Posts by Wendy Chan

All photos: Wendy Chan

Amongst the high rise buildings of Downtown Los Angeles are several hidden oases where one can enjoy their lunch, relax, and escape outdoors. There are many privately owned public spaces in Downtown that are hidden, each tucked in between buildings and terrace levels. Privately owned public spaces are publicly accessible plazas that building owners or developers provide in exchange for modification to the local zoning policy. For example, a developer is allowed to increase their leasable floor areas with higher buildings if they provide an outdoor space for the public. But some of these privately owned public spaces aren’t truly “public” due the plaza being locked from the public after work hours; security personal have the option to escort undesirable individuals from these supposed public spaces.

Follow the blue line…

One such terrace plaza space is located between The California Bank and Trust & KPMG building on the corner of 6th and Hope Street. The entrance is located on Hope Street and is accessible by a stairway with a blue line going through the center, leading visitors up to the terrace plaza and Sun Disk.

This plaza is enhanced with a public art component, part of the Public Art Program, organized by the Community Redevelopment Agency, and commissioned by Obayashi America Corporation with the Koll Company. The public art piece is called “Site /Memory / Reflection”. The plaque at the entrance reads, “A single work of art, “Site / Memory / Reflection consists of a numerous sculptural and architectural elements in alignment with each other. These elements draw a site together, relate it to the imagery of the Central Library, and suggest a spiritual universal whole.”

The art pieces were conceived by Lita Albuquerque in collobration with Kohn/Pederson/Fox, Langdon Wilson Architects, The SWA Group, Lonny Gans Associates, and Peter Carlson Enterprise.

The plaza is a great lunch spot, offering a shaded refuge from the sun and surrounding urban sounds of Downtown, mostly drowned out by a water feature named the Hemisphere Fountain. I often observe office workers enjoying their lunches here, conversing with their co-workers, with other Downtown denizens reading or lounging by themselves. The plaza does not appear to be gated from the Hope Street entrance, but there is a gate where the terrace plaza connects to the Central Library. The plaza is fairly quiet with ample seating, and a recommended escape during the summer heat (but it can be a bit chilly during the colder months).

Check out this public plaza oasis the next time you are looking for a spot to eat your lunch in Downtown Los Angeles!

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Grinnell Glacier with Salamander Glacier. The glaciers were once connected, measuring 710 acres in whole in 1850, but now have separated separated. Between 1966 and 2005, Grinnell Glacier lost about 40% of its acreage, and was last measured at just 220 acres in 1993. Photo: Wendy Chan

A couple of weeks ago I attended, “Our National Parks at 100: Confronting Change and Committing to Science”, a public lecture hosted by the UCLA LA Kretz Center. The event invited speakers from the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) and Santa Monica National Recreation Area to give the public an overview of how the NPS is responding to climate change.

The NPS efforts to confront the challenges of climate change are focused in these four areas:

Science: Using science to help us manage.
Adaptation: Adapting to an uncertain future.
Mitigation: Reduce carbon footprint within the national parks.
Communication: Educating visitors about climate change.

During the talk some of the NPS presenters were asked how the new Trump administration is affecting how the NPS responds to climate change and management of the parks.

The National Parks themselves exhibit the realities of climate change: shifting mitigation patterns, coastal erosions, disappearing glaciers, and changing plant communities and biodiversity. One of the things that was evident from the lecture is that the NPS depends heavily on science and research; the data gathered by scientists and partnering agencies is used in the decision making process and management within National Parks in regards to climate change.

On my way home from the lecture, I thought of my favorite National Park to date, Glacier National Park in Montana. Named after its glaciers, the health of Glacier National Park’s ecosystems are directly threatened by climate change. In 1850, there was a recorded 150 glaciers inside the boundaries of Glacier NP. Today, only 25 remain, and they’re all shrinking. It’s estimated that by 2030 these remaining glaciers will entirely disappear from the park.

In order to track the rate of which the glaciers are shrinking, scientist are taking GPS data points at various points across the glaciers. One of the valuable tools for communicating the effects of global warming on the glaciers is repeat photography. The comparison between historic images of the glaciers taken decades ago to their current state is shocking, and a testament to the urgency of action to preserve our environment for future generations.

