SurveyLA Training – Day 1

The first day of official training for the SurveyLA fieldwork! The training days are really intended for the consultants who are contracted to go out into the field and do the actual survey assessments, but we interns at OHR attended as well. Today was all about the conceptual framework for the survey, and making sure that the consultants were comfortable using the city-wide Historic Context Statement developed by SurveyLA as a way of analyzing historic significance.  After all, in a city the size of LA, and working with dozens of people, how can you make sure that everyone is one the same page? The only way is to develop standardized categories or conceptual tools to compare the historical relevance of buildings across the board.

The more I’ve though about this, though, the more complicated the project seems. Los Angeles has about 880,000 parcels (a parcel is a single plot of land, usually with one building on it but some can have multiple structures). To analyze all these, the SurveyLA project has a framework of 9 major historic contexts. Each context has multiple sub-contexts, and each sub-context has many historic themes—for a total of about 300. But that’s only the beginning. In addition to figuring out what context and theme should apply to each property, there’s also about 300 individual property types—things like Schools (subdivided into Boarding Schools, Elementary Schools, Reform Schools, and ten other types), Hospitals, Apartment Buildings, or single-family residences.

That’s all just to determine if a structure IS historically significant. If it is, then it needs to be described using standardized descriptors. So there are about 250 architectural styles as well that surveyors need to know.

Fortunately the survey teams already know a lot of this, including all those architectural styles. Even better, all of the framework for judging structures – including the listings of possible architectural styles – is including the in survey software we’ll be using. Next training day: how to use the software and the tablet computers it runs on while in the field.

How big is Los Angeles? Eight other cities can fit within the city's boundaries...

Training day at OHR - Learning to apply the Historic Context Statement as a framework for analyzing significance.

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About Steve Duncan

Urban explorer, photographer, and historian.
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