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This report is taken from PN Review 97, Volume 20 Number 5, May - June 1994.

A Brief Excursion into Hotel-Theory John Needham

Being an infrequent traveller it was only recently that I found myself with a belated opportunity to look at the Westin Bonaventure, the Los Angeles hotel and shopping complex analysed by Fredric Jameson in the opening chapter of Post-modernism. History of course has already been rather unkind to both Jameson and John Portman, the architect. Racial conflict has damaged Los Angeles tourism almost as much as the Soviet collapse has damaged academic Marxism, and Portman's work in general has lately been labelled banal, but though neither the hotel nor the essay are as much frequented as they once were, I felt they might still have something to tell me about contemporary aesthetic theory, so off I went.

Since Jameson's thesis is that the post-modern structure of the Bonaventure undermines our fundamental perception of space and since his first piece of evidence for this is the uncertain location of the entrance, it seems appropriate that I should have some difficulty in finding the building at all. My tourist pamphlet describes it as being on South Flower Street, but my map contains only a Flower Street, so I make my way to that, and head experimentally south. The road-side buildings rarely rise more than two storeys and I will surely have little difficulty in sighting the Bonaventure's thirty-five-floor bulk. But the further south I drive, the less likely it seems that the deteriorating urban scene will suddenly disclose a luxury hotel, even one intended as a post-modern stunt. These ...


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