All photos: Brett Miller

The AHBE staff is playing a mentorship role again, collaborating with the senior Cal Poly Pomona studio to work together on a Long Beach remediation project exploring various solutions for an industrial site off the Los Cerritos Channel and the San Gabriel Channel. Our mutual goal: investigate long term site conditions spanning the next 100+ years.

The project began this month with a meeting and charette, with each student presenting their case study focusing upon interventions for our site. And this weekend, as part of the inventory/analysis phase of the project, the AHBE staff and students from Cal Poly took to the water together to kayak a stretch of the site.

Our visit gave our project partners a firsthand look at the site from the waterways/channels. While there are some main roads and paths skirting around the site, getting into the water and sharing space with the wildlife (both fauna and flora) offers a much more palpable and accurate experience versus simply scanning maps or even driving by/around the site.

Crossing under the Pacific Coast Highway bridge, the scenery dramatically changes to a barren industrial site (still featuring several functioning oil pump jacks). But even here amongst a landscape of industry can be found a thriving wetland in its center, an ecosystem only accessible by water. Our kayak tour concluded greeted by refineries, an industrial presence dominating the channel landscape.

Our Los Cerritos Channel excursion will play a valuable role in shaping our observations and work back within the studio, providing context for the students as they begin determining future interventions for the Los Cerritos Channel, San Gabriel River, and the surrounding environments.

Ana Serrano: Homegrown
“Ana Serrano’s immersive ‘garden’ both references a recognizable urban landscape and pays homage to the artist’s family connection to the land in Mexico. Highlighting the juxtaposition of the built environment and plant life, the installation is composed of bright-colored walls and lively plants made of cardboard and paper. The dynamic space invites viewers to move into the sculpture and immerse themselves in the disparate yet familiar elements of city living, emphasizing the balance between man-made constructions and natural elements as well as dense, permanent objects and those that are lighter, more ephemeral.”
When: Thru June 3, 2018
Where: Pasadena Museum of California Art; 490 East Union Street, Pasadena, CA 91101

The Virtuous Cycle of Water and Prosperity
“We have disrupted the natural water cycle for centuries in an effort to control water for our own prosperity. Yet every year, recovery from droughts and floods costs billions of dollars, and we spend billions more on dams, diversions, levees, and other feats of engineering. These massive projects not only are risky financially and environmentally, they often threaten social and political stability. What if the answer was not further control of the water cycle, but repair and replenishment?”
When: January 25, 2018, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM PST
Where: UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Room 2355, 337 Charles E Young Dr. East, Los Angeles, 90095

Welcome to the Dollhouse
“Welcome to the Dollhouse presents a selection of works from MOCA’s permanent collection that address, document, or deconstruct notions of domesticity. Moving through the “species of spaces” (to paraphrase French writer Georges Perec) one might find in a middle-class suburban home—yard, driveway, foyer, living room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom—the exhibition playfully examines a variety of approaches to the idea of the domestic found within the museum’s renowned collection. Spanning sculpture, photography, painting, video, and drawing from the 1960s to the present, Welcome to the Dollhouse includes works by artists for whom a dissolution of the boundaries between the fine arts and design is of central concern; works by artists engaged in a more documentary or photojournalistic approach to capturing domestic spaces and their maintenance; works by artists that veer increasingly toward the melancholic and romantic in their depictions of the interior spaces of the home; as well as works by artists engaged in strategies of appropriation.”
When: January 20th, 2018 – April 8th, 2018
Where: MOCA Pacific Design Center

Museums Free for All
“Dozens of museums—presenting art, cultural heritage, natural history, and science—will open their doors and invite visitors to attend their museums free of charge.Museums Free-for-All is partnering with Metro, encouraging visitors to Go Metro to explore participating museums, many of which are a short walk from Metro bus or rail stops. Experience a day of art and culture without traffic and plan ahead of time on”
When: January, 28th, 2018
Where: List of 2018 Participating Museums here.

