Baca Architects and H+N+S Landscape Architects have turned a peninsula at a bend in the Waal River, near the German-Holland border, into a seasonal island. (Baca Architects)

What Can Cities Do to Go “Blue”?: ““We need to acknowledge that the water is eventually going to do what the water wants to do, and shift our approach, as human populations living on the Earth, from one of trying to dominate nature to one that acknowledges the power of nature and works in synchrony with that,” says English. “We’ve already set ourselves down this path of dams and levees and water control systems, and it’s really hard to turn back. But we don’t need to keep replicating that. We don’t need to make the situation worse. It’s time to step back from the approach of control and fortification.”

Of Walking On Concrete: “The LA river runs for 54 miles and functions as the de facto the spine of the city. People may try and correct me on the mileage and say the river is 51 miles long, but I walked it with my GPS on the whole time. I ended up walking 56 miles but, to be fair, I did get a little lost at one point. If I followed its whole course, I’d walk from Canoga Park in the western San Fernando Valley all the way down to the port of Long Beach: one end of the city to the other.”

Landscape architects now design for mass shootings: “While urban planners and architects can’t hope to stop all the forces that lead to a mass shooting, they can understand how the crowd flees. And they can design spaces to discourage crimes of opportunity and reduce the damage an attacker can do, as this elementary school has. When people have to shelter in place, it is the past work of architects that determines just how safe those places are. Outdoor spaces designed by architects and built with crowd dynamics in mind might save lives when the next concert suddenly turns into a bloodbath.”

Older People Will Need Much Better Transit: “Protected streets, denser neighborhoods, and accessible medical care make urban life safer and healthier for everyone—especially the 65-and-up crowd, one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population. By 2030, nearly 20 percent of Americans will be 65 or older, up 6 percent points from 2015.”

How Your Yard Can Help Save Your House from Fire: “Seeing images like these, of a friend’s house in Sonoma, got me thinking about how you can prevent fires through your landscape, a.k.a. “firescaping.” As a homeowner, making a few simple changes to your yard can protect your house from capricious flames and help prevent wildfires from spreading without restraint. Here are a few fire prevention tips.”

All photos by Jack Coyier

After many seasons of consecutive drought, numerous landscape architecture teams have begun addressing solutions to mitigate Southern California’s water needs. Landscape architects are designing and implementing various methods creatively, including stormwater capture, reuse systems, and other means, like concrete lining removal from Los Angeles River tributaries to allow groundwater to recharge. These type of solutions have become standard design elements throughout our city in the last few years.

But almost 10 years ago, back in 2008, AHBE had already completed a water-wise project: the first Downtown Los Angeles Green Street project.

Our client – developers, The South Group Partnership – were building mixed use housing with retail attached on the block between 11th and 12th, and Hope and Grand. Their plans envisioned revitalizing the neighborhood, with one of the central components of the project a voluntary inclusion of a wider public right of way for pedestrians, alongside other streetscape upgrades from all sides of the property.

Infiltration planters were designed in collaboration with civil engineering specialists, KPFF. The planters were designed to permit stormwater to enter through cuts in the sidewalk curb from the street and flow through specially designed planters. The flow through these planters was slowed down by specifically chosen plants picked for their natural ability to filter roadway toxins. Additionally, water flowing into the planters were designed to feed the plants before flowing out back onto the curb and into the adjacent series of planters further down-slope. The toxin-absorbing plants would need replacing approximately every 5 years, while street trees planted in separate tree wells did not require such replacement. A permanent irrigation system was also installed, maintained by the developer to provide water to the plants year round.

Other streetscape improvements of the first Downtown Los Angeles Green Street project included lighting, shade trees, drought tolerant planting, bike racks, and bench seating. Corner curbs were extended to increase pedestrian visibility and decrease crossing distances across the busy downtown street, helping to slow down vehicular traffic.

We’re proud recognizing the city of Los Angeles has since incorporated the details of the flow-through planters noted above into their Green Street standards, where they’ll be used for other public streets projects. This original project also garnered a number of design awards, including the Honor Award for Urban Design in 2008 from the AIA CC, the Honor Award in 2010 from the ASLA Southern California, and also the Los Angeles Business Journal’s 2008 Award of Excellence for Residential Landscape. These infiltration planters are now being proposed for the Alameda Promenade as part of AHBE’s 1st and Central TIGER Grant streetscape project scheduled to be constructed in the next few years.

