«The world seems to be made more and more of stuff we're not supposed to look at, a banal infrastructure that supports the illusion of automotive independence, the largely unseen places from which our materials come - strip mines, industrial agriculture, automated assembly lines, abattoirs - and where they end up: the dumps.
Los Angeles consists mostly of these drably utilitarian spaces, in part because cars demand them, and it is a city built to accommodate cars. These spaces tend to be grey, the grey of unpainted cement, asphalt, steel and accumulated grime; and they tend to be either abandoned or frequented by people who are also discards, a kind of subterranean realm hauled to the surface. Or not.»
In one of the scuzzier parts of North Hollywood, in the poor early 90s, I discovered a nice Thai restaurant, meaning a restaurant by and for Thais, the sort of place where you're the only person there, staff or patron, who has even a passable grasp of English. It was in a Thai strip-mall full of Thai stores.
The place was highly trafficked and densely packed, but totally ignored by any sense of design or attractiveness or even landscaping. It was just a strip mall, built by a company that built a million of them, all horrible.
The Thais improved the situation vastly by bringing in a little altar thing, about the size of a hot-dog cart, and putting it in a little space by one of the stores. The altar had burning incense on it (burning sticks stuck in clay pots full of sand), and a few oranges and occasionally a little bit of weird Thai candy. It may have had a plastic Buddha in it, I'm not sure. Physically it was nothing special, mostly just some red-painted wood, but it improved the whole stripmall, the whole block, the whole city.