Urban SOS hOUR City Event
“Please join us on January 23, 2018, at 5:30 pm for hOUR City, an evening of conversations and presentations on how to create more dynamic and equitable cities and regions. Stephen Engblom, Senior Vice President / Global Director of Cities at AECOM, and David van der Leer, Executive Director of Van Alen Institute, will moderate a panel discussion exploring strategies to connect more communities to the opportunities in cities today.”
When: January 23rd, 2018, 5:30 PM – 9 PM
Where: Millwick, 800 E 4th Place, Los Angeles

Landscapes as Chromatic Relationships: “Gareth Doherty discusses color and landscape as related to two recent projects. First, drawing from ethnographic fieldwork, Doherty explores the landscapes of the city-state of Bahrain, where green represents a plethora of implicit human values and exists in dialectical tension with other culturally and environmentally significant colors and hues. He also touches upon the work of Roberto Burle Marx, the acclaimed Brazilian landscape architect, who saw color as among the most important elements a landscape architect can work with.”

What Is a City Street? And What Will It Become?: “Streets are not timeless blanks. They evolve as cities and societies do, shape-shifting as needed into outdoor sewers, open-air bazaars, ceremonial boulevards, freight arteries, instruments of government control, routes of leisure, and so on. These functions often collide and combine…as ever-denser pedestrian crowds and flocks of bikes cohabit with (mostly empty) Uber SUVs, parked food trucks, and delivery services rushing the books or boots or appliances you ordered yesterday online….All of this requires a new set of decisions and designs, not just a let’s-see-how-it-all-works-out attitude. The street of the future should look nothing like today’s.”

Los Angeles needs open space for wildlife and for our sanity: “Still, there should be less dramatic and less costly ways to help animals survive. In fact, the city passed an ordinance nearly two years ago that would require developers in a designated wildlife habitat linkage zone to build pathways or leave space through their properties to serve as wildlife corridors. The problem is that the ordinance has yet to be implemented. The city should get moving.”

Britain’s Next Megaproject: A Coast-to-Coast Forest: “Northern England is set to get a whole lot greener. On Sunday, the U.K. government unveiled plans for a vast new forest spanning the country from coast to coast. Shadowing the path of the east-west M62 Highway, the new forest will create a broad green rib across England from Liverpool to the east coast city of Hull.”

Was Pasadena Once Home to the ‘8th Wonder of the World?: “Whether it’s the lavish and pristine Huntington Gardens or the exotic and wild Descanso Gardens, southern California has managed to preserve many parcels of significant horticultural history.Unfortunately, we’ve also managed to lose one of the crown jewels of those early private gardens that eventually became public: Busch Gardens in Pasadena.”

Image: Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Touch Sanitation Performance, 1979-1980. Citywide performance with 8,500 Sanitation workers across all 59 New York City Sanitation districts. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, photo: Robin Holland.

Maintenance is perpetually on my mind while thinking about design and the landscape practice. Not necessarily in the ways one might imagine initially, like the performative aspects of a landscape. Instead, I often think about the ways design and the labor of maintenance are divided. This division has a long chronic history, and informs how we design and what we value in work.

My Working Will be the Work:” Maintenance Art and Technologies of Change by Anna Reser recently inspired contemplation about some of the underpinning systems supporting this division in contemporary culture. It argues there is a prevailing preoccupation with innovation, a cultural obsession which leaves preservation and the hands that labor in service of maintenance in the shadows.

“Maintenance has been long overlooked in favor of a focus on innovation and design practices; the very beginnings of technology have always been more appealing than their often messy or disappointing longer lives.” -Anna Reser

The article focuses on subversive art practices that reveal the invisible labor of marginalized people whose efforts allow privileged – historically “white able-bodied men” – to focus on fetishized “sexy” innovation (my favorite adjective in the design world).

Mierle Laderman Ukles’s “Transfer: The Maintenance of the Art Object” involved performing the duties of a museum janitor; her decision to call the tools of the trade “Maintenance Art Works” made visible the hidden labor required to maintain the various indispensable urban systems we often take for granted. This disruption was political.

“One important aspect of this ‘turn’ to maintenance histories is that the un-and-underpaid labor of women and marginalized people, who are disproportionately relegated to maintenance work, has again become an important site for articulating the history of technology.”

