Sunset over Sunset

Julian Valgora




Associate Professor of City & Regional Planning and Historic Preservation

Project Summary

Sunset Over Sunset is a project that explores the sociology, urbanism, and history of the City of Los Angeles. It is centered around the photographs of Ed Ruscha, who is an American artist that took an enormous series of pictures of LA’s iconic Sunset Boulevard. By taking these pictures over such a long period of time, he basically accumulated a massive archive of how the city changed over five decades.

The role of Sunset Over Sunset is really to organize Ruscha’s photographs into a digital archive that analyzes how LA’s urban fabric, culture, and sociology has changed since the mid 1900s to present day. My role in the project was largely centered around the gathering of census data and a deep dive analysis of greenery along Sunset Boulevard.

This project was deeply tied to my educational experience, as I had just come out of the fall semester having taken several urban studies courses and interested in how the things I learned might be applied to real world research and work. A lot of the tools that I gathered from my fall courses I ended up using in Sunset Over Sunset to a much larger scale. Although I was not new to the type of work, I became much more adept at organizing census data, analyzing photographs, and using online programs like Social Explorer.

The most impactful part of being a part of this project was getting to learn and explore the history and culture of another city. I had the opportunity to visit Los Angeles before my research project started, which I felt greatly enhanced by experience. I was able to connect things in my research like LA’s enormous entertainment industry, iconic freeways, and culture of glamor to different places I had seen myself (especially as I drove down Sunset Boulevard). By the time the summer was coming to an end, I felt that I understood Los Angeles on a much deeper level than a tourist or visitor, and more like a historian or planner. And yet, there is still a lot I felt I could learn if I continued my work analyzing Ruscha’s photographs or viewing the demographic data.

To see my poster, visit Penn Presents: