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Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’

BY SARAH COWLES

In this installation by Terremoto, a carpet of pavers leads from the Rudolph M. Schindler Studio of the Schindler House into the courtyard, terminating in a circle of prickly pear cactus. Photo by Joshua White.

 A group exhibition of landscape architecture at the Schindler House, co-curated by Mia Lehrer and Priscilla Fraser.

Every May in Los Angeles, men in orange whack back the dry, gold grass, making a mandated measure of defensible space in a landscape of fires, earthquakes, and landslides. This year, though, brought relieving rains. The Hollywood Hills came in green after years of severe drought, yet the message remained fixed: We must continue to cut back, tear out this and put in that, and mulch it over with colored gravel.

In flush times, it is irresponsible to deny water to our gardens; in dry times, we are guilty if we indulge them. This austerity imperative severs our intimate connections to the land. Edicts are always prefixed with “low”: low-water, low-maintenance, low-impact, which is said to require merely an aesthetic attitude adjustment. Yet all this lowing denies us the everyday tending practices and attentions; our attention to growth, flowering, decay; our ability to watch a sweet-pea tendril spiral or to inhale the scent of wet soils.

The temptation is to flip the script: Be a lush. Resist the conservatism of conservation. Practice a radical (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

AECOM’s plan turns the riverbed into an outdoor activities park. Image courtesy of the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering and AECOM.

The big conundrum of the Los Angeles River—that it is so imposing yet so divorced from the city—shows in the visions for its future proposed in early June by seven architecture, engineering, and landscape architecture firms. The occasion was the Los Angeles River Downtown Design Dialogue, a pro bono charrette that took place on the 10th anniversary of the city’s original master plan for the river. The design firms showed ways that visitors could step down to its shallow waters, although the concrete-lined waterway runs so low at times it can seem more like a quasi-natural splash pad. But the most fascinating plans marginalized the typically modest amounts of water in the river almost entirely.

There are no immediate plans to execute any of the projects. Rather, Gary Lee Moore, the city engineer of Los Angeles, described the charrette as an opportunity to (more…)

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BY NATE BERG

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The carving up of cities by expressways is still a civil rights problem, but it’s being solved as an economic one.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Since freeways began slicing through cities in the United States more than 75 years ago, they have carved deep and lasting lines of separation through countless communities. Many of these communities—located in so-called blighted areas—were made up of people of color who were simply pushed aside by the transportation officials building out the nation’s vast network of interstates and urban freeways. In a somewhat surprising speech in March 2016, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, the nation’s top transportation official, acknowledged this dark history and the mistakes of his predecessors.

“We now know—overwhelmingly—that our urban freeways were routed through low-income neighborhoods. Instead of connecting us to each other, highway decision makers separated us,” Foxx said. Reflecting on his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, he noted how the “connective tissue” of the African American neighborhood where he lived rrns destroyed by two highways—infrastructure that was planned and built before federal civil rights legislation could intervene. “Neighbors were separated from neighbors. The corner store was gone because the corner was gone,” he said. “A new more convenient, high-speed thoroughfare had been created. But the way of life of another community had been destroyed.”

The huge gashes that freeways cut through cities will live on for the foreseeable future, as will their divisive legacy. But Foxx has vowed to try to undo some of that long-lasting damage. Though they may seem intractable, these divisions (more…)

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The Los Angeles Urban Rangers bring a naturalist’s eye to the urban jungle. Since 2004, they’ve led Angelenos in guided hikes and campfire talks through their city, tallying security cameras and public art instead of rare mushrooms and finches. Their latest video (a tour of downtown Los Angeles’s financial district) seems mostly like an act of whimsy and make-believe—until they guide explorers through dark tunnels and dense webs of infrastructure to one of the few places that offer public access to the concrete-entombed Los Angeles River. From that hidden vantage point, it’s much clearer that all landscapes, green or gray alike, require access and appreciation to survive and thrive.

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BY ZACH MORTICE

An abandoned island is the Venice Lagoon. Local Code by Nicholas de Monchaux, published by Princeton Architectural Press 2016.

An abandoned island in the Venice lagoon. Local Code by Nicholas de Monchaux, published by Princeton Architectural Press, 2016.

In his new book, Local Code: 3,659 Proposals About Data, Design, and the Nature of Cities, the University of California, Berkeley architecture and urban design professor Nicholas de Monchaux develops new tools for the mass customization of underused and vacant urban lots, highlighting the limits of inflexible systems thinking. His book charts a way forward with an eye on past failures, and new possibilities founded in corrective measures that have proved to work.

American cities’ first encounters with data, he writes, happened after World War II. That’s when protocomputing power, developed by the military and Cold War consultancies such as the RAND Corporation, merged with tabula rasa modernist urban planning. These binary solutions to complex built environments (remembered most vividly as Robert Moses-style urban renewal that tore down anything old and dirty) became what de Monchaux calls (more…)

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BY WENDY GILMARTIN

For the residents of L.A.’s Skid Row, public space is a priority.

For the residents of L.A.’s Skid Row, public space is a priority.

From the October 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine

Speed bumps and curbs that narrow the street to slow traffic. Safety zones for women and LGBTQ residents. Vegetable gardens with citrus trees. Drinking fountains, storage units, and cell phone charging stations. This isn’t a laundry list of community benefits in your local affluent suburb; it’s a wish list for the nation’s most concentrated homeless community in downtown Los Angeles: Skid Row.

Where just five years ago tents, shopping carts, and makeshift campsites lined the streets in this eastern portion of downtown, gleaming luxury condominiums now stand with a Whole Foods market and designer clothing boutiques at street level. Even more high-end stores are under construction in an area that already lacks open spaces and parks.

Skid Row, with 11,000 residents living in an area of roughly 50 city blocks, (more…)

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BY WENDY GILMARTIN

A Los Angeles firm turns to super-light interventions for a landscape bent on change.

A Los Angeles firm turns to super-light interventions for a landscape bent on change.

From the September 2016 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

It’s been nearly three years since Los Angeles County Waste Management’s fleet of rumbling trash trucks ceased their daily climb up and down the massive landfill in Puente Hills, for years one of the nation’s largest. Now, the 640-acre site is poised to become a public park, and despite its proximity to an area rich in outdoor amenities like the picturesque Powder Canyon and Arroyo Pescadero Trail, it lacks easy access and infrastructure that would allow surrounding working-class San Gabriel Valley communities a chance to experience its spectacular views and raw terrain.

“When the county came to us, they wanted us to think big, and they wanted the public to think big,” says Bryan Matsumoto, a landscape design associate at Withers & Sandgren Landscape Architecture and Planning in Montrose, California. On behalf of the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, Withers & Sandgren worked with Auburn, Alabama-based Hillworks Landscape + Architecture and other consultants to develop a careful strategy of maximizing the site’s abrasively (more…)

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