The Cities That Define Us and How We Define Them

Changing Perspectives Part 2

Muscle Beach in Southern California.

America has an undeniable amount of character. With 50 states that are different in so many ways, it’s impossible to pinpoint one America. My America growing up in California was completely different than it was for someone who grew up in Alabama, Hawaii or Alaska. One thing I can say: growing up in Los Angeles means being surrounded by lots of character. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen, but it certainly shaped me and left its marks. Other places are known for their small town vibe, where kids grow up feeling safe and protected. Instead, Los Angeles has rough edges that cut. It is raw and real, good and bad, disconnected and diverse. I am uncomfortable in any type of comfort zone because I don’t really know what one is, nothing really surprises me since I’ve seen too many shocking things, and being too far away from a city for too long makes me nervous.

Los Angeles is a messy city that seems to spread in all directions and attracts creativity as much as it brings in those seeking out fame. Truth is, most don’t move to that city to be anonymous. Because of that, self-expression seeps out through many mediums, whether it’s art, acting, modeling, fashion or even architecture. People walk down the street wearing offbeat outfits while modern buildings are an exploration of the new and unprecedented—neither the people or the architecture are for everyone, but they’re undeniably unique.

Venice Beach Wave Wall.

LA's Bats and Birdhouses Abode.

Downtown Sacramento.

In Switzerland, on the other hand, people dress in a noticeably classic, clean and simple way. Just as the streets are trash free, the architecture is straightforward and functional. These characteristics appear outward in modern structures, with a focus on sustainability and an aim toward respecting the natural surroundings. The environment and how people choose to express themselves are a reflection of the general Swiss national character: sensible, realistic and practical. I loved visiting as a kid; it was like going to a green, tranquil and unpolluted dreamland. I dreaded leaving again and hated the drive back from LAX airport to my apartment, where I would look out the window at trash scattered on the sides of the freeway and gray asphalt in place of vibrant grass.

America is the teenager that hasn’t yet matured past its frayed and rough rebellious years. Cities like New York and LA reflect this with their dirty edginess that always keeps you on your toes. The streets are never clean and the architecture isn’t rooted in tradition that goes back hundreds of years or is connected to the nature keeping it company. No, those cities are grimy and rough around the edges—it’s half of their appeal. In response, the people are often off-the-wall, out-of-the-box, and all over the place.

St. Peter Church Clock Tower in Zürich Center.

The river Sihl through Zürich.

Pavillon Le Corbusier in Zürich Seefeld.

An earth house from Peter Vetsch in Dietikon.

Lesen Sie auch den ersten Teil der Serie Los Angeles: The City I Knew Too Well.