It surprises a lot of people to learn that Santa Monica is a city unto itself. Pushed up against the Pacific Ocean by Los Angeles on three sides, it is easy to think of Santa Monica as a neighborhood of the metropolis of LA. But step into the City of Santa Monica and you immediately get the vibe not of a part of the second largest city in the country, but of a small town. The small town feel is most apparent during the summer when everyone is out and about, and especially at the Main Street Fourth of July Parade. Even those who “don’t go out much” will run into dozens of people they know at the parade. The parade is an opportunity for spectators and participants to enjoy the day, enjoy the day off from work for many of us, and to catch up with old friends. The whole town turns out for the parade – or at least that is how it feels, and how it feels is what is important.
The “small town” is a euphemism. It is less a place than it is an experience of a place. Small towns are quaint, relatively quiet, tidy, where everyone knows everyone and strangers are treated kindly. Or so this is how we imagine small towns. This is certainly how I would design a small town. Much like the spaces we design + construct, it is the feel of the space that captures the occupant and makes them want to stay.
On the Fourth of July, during the parade, when everyone is wearing a combination of red, white and blue, when we’re enveloped by the aroma of BBQ, and where kids of all ages are waving American flags, this small town of Santa Monica, my town, feels its best.