For the first time, Anton Wagner’s groundbreaking 1935 book that launched the study of Los Angeles as an urban metropolis is available in English.
No book on the emergence of Los Angeles, today a metropolis of more than four million people, has been more influential or elusive than this volume by Anton Wagner. Originally published in German in 1935 as Los Angeles: Werden, Leben und Gestalt der Zweimillionenstadt in Südkalifornien, it is one of the earliest geographical investigations of a city understood as a series of layered landscapes. Wagner demonstrated that despite its geographical disadvantages, Los Angeles grew rapidly into a dominant urban region, bolstered by agriculture, real estate development, transportation infrastructure, tourism, the oil and automobile industries, and the film business. Although widely reviewed upon its initial publication, his book was largely forgotten until reintroduced by architectural historian Reyner Banham in his 1971 classic Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies.
This definitive translation is annotated by Edward Dimendberg and preceded by his substantial introduction, which traces Wagner's biography and intellectual formation in 1930s Germany and contextualizes his work among that of other geographers. It is an essential work for students, scholars, and curious readers interested in urban geography and the rise of Los Angeles as a global metropolis.
“This fine new translation by Timothy Grundy of Anton Wagner's Los Angeles with Edward Dimendberg's lucidly probing introduction constitutes a major contribution to urban history and our understanding of one of the world's most enigmatic and significant cities.”
—Thomas S. Hines, Research Professor of History and Architecture and Urban Design, UCLA
“Edward Dimendberg has done a remarkable job bringing Anton Wagner's classic study of Los Angeles to a wider readership. This landmark publication will enable many strands of urban scholarship to enter into dialogue for the first time.”
—Matthew Gandy, Professor of Geography, University of Cambridge, and author of Natura Urbana: Ecological Constellations in Urban Space (2022)
“Anton Wagner was a prescient and troubling historical figure. Nearly a century ago, with his camera in hand, he walked Los Angeles in fervent exploration of metropolitan growth. This beautiful and expert book takes Wagner every bit as seriously as he took Los Angeles.” —William Deverell, Director, Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West
"Anton Wagner’s geographic and ethnographic history of the urbanization of Los Angeles has long been unavailable to English-speaking readers. This early study, accompanied by Edward Dimendberg’s comprehensive introduction, will be of interest to all who, like Reyner Banham, admire its impressive scholarship and firsthand account of a city and ecology already in the throes of dynamic transformation." —Joan Ockman, Vincent Scully Visiting Professor of Architectural History, Yale School of Architecture
"Encompassing copious photographs, insightful commentary, and thorough reconstruction of Wagner’s life and times, this new translation of Anton Wagner’s Los Angeles provides the missing link in scholarship about the metropolis during the early twentieth century. Its continuing relevance and controversial edge will appeal to urban researchers and college students beyond Southern California." —Michael Dear, Professor Emeritus of City & Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley
"Scholars of Los Angeles, or any city, must rejoice at this first proper English-language publication of Wagner's brilliant, if problematic, urban studies masterpiece. The edition is made accessible and relevant by Edward Dimendberg's indispensable prefatory material and contextualization." —Roger Keil, Professor of Environmental and Urban Change, York University
“Finally translating this fascinating book into English fills an important gap in our historical knowledge of Los Angeles and its interpretation. Edward Dimendberg's invaluable introduction situates Anton Wagner in a comprehensive intellectual context. Of more than merely historical interest, this in-depth picture of Los Angeles in 1933 is essential reading for anyone interested in cities.” —Margaret Crawford, Professor of Architecture, University of California, Berkeley
“This key text from 1935 for understanding Los Angeles urbanism is finally available in an excellent English translation by Timothy Grundy. Revelatory introductory essays by Anthony Vidler and Edward Dimendberg explain how German geographer (and later Nazi Party member) Anton Wagner was able to map and conceptualize the radical originality of this archetypal American metropolis in ways that deeply influenced Reyner Banham and so many subsequent writers on the city.” —Robert Fishman, Taubman College of Architecture and Planning, University of Michigan