The General Sherman footprint, the Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park. All photos by Tamar Cotler

I’ve recently been working on a project requiring the use of a special paving concept. The paving pattern I’ve been using communicates a sense of place, and even time. The experience with the material sparked thoughts about exploring other opportunities where the paving could be used as a medium for communicating information to the user or to make a smart and playful experience.

A month ago, I visited The Giant Forest, a section of Sequoia National Park famed for its giant sequoia trees. There, I came face to trunk with the General Sherman, a tree reaching 275 feet in height and with a diameter of 36.5 feet maximum at its base. But these are just numbers that do not communicate the full experience! The General Sherman tree is so out of proportion in comparison to everything else around it, that it’s difficult to comprehend its actual enormity, even when in physical proximity to this mammoth.

It was at the entrance plaza at the trailhead where I realized after a minute or so that I was standing on top of an example of a brilliant paving detail. The diameter of the central plaza matched the diameter of General Sherman, with a pattern mirroring the exact footprint of the tree represented in granite paving. The detail communicates a very good sense of space and size, enhancing the visit even before General Sherman is fully visible (the tree is still hidden from this vantage point). This paving feature is especially engaging for children who visit the park, inviting them to jump between the curves of the trunk’s footprint. I don’t think it’s the most beautiful or gentle detail I’ve seen in my life, but it’s definitely an ingenious enhancement – one that earned the National Park Service an ASLA Honor Award in 2007.

The solar system, Griffith Park.

Last week during a visit to Griffith Park I was very excited to see another creative paving detail with a playfully executed feature. The planetary cycles of our solar system are stamped across pavers, with their scaled trajectory imprinted outward and across the perimeter of the park. The scale of the solar system was probably determined by the space between the parking lot – its limits demarcated by the furthest reaches of Pluto, emanating outward from the main entrance of the observatory marked by the sun. Visitors are invited to travel space and time with every footstep.

A dance diagram in Capitol Hill, Seattle illustrating the movements of the cha-cha-chá, designed by Jack Mackie.

Another paver detail I love because of its engaging contribution to the streetscape is found in Seattle – a dance diagram of the cha-cha-chá created by artist, Jack Mackie. I’ve since learned there are numerous other diagrams located all around Capitol Hill representing different kinds of dances in similar fashion.

Each of these examples illustrate there opportunities for designers to imagine similar engaging and creative details across our streetscapes, walkways, sidewalks, and trails. We have such a great surface to work with. Even if it’s just the stamped distance at the beginning of a trail, a map of the city, or a sundial, imaginative features like these can result in a more memorable and interactive experience that reward pedestrians with facts, engagement, and even occasionally a few new dance moves.



I recently finished Latitudes: An Angeleno’s Atlas, a collection of essays and maps describing a plethora of topics related to the City of Angels – from the gridding of the city, ugly buildings, and old cattle trails, to the various locations across LA that inspired famous songs throughout the city’s history. The editor’s excerpt cited below reminded me how much of Los Angeles I’ve imagined through its rich history of music.

Maps of cities usually include streets, freeways, neighborhoods, parks, and other landmarks. But what if the city – like Los Angeles in the dreams of essayist Josh Kun – is made of songs? Listen, figuratively, to Southern California mapped as a conurbation of songs that mirror accents, attitudes, and cultural styles of the people of the region. Only a tiny fraction of the songs written about LA are here, more than enough to get you from Patti Smith’s “Redondo Beach to Bing Crosby’s “San Fernando Valley” without getting lost.

As Sophie Arkette noted, music is capable of altering how we experience the city – the “phenomenological city, the corporeal, sensual, and psychological one we plan ourselves with the music we listen to and make”. Imagining a quick brainstorm of songs, one could guide themselves musically down the length of Sunset Blvd. down to Santa Monica Beach and Malibu, over to nearby Compton. The list of songs to locales stretches across our expansive metropolis.

Map graphic from “LAtitudes: An Angeleno’s Atlas” by Patricia Wakida; from the essay by Josh Kun, “Los Angeles is Singing”.

