During my lunch breaks I’d set out to inspect the beautiful sidewalk paving designs lining the Historic Core of Downtown Los Angeles. All photos by Wendy Chan.

Our firm has recently been given the opportunity to submit a proposal for a new pedestrian linkage project. It’s an exciting design opportunity, one integrating art as an expression to link pedestrians with the history and culture of their community.

The pedestrian linkage project inspired research of various other examples where art was used as a way-finding and informational element. I looked at the Freedom Trail in Boston, a project which leads pedestrians through historically significant sties with a red-lined brick inlay on the sidewalk, alongside other historically significant districts in cities using pavement design to represents the local history and culture.


The terrazzo paving design in front of the Garfield Building mimics the bright marble sunburst on the underside of the entrance canopy. The sunburst might be a literal expression of the original building occupants, Sun Realty Company.


Beautiful colored ceramic tiles inlay by artist Frank Romero, commissioned by the CRA/LA to activate the sidewalk as part of the Broadway Pedestrian Amenities Project in 1984. The tiles are located along Broadway and 7th Street. The artist incorporated cultural patterns to represent the various ethnic groups that shopped on Broadway (e.g. geometric designs taken from Persian rugs), alongside the the building’s tenants at that time.


This ornate terrazzo art is located in front of Clifton’s Cafeteria and was done by artist Arthur D Pizzinat, Sr. in 1935. The designs have 12 medallions representing  areas of Los Angeles, including the city’s beaches, missions, oil farms, film industry, and the La Brea Tar Pits.


The terrazzo pavement entry leads visitors into the Baroque French Renaissance lobby of the Los Angeles Theatre.


My favorite sidewalk is located on the corner of 5th and Hill in front of the Art Deco Title Guarantee & Trust Building. I have fond childhood memories of Thrifty Drug Store; although it’s no longer a Thrifty store, I still appreciate the remnants of its history.

The beautiful pavement designs of Downtown Los Angeles act as a captivating threshold, linking passerby to the historical significance of the buildings. Although these individual designs aren’t directly linking together to form a cohesive narrative, they can be pieced together to offer us a glimpse of the history and architectural trends of the time, reminding us how sidewalks can act as a network of stories enhancing the pedestrian experience.

All photos: Jenni Zell

By developing a biodiversity report of my home (Zell_2018 Biodiversity Report_Part 2), I have made the following observations and conclusions.

1. Generalist species like the honey bee, squirrel and raven, thrive in my garden.
2. Plants from all the world’s continents except Antarctica, live in my garden.
3. My garden contains plants I selected and cultivated for one or more of the following reasons: beauty (to my eye), fragrance (to my nose), food production (for me, my family and neighbors), ease of maintenance, or to feed my curiosity.
4. My garden is anthropocentric.

What I have missed in cultivating a garden is how it supports life other than mine. The orchids did not evolve their exquisite fragrance for my olfactory pleasure, but to lure a pollinator likely thousands of miles away. I have been a good student of Aristotle and Linnaeus and can name, classify and sort living things, but I have learned and applied less of the lessons taught by teachers and philosophers of the Pre-Socratic and Romanic periods. It is time to discover the invisible (to me) interrelationships between non-human organisms. “Then approach nature, then try like the first human being to say what you see and experience and live and lose.” Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet.

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Snapshot Cal Coast 2018
Join researchers from the Natural History Musem of Los Angeles County as we take advantage of the lowest tide cycle of the year to explore coastal marine life at Wilders Addition Park, San Pedro. We will work together as we bioblitz the rocky intertidal areas, using iNaturalist to document the marine life that is seen. The data we collect will be compiled into Snapshot Cal Coast and other state-wide efforts so scientists can gain a better understanding of the organisms that live in this section of the California coast.
When: Saturday and Sunday, June 16th-17th, 6AM – 9AM
Where: Wilders Addition Park, S. Meyler St. & W. Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro, CA 90731

Patrick Staff on Candice Lin
In these intimate tours, Made in L.A. 2018 artists discuss the work of fellow artists also featured in the exhibition.
Made in L.A. 2018 is the latest iteration of the Hammer’s acclaimed biennial exhibition, showcasing artists from the greater Los Angeles area.
When: Wednesday, June 13th, 6:00PM
Where: Hammer Museum

Annette Insdorf’s Cinematic Overtures: How to Read Opening Scenes
Columbia University film professor Annette Insdorf discusses her latest book, Cinematic Overtures: How to Read Opening Scenes, including film clips. The book offers insights into more than 40 films, covering a unique amalgam of high-profile titles and undiscovered gems. From American classics like Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver, and Schindler’s List to foreign films including Hiroshima, mon amour, The Piano, and A Separation, they demonstrate how a great movie provides in the first few minutes, the keys by which to unlock the rest of the cinematic text.
When: Wednesday, June 12th, 7:30PM
Where: LACMA l Bing Theater

Bloomsday 2018
James Joyce’s eyebrow-raising poetic language paints a vivid picture of a varied cast of characters on one summer day in Dublin. This year’s Bloomsday celebration features dramatic readings from Ulysses by veteran actors Sile Bermingham, James Lancaster, John Lee, Sonya Macari, and Johnny O’Callaghan and Irish songs performed by musicians Jared Jones, Kathryn Lillich, and Neal Stulberg. The celebration continues in the courtyard with Guinness and live Irish music by Rattle the Knee. Organized by Stanley Breitbard and directed by Darcie Crager.
When: Saturday, June 16th, 7:30PM
Where: Hammer Museum

DTLA Donut Fest
Join us for a one-day edible exploration of LA’s favorite pastry at the first-ever DTLA Donut Festival at Union Station. Stroll through the The Whole Donut Marketplace showcasing donuts in all their many forms from plain, glazed, and filled to traditional and new wave varieties. This momentously mouthwatering event to include:
When: Saturday, June 16th, 9AM – 4PM
Where: Union Station, 800 N Alameda St, