Angelenos are a hospitable bunch; just this weekend, a longstanding Monocle reader gave up his Sunday to show me around his favourite neighbourhood, the Walk Streets in Venice. Not far from Lincoln Avenue, we headed through a gap in a line of houses and entered what felt like a glade. Under a canopy of palm fronds sat two exquisite rows of craftsman bungalows, all tightly packed together with barely a metre between each other’s picket fences.
They were put there in the first decades of the 20th century by Abbot Kinney, a tobacco tycoon who also carved the canals that give the area its name. Everything in the Walk Streets feels ornamented and personalised, from the tiny community-tended gardens to artworks of coloured glass inlaid into the concrete path. The architecture is a similar hotchpotch: porch-fronted cottages sit cheek-by-jowl with postmodern chalets wrought in glass and wood.
But it’s not necessarily the houses themselves or even their proximity to the ocean that make Venice so desirable. It’s the density of neighbourhoods such as the Walk Streets – the source of their conviviality – that makes them feel so distinct. Every day, my inbox fills up with new projects in LA and most are renderings of Tetris-like monuments surrounded by insurmountable walls, perched on streets blurred with passing cars. Yet Kinney was able to foster, with just a few simple paths positioned in close quarters, a welcoming place that simply invites you to wander. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s the salutary benefits that can be derived from being able to talk to and interact with one’s neighbours. Modern developers would do well to take note: form leads function when it comes to urban planning.