My original journey to Los Angeles began with a road trip to Chicago from New York City. I was joined by one of my best friends for the leg to LA; she had put together a playlist entitled, “I Love LA”, one that kicked off our journey with Randy Newman’s appropriately spirited, “I Love LA”. I had honestly never heard the song before then (I couldn’t help but laugh the first time I exited a Dodgers game serenaded by the city’s unofficial theme song). We listened to the playlist during our road trip, all the while imagining the places I’d eventually encounter once I became a resident of LA. I had only visited the city once before, and without consciously realizing it, I had already assigned numerous thoughts and opinions about places to these various places I had never been to, but had heard about in songs. From NWA to Joni Mitchel, MacArthur Park to Mulholland Drive, I had already created a musical map.


Music about Los Angeles imparts a weight to certain places. I remember spotting the mural portrait of Motorhead’s Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister  emblazoned across the wall of the Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood – a bar, street, and neighborhood all referenced in countless songs throughout the city’s history.

I also remember skating at World on Wheels in Mid-City, a spot made famous by Snoop Dogg’s “The Way Life Used to Be”. The storied roller rink once served as the broadcast home for the legendary hip-hop station, KDAY. Rapper Nipsey Hussle referred to World on Wheels with fond reverence, describing it “like the Coliseum, the Forum, like Crenshaw High School, like the Hollywood Sign, you know what I mean?”.

During my first CicLAvia, I remember cruising down Wilshire Blvd. and witnessing a man with an impressively decked out ride blasting Ronnie Hudson and The Street People’s 1982 jam, “West Coast Poplock“. At that moment I knew I liked it here. A song can connect a person to a place, just as effectively as any building or the landscape itself. Music saturates and paints our emotional memories often without us ever realizing it, affecting how we experience a city and forever remember it.

Which songs would you say represent your experiences of the people and places of Los Angeles?

Out on the Weekend – Neil Young
Think I’ll pack it in
and buy a pick-up
Take it down to L.A.
Find a place to call my own
and try to fix up.
Start a brand new day.


WestEdge Design Fair in Santa Monica
Now in its fifth year, WestEdge offers the best in modern design, all in an environment designed to engage, entertain and inspire. The fair offers the opportunity to shop from premium home furnishings brands-many new to the West Coast and meet the designers behind thousands of inspiring products. In addition, attendees gain insight from leading names in the design industry with a full series of educational programs and special events.
When: Tuesday, October 19-22, 2017
Where: The Barker Hangar, 3021 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Art + Tech: Stan Douglas and Michael Govan in Conversation
Join artist Stan Douglas and LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan as they discuss Douglas’s innovative hybrid of cinema and theater, Helen Lawrence. Conceived and directed by Douglas, this film noir is produced in real time as actors on a stage are composited live into virtual sets of Vancouver circa 1948. In this conversation, Govan and Douglas will talk about the making of Helen Lawrence, and the role of history, narrative, and temporal and spatial displacements in the artist’s practice. Free; tickets required.
When: Tuesday, October 17, 2017, 7pm
Where: LACMA

Halprin Exhibition Reception in Conjunction with ASLA Annual Meeting in Los Angeles
Join The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) at a twilight, private reception at the A+D Architecture and Design Museum>Los Angeles being held in conjunction with the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO this October showcasing, The Landscape Architecture of Lawrence Halprin, a traveling photographic exhibition about the life and work of landscape architect Lawrence Halprin (1916-2009), will be on view.
When: October 20, 2017, 4:30-6:30pm
Where: A+D Architecture and Design Museum>Los Angeles, 900 East 4th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Odd Nights at the Autry
Odd Nights at The Autry returns for our 3rd year bringing even more great family fun than before with over 80 local artists, makers, crafters & designers plus 22 food trucks, full bar, & 3 emerging bands. This vivid culture is perfect for all ages. Pets are welcome and there’s an amazing Kids Area with unlimited play wristbands available for sale on site. Bring a blanket and your appetite. Sponsored by LA Weekly. Kids 12 and under are free.
When: October 20, 2017, 6:00-11:00pm
Where: The Autry Museum, 4700 Western Heritage Way

Timeless Space and Values
The second in a series of three conversations with renowned scholars from USC, UCLA, UCSB, CSULB & journalists who explore communication/media, history, science fiction, fantasy, the environment, people & place. We tell and reimagine stories to navigate our place in a changing world and environment through stories offering alternate possibilities or reflections of reality, be they science fiction, fantasy, or the “face” of the news—and remember the timeless value of lives within.
When: Sunday, October 22, 2017, 1:30–3:30 PM
Where: The Rancho, Los Alamitos, 6400 E. Bixby Hill Road, Long Beach