Left: Grinnell Glacier 1938 (T.J. Hileman). Right: Grinnell Glacier 2009 (Lindsey Bengstson)

To learn more about various case studies within the NPS, I recommend watching the video series,
The Science of Climate Change in NP Video Series.

April is World Landscape Architecture Month, an international celebration of landscape architecture. WLAM introduces the profession to the public by highlighting landscape architect-designed spaces around the world. Today we visit Seoul, Korea to highlight the transformation of Cheonggyecheon River from concrete waterway to a revitalized urban park.

Photos by Wendy Chan

I like to visit urban parks while on vacation. Visiting parks allow me the opportunities to people watch and observe how different cultures use and interact within public open spaces, especially in dense cities where open space is often rare, but easily accessible by public transit.

I recently visited Cheonggyecheon, a 3.6-mile-long stream corridor located in downtown Seoul, South Korea that attracts over 60,000 visitors daily. For years, the Cheonggyecheon stream was paved over with concrete with an elevated highway built above it. But recently, the government removed the roadway and transformed the once concrete channel into a public open space. The stream was restored with vegetation, walkways, stages, crossings, water play, and seating areas, creating a multifunctional and sustainable public space for the citizens of Seoul.

Conceptual site plan presented in 2002 by the Research Center Director of the Seoul Development Institute, Seoul Metropolitan Government.

The Cheonggyecheon River is supplemented by potable water pumped from the Han River, but the benefits to the surrounding community, biodiversity, and quality of life is still apparent. Depending upon the access point, visitors can experience a slowly changing landscape – from an urban experience with concrete walls and edges to a more natural stream experience. The redesign kept remnants of the highway that once covered the stream. Art, historical photos, and monuments of cultural significance related to the stream were integrated in the design.

The park never closes. I’ve visited the park during the day, but also during the late evening and early morning. No matter the hour, I’ve always felt safe walking through Cheonggyecheon. The urban park is heavily populated at all hours with people leisurely walking, exercising, and commuting to their destination without having to worry about cars. While walking the Cheonggyecheon’s length I thought of our own Los Angeles River, an urban waterway slowly undergoing a similar transformation from an inaccessible concrete channel to a thriving open space. My only interaction growing up with the Los Angeles River was through the backseat car window driving across the Broadway Street Bridge in Lincoln Heights. I can’t imagine how amazing it would be if Angelenos one day are able to access the entire river from start to end at the ocean, our very own version of Cheonggyecheon River linear park.

Welcome to our last in a series of Cal Poly Pomona Coastal Resiliency posts, featuring the observations of 4th year undergraduate students in the Landscape Architecture program.

With today’s post we mark the conclusion of our collaboration with the Cal Poly fourth-year undergraduate studio.  In the course of 11 weeks, the students explored both natural and manmade strategies for adaptations and mitigation for coastal resiliency in Long Beach. Almost as important, as practicing professionals we’ve noted we too learned so much from these “bravely curious” landscape architecture students instructed by Professor Barry Lehrman.

The students presented strategies in proposal of applications to their areas of focus in Long Beach during their final presentation at AHBE. We wanted to share with you some of their amazing strategic diagrams, inventory, and analysis these students have been working on during this quarter.

Ecological hotspots in Long Beach Estevan C. and Amanda F.

“Mapping out observed bird sightings in the City of Long Beach, a pattern was shown that not only does the rich ecology try to follow bodies of water, lakes and the ocean, but the areas with the highest density were places with the highest density of people.” – Estevan C. (more…)

I was first exposed to the seminal short film produced in 1977 by the iconic team of Charles and Ray Eames, Powers of Ten as a student of landscape architecture at Cal Poly Pomona. I remember the mind-blowing film even today, one that takes viewers on a visual journey that begins with an aerial shot of a man lounging in a park, gradually zooming upward at scales of 10 further and further away, until the perspective is taken to the edge of the universe. From there the viewer is zoomed back downward back into the hand of the man lounging the park, eventually transported inward into an individual atom within the man’s body.

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