Photographer Désirée van Hoek presents her new book Notes on Downtown with an exhibition of the same name and a public debate in Het Nieuwe Instituut. On 7 April 2022, under the guidance of director Aric Chen, former Chief Government Architect Floris Alkemade, artist Joep van Lieshout, urban planner Jennifer Wolch and sociologist Sharon Zukin will discuss the social consequences of the meteoric gentrification of the historic centre of Los Angeles.
Los Angeles, that's the city of cars and endless suburbs, right? Yes, but the city also has a historic center. For decades, this downtown was in a state of disrepair. But in recent years, "DTLA," as the neighborhood is now called, is rising rapidly from its ashes. New apartments, offices, restaurants and stores are popping up everywhere, and the end is nowhere in sight.
It is the kind of gentrification that we also see in Dutch and other European cities. Only much more visible and extreme, even by American standards. In 2018, DTLA was even named the fastest gentrifying neighborhood in the US.
This metamorphosis, and its social consequences, are the subject of Notes on Downtown, the second photo book by Dutch photographer Désirée van Hoek. She has been working in DTLA since 2007, and saw with her own eyes how the gentrification process was putting pressure on the livability of the area. 'I recognized much of what was already being warned about in the 1980s in the Amsterdam squatting movement,' says Van Hoek. Rapidly rising housing prices, growing inequality, and the Disneyfication and corruption of the city. I think photography is the perfect medium for capturing these kinds of developments, because you can show changes over time.'
In addition to some 150 images, Notes on Downtown contains six extensive interviews with renowned international scholars Cody Hochstenbach, Saskia Sassen, Norman M. Klein, Jennifer Wolch, Sharon Zukin and Adrienne Brown. They will give their views on the consequences of gentrification in Los Angeles, the US and the Netherlands from the perspective of their fields of expertise.
Notes on Downtown is the successor to Skid Row (2015), Van Hoek's first publication on DTLA. This book - about the homeless community on the outskirts of Downtown - was voted one of the Best Dutch and Belgian Book Designs.
- Désirée van Hoek, Notes on Downtown, design Mevis & Van Deursen, paperback, 112 pages, € 45,-, ISBN 9789082414929. Publisher: April 7. Distribution: Idea Books
Jennifer Wolch is a professor of Urban Planning, Geography and dean of the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design. Before accepting the deanship, she was the founder and director of the Center for Sustainable Cities at the University of Southern California. Her work focuses on sustainable urbanism, urban design and public health, homeless and human service delivery and animal-society relations. Her books (with Michael Dear) include Landscapes of Despair: From Deinstitutionalization to Homelessness (1987) and Malign Neglect: Homelessness in an American City (1993).
Sharon Zukin is a professor emeritus of sociology at Brooklyn College and at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her latest book, The Innovation Complex: Cities, Tech, and the New Economy (2020), examines the shaping of the tech ecosystem in New York. Zukin has been a Broeklundian Professor at Brooklyn College, and a visiting professor at the University of Amsterdam, the University of Western Sydney and Tongji University. She received the Lynd Award for Career Achievement in urban sociology from the American Sociological Association and won the C. Wright Mills Book Award for Landscapes of Power.
Désirée van Hoek
Amsterdam-based photographer Désirée van Hoek (1966) made her international debut in 2015 with her book Skid Row about the underprivileged neighborhood of the same name in Los Angeles. The book, designed by Mevis & Van Deursen and with an introduction by the LA Times staff writer Gale Holland, was well received in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Japan and the US, and was voted one of the Best Dutch Book Designs of the Netherlands and Belgium. In the LA Review of Books, Michael Kurcfeld described Skid Row as a ‘vivid record of a fragile world by an unlikely outsider.’ Wired’s Pete Brook praised Van Hoek’s approach: “As responsibly as one can make images of society’s disadvantaged. Kudos.”
Joep van Lieshout
Atelier Van Lieshout is the studio founded by sculptor, painter and visionary Joep van Lieshout. Over the past three decades, Van Lieshout has established a multidisciplinary practice that produces works on the borders between art, design, and architecture. In 2021 Joep van Lieshout (Atelier Van Lieshout) and project developer RED Company have joined forces to build a large-scale cultural cluster with residential units, offices and services in Rotterdam’s up and coming M4H port area. Their cooperation heralds a new model for urban renewal that does not automatically push out creatives once neighbourhoods upgrade.