This discourse investigates maintenance and other forms of hidden labor, which I believe could influence and inform a more sensitive, responsive, and empathetic design practice. What kind of design culture will drive solutions to improve our planet? Perhaps, with enough time, a culture with a deep affection for practices continually shaping, sustaining, and fundamentally changing our design objects, sites, and systems.

What would our practice look like as a culture of maintenance rather than a culture of innovation technology? Reser explains the radical nature of Ukles’ art practice, bringing attention to “this invisible work of cleaning, repairing, cooking, and mending Maintenance Art”, forcing our attention into “spaces that had always privileged the result, not the work that sustains it”. I would add that beyond privileging the result over the work that sustains it, a culture of innovation cannot perform as opportunistically in real time. It does not prioritize the response and actual needs of unforeseen forces in a design’s use and performance over time.

Reser’s critique ultimately invites discussion about the design process and social justice. Who innovates? Who maintains? And what actions will promote positive change, as well as preserve it? It’s all up for negotiation. The potential for influence in technologies and labors of maintenance is as much about change as it is about preservation, whether we chose to value it or not.


Photo: Creative Commons

Uber began in 2009, offering what seemed then like a nicer alternative to traditional taxis. The ride sharing service took over cities around the world quickly, with many other ridesharing services springing forth soon after. Most major cities today are served by some app-based rideshare service(s).

With rideshare services now ubiquitous, new developments are beginning to incorporate Uber and Lyft drop-off areas in site planning. Rideshares are now part of the discussion of planners, designers, and policy-makers globally. Recent research has undertaken the task of understanding the impacts of these services on planning, urbanism/urban sociology, and our environment.

Source: Clewlow, R.R. & Mishra, G.S. UC Davis Report

Rideshare services differ from traditional ridesharing or carpooling, because the destination for a passenger is not necessarily the destination for the driver. These services don’t aim to get more cars off the road. Instead, Uber, Lyft, and similar services are a convenient alternative form of transportation, each depending upon a driver being mobile, driving within the vicinity of passengers, or making a drop-off nearby. Quite often these drivers spend a certain amount of time driving around without passengers, waiting for a new route to pop-up on their phones.

A recent CityLab post investigated habits of rideshare app users and overall transportation trends in 10 major US cities. The article is based on emerging research from UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies.

‘Ride-hailing’, as the article calls it, has been leading to a “substitutive versus complementary nature of ride-hailing varies greatly based on the type of transit service”. While increases in walking and heavy-rail commuter trains (3%) are noteworthy, so are decreases in the use of light rail (3%) and buses (6%). The study also found that between 49-61% of trips made by “ride-hailing” wouldn’t have been made at all, or made by walking.

The largest takeaway from the CityLab post is these services are likely to contribute to the growth of vehicular miles travelled in major US cities like Los Angeles. Not only are these miles travelled with a passenger, but also the in-between ‘idle miles’.

In addition to added congestion, these added miles contribute to air quality and water quality issues resulting from personal vehicular use. “Avoiding drinking and driving” and “parking difficulties” are often cited as the most important factors for using these rideshare services, but what steps can be taken to eliminate the idle-miles associated with the popularity of ridesharing?

Source: Clewlow, R.R. & Mishra, G.S. UC Davis Report

Are micro-transit systems such as Leap Transit or Via – both which are modeled after carpool – the answer? Is it designated parking station electric car sharing services like BlueLA offer a way to eliminate the parking issue surrounding personal vehicle use? Or will it be a new form of ride-hailing incorporating dispatch centers, stations, and autonomous vehicles that will eventually decrease idle miles? The challenge ultimately will be to make transit options more appealing to as many commuters as possible, in turn decreasing user demand for vehicular travel altogether.

Ridesharing and ride-hailing will unlikely go away any time soon. So as technology advances and cities become more congested, we will need to conceive new planning strategies and alternatives to our existing models to incorporate ridesharing into our cities without the negatives associated with a city of idle drivers waiting for their next rider.