SURF

Calvin Nguyen

The Grove, Los Angeles: a Study on Themed, Commercial, and Pseudo-Civic Spaces

The Grove has become one of Los Angeless main attractions, housing a farmers market, an assortment of shops, entertainment, and picturesque features, and attracting over 18 million visitors a year–on par with the holy grail of Los Angeles attractions, Disneyland. Yet, despite its prominence in Los Angeles urban leisure, little research has been devoted to this space. The Grove presents such an intriguing place as it does much more to immerse its visitors than the average mall; for one, it claims and boasts historical roots in its design and presentation–the most blatant example being its name, referencing the actual grove that preceded the commercial space. In essence, the Grove provides simulation in its architecture and control in its construction–a culturally and physically fabricated space that has very concrete effects on its visitors and city. My research aims to understand the Grove not just as a themed and immersive environment, but also as part of the phenomenon of privatized and controlled spaces acting as civic ones–the Disneylands of everyday life.

Message to Sponsor

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Rice, A few days after the capstone SURF conference, I had a small chat with Sean Burns, the current director of SURF, who also happens to be an American Studies alum. He congratulated me on my research project, and proceeded to tell me about the extraordinary work of the previous American Studies fellows. In that moment I felt both humbled and proud to follow a long lineage of American Studies students in this program, fellows who have done such exemplary work and didn't shy away from the challenge of doing intensive research. A few months ago, I was unsure if being an academic researcher would be a viable option for me--coming from working class, immigrant parents. Now, I'm much more optimistic. This summer has challenged me and stretched my mind; but ultimately, it has equipped me with the tools and confidence to continue pursuing a career in academia. Because of the opportunity you've given me, I finally realize that I'd love nothing more than to write about the intersection of material culture and the built environment for the rest of my life--to, as I exclaimed to Professor Kathleen Moran one evening in office hours, ""write papers about places"". Thank you so much for providing me--and those before me--with the opportunity to not just do research, but to be able to call ourselves researchers. Best, Calvin Nguyen
  • Major: American Studies
  • Sponsor: Rice Fund
  • Mentor: Kathleen Moran