Under Spring: Voices + Art + Los Angeles

Winner of the 2013 California Historical Society Book Award

The winner of the first CHS Book Award reimagines what a history book can be, and it tells a story all California needs to hear in order to understand itself. Beneath Los Angeles’s North Spring Street bridge, a deteriorated concrete landscape was used for years as a homeless encampment and a buffer zone between gang territories. Between 2006 and 2013, artist Lauren Bon and her Metabolic Studio team transformed the underpass into a vibrantly creative space that served as a public square, ceremonial ground, art gallery, community garden, and musical instrument. Under Spring explores the unlikely history of this underpass, revealing the past of Los Angeles itself.

Sixty-six people from all walks of life—artists, scholars, laborers, graffiti artists, urban planners, activists, gang members—chronicle the underpass’s many metamorphoses, and in doing so construct an energized account of change and development in LA. We come to understand how agriculture and transportation have shaped the city’s growth; how abandoned places serve as refuges for people excluded from society; and how civic pride can arise from a city’s blighted core. Under Spring offers a new look at the story of Los Angeles and a new way of telling the story.


Published in collaboration with the California Historical Society


“Rosenberg’s book does what the best histories do. It reveals the possibilities alive in the past. And it attunes us to the possibilities alive around us today.”—LA Observed


“By weaving into its oral history the voices of 66 different speakers—among them urban landscapers, artists, security guards, City Councilmen, LA river experts, the formerly homeless, and a newborn baby—Rosenberg creates a tapestry as vibrant as the city itself.”—Peter Relic, Los Angeles Review of Books


“A well-rounded, flowing narrative that touches on anthropology, LA history, issues of class and race and the importance of preserving public spaces.”—Neon Tommy


“Iconic and timely.”—L.A. Letters


“Opens an unusual window on Los Angeles, revealing the way in which creative expression, cultural diversity and social activism intersect in shaping this lively and dynamic city.”—Abitare


“A fascinating gathering of voices and stories—of people—trying to make home and make sense of a spot long in the shadows of metropolitan history. This is important work, as moving as it is thoughtful.”—William Deverell, director, Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West


“Gathers testimony from dozens of extraordinarily diverse citizens whose lives have been enriched and challenged by the goings-on beneath the Spring Street Bridge. Readers will come away from this frontline report dazed and amazed.”—Lewis MacAdams, cofounder and president, Friends of the Los Angeles River


“A new, organic way of chronicling the dynamism of Los Angeles…it captures the smell of concrete and the colors of graffiti, and tackles big questions about development and public space in order to bring a changing city to life. This is a terrific, unusual chronicle of a terrific, unusual experiment in art, place, and community.”—Gregory Rodriguez, publisher, Zócalo Public Square

About the Author

Jeremy Rosenberg is the Assistant Dean, Public Affairs and Special Events, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and a former team member of Metabolic Studio. His writings about art, urban planning, policy, ideas, and much more have appeared in dozens of anthologies, newspapers, magazines, and online publications, including the Los Angeles Times, The Art Newspaper, ARTNews, and Art+Auction. His weekly columns have included “The Secret City” for LATimes.com, “The Laws That Shaped LA” and “Arrival Stories” for KCET, and “City / Culture” for Next City. He was named a Next American City Vanguard in 2009. Follow him on Twitter at @LosJeremy.