely powerful setting showing the alienation of man from urban environment.

There is so much concrete here, the place is awash in it. It is sculptured, sliced, stacked, plated, affixed, drilled, and molded into so many walls, sidewalks, plazas, and decorative designs. Never before and not since 1964-70, has concrete been so worshipped, so valued, so esteemed, not just for freeways but for art itself.

Come here if you can, just to see the concrete.

The empty post office.


2 Comment on “A Stark Place.

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