Located next to the dark, labyrinthine Museum of Jurassic Technology is an equally mind-blowing world hidden behind a nondescript, gunmetal gray door. Ring a buzzer, and an assistant will lead you inside to one of L.A.'s most cerebral temples of arcane knowledge, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, a “research and education organization interested in understanding the nature and extent of human interaction with the Earth's surface.” CLUI casts an examining eye on the way humans shape their landscapes. Its exhibitions are stark, minimalist and sleek, often featuring photos that document radio towers perched on peaks or the strangely beautiful, brutalist concrete channels that bring water to our city. Founded by artist Matthew Coolidge, CLUI also occasionally coordinates bus tours of hard-to-access places such as L.A.'s electrical infrastructure or its dinosaurlike oil derricks, and it publishes a yearly periodical dedicated to recent excursions to presidential houses or underground business centers carved into mountainsides. CLUI is in line with an idea called place-making, which postulates that anyplace can become special once a story is attached to it. In that way, CLUI becomes a kind of frame through which we see the world. You'll never look at a pit mine or strip mall the same way again.
Credit: Courtesy Center for Land Use Interpretation