Standing out by fitting in

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A black-haired Singapore Airlines hostess smiles down on the intersection of San Pedro and First Streets from a billboard atop a row of sushi and shabu-shabu joints, announcing 30 years of flying to Los Angeles.  Somehow rather than sticking out here in Little Tokyo, it fits in with the hotch-potch of bland high-rise banks and hotels, broad but unused sidewalks bordered by purple-flowered jacarandas mixed with the emlematic and so-tall-they’re-tipping-over tootsie-pops that are the California fan palms, four-story parking garages, and a giant red and white radio antenna tower.

By contrast, from my seventeeth floor hotel vantage point what seems out of place is the modest urban-renewal-style five-story dusty red and ochre apartment strip lining Alameda Street. With a bland desert color scheme and design-for-inoffensiveness, the apartments are jiu-jitsued into uniqueness (not in a good way) by their very attempt to fit in.

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