"Expertly annotated by Edward Dimendberg, Anton Wagner’s book on the growth of Los Angeles, which first appeared in German in 1935, is a landmark study in the history of urbanization. At the same time, it can be read as an example of transnational and comparative history, in which an observer from one country commented on developments in another. This volume will interest historians of the modern city, both in America and in Germany." —Andrew Lees, Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus, Rutgers University
“Blending his wide knowledge and his acute wit, Edward Dimendberg has meticulously reconstructed the genesis of a forgotten doctoral thesis, which had remained unread for more than eighty years, despite its acknowledgement by Reyner Banham. This pioneering scholarly study of the Southern Californian metropolis is now available for the first time in English, inscribed with subtlety in both its German and its American contexts on the basis of thorough investigations.” —Jean-Louis Cohen, Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
"This is the odyssey of a book written and published in 1930s Nazi Germany, forgotten after the war, and rediscovered by Reyner Banham in the ‘70s. Los Angeles is a seminal text of modern architectural history and confronts readers in the present with the paradox of an unknown classic.“ —Wolfgang Schivelbusch, author of The Railway Journey
“Finally, a translation of Anton Wagner’s Los Angeles, with extensive notes and a superb and deeply researched introduction by Edward Dimendberg, has arrived. It turns out that it was worth the wait. This volume is not only an important historic document, but a still-unrivaled portrait of a great city.” —Robert Bruegmann, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Art History, Architecture, and Urban Planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of Sprawl: A Compact History
"Scholars of Los Angeles can rejoice that Anton Wagner’s legendary study of early 1930s Los Angeles is at last available in a masterful translation, with a luminous introduction by Edward Dimendberg that captures Wagner’s analytical brilliance as well as his troubling politics and racial views. An essential addition to any library of Southern California." —Louis S. Warren, W. Turrentine Jackson Professor of Western U.S. History, University of California, Davis
“Anton Wagner’s study provides an invaluable and frequently perceptive window into the evolution of Los Angeles during the early twentieth century, showing how human agency transformed regional resources into a booming major city. The translation is immensely enhanced by Edward Dimendberg’s skillful provision of context, including fascinating intellectual history.” —Stephen Bell, Professor of Geography and History, UCLA
"Los Angeles: The Development, Life, and Structure of the City of Two Million in Southern California has always had an elusive presence in the conversation about the explosive growth of the Southern California metropolis at the beginning of the twentieth century: an arcane text known to exist, but only accessible to very few. This expert first translation in English almost ninety years after it originally appeared in German is prefaced by a complex and engaging introduction by Edward Dimendberg that situates the original study in a multidisciplinary conversation. It elucidates the many ways this landmark essay on Los Angeles’s urban geography was not only filtered into subsequent scholarship on the city—Reyner Banham’s iconic Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies in particular—but also how it resonates with contemporary debates about cities as complex social organisms. This book will be essential reading not only for historians of Los Angeles but for those interested in the theorization of the modern metropolis more broadly. That the volume editor addresses Wagner’s problematic views on race and territorial conquest front and center, within their historic context, only adds to the significance of this undertaking." —Martino Stierli, The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Anton Wagner (1904–2001) was a geographer, diplomat, journalist, and businessman who lived and worked in Europe and the Americas. In 1932–33 he traveled to Los Angeles to conduct the extensive research that became the basis of Los Angeles: The Development, Life, and Structure of the City of Two Million in Southern California, for which he received a doctorate with distinction from the Geographisches Institut of the Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel in 1935.
Edward Dimendberg is professor of humanities at the University of California, Irvine.
Timothy Grundy is an independent translator based in Los Angeles.
“Ultimately, to the contemporary reader, Wagner’s text not only communicates the unprecedented, rapid development of Los Angeles in the boom years that he studies, but also is instructive in considering the continued growth of the city since the author undertook the project.”
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