(research.videos.) The Los Angeles River is spectacular. It’s sublime in the best sense of the word. I got to experience it first-hand for the first time back in the summer of 2011 when Leigh Christy, a colleague in our L.A. office, introduced me to some of its primary players – the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation, Friends of the Los Angeles River, and the River Office in the Bureau of Engineering at City Hall. Since then I’ve become more than just a little obsessed. (Photos flow downstream; scroll down to watch my videos).
The Los Angeles River gave the city its original reason for being and nourished its early cultural life and economy. Yet today, most people don’t even know Los Angeles has a river. By the mid 20th century when local industry began shifting from rail to trucks for the shipping of goods and supplies, the once-wild river had already been hemmed in by railroads and industrial zones, and had already been channelized to control flooding for its full 52 miles from the San Fernando Valley to the port at Long Beach. The public had largely forgotten about their river. Their gaze was on the future and the future was somewhere else. Their indifference allowed the ugly concrete “river” to disappear from consciousness and become further degraded by highways, high-power transmission lines and other transgressions.
Fast forward to today, as a new generation has rediscovered their river and is fighting to reposition it once again as a central part of a more sustainable future for Los Angeles. Supported by a grassroots movement growing since the 1980s, a broadened and collaborative approach has emerged today in support of an expanding vision. Together, they are not only proposing significant changes to the physical infrastructure of the river, they are reinserting the river back into the public consciousness and challenging the public to rethink their decisions they make about the places that they live and work.
Catalyst infrastructure projects like the Los Angeles River, the Atlanta Beltline, or any projects highlighted by www.gravelblog.com are popping up all around the country. In the process, they’re not only transforming the physical form of their cities. They are changing our cultural expectations for how we want to live. The Los Angeles River is especially important because of it’s scale and corresponding impact. What is now a 52-mile concrete backdrop for every post-apocalyptic film coming out of Hollywood, will soon become some kind of reclaimed waterway, connecting critical parts of the region and reinvigorating communities along its route. Specific components of the project include flood detention, stormwater filtration, water quality, water re-use, greenways, parks, multi-use trails, economic development, swimming, fishing and boating. It’s going to take a while, but the potential and progress of the Los Angeles River Revitalization is undeniable. Go River! >> Ryan Gravel
04/2012.”A Day on the Los Angeles River.” (8:09) I used this video in an exhibition at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MoDA) in January 2012 – an “Emerging Voices” citation by the AIA Atlanta Young Architects Forum.
04/2012. “Ruh-Roh. The Los Angeles River Sprung a Leak.” (0:28)
Map it: at White Oak Avenue, at the Sepulveda Dam, at Laurel Canyon Road, at Universal Studios, at the Zoo, at North Atwater Park, at North Figueroa Street, at Sixth Street downtown, at Atlantic Boulevard, at Florence Avenue, at 105/710 interchange, at Del Amo Boulevard, at Willow Street, at downtown Long Beach.