I recently discovered Environmental Detectives, a teaching tool which educates young kids to appreciate the sciences through the joys of exploration. I like this phrase – “Environmental Detectives” – and believe it is applicable to the research we do as a studio. Our process is perhaps less scientific (though not exclusive of science), more pragmatic, and heuristic driven in comparison to the teaching tool. But both approach problem solving using a similar inquiry-based process.
In our case our design process begins with site research. And from there, design inspiration emerges from multiple influences: site, people, environment, history, and much more. Ultimately, landscape architects want to create a design that tells the intrinsic story of a place and engages people through use and stewardship, so it is important for us as designers to understand a place to narrate a new story while acknowledging and referencing its past.
Fortunately for us, Los Angeles is rich in stories, and I have my own to share about one of the city’s major corridors, Sunset Boulevard. After driving cross country to relocate here, I entered the city at its western gateway at Sunset Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway. On that first day, my husband and I drove along this most famed boulevard, from its beautiful coastal beginning, through its diverse neighborhoods, and ending in Hollywood. Although we did not make it through its entire 23-mile length into Downtown Los Angeles that first time, we have done so many times since.
I don’t think there is a street like Sunset Boulevard anywhere else in the world. I continue to explore the sights, landmarks, and spaces found along its length to experience the diversity of this city. I am a student of the boulevard as both legend and reality.
My curiosity about it contributes to my ongoing research of the Los Angeles region. I especially enjoy looking at Sunset Boulevard through the work of filmmakers, artists, musicians, authors, and other creatives. Landscape architects are not unique in the desire to discover and tell the stories of the boulevard, Los Angeles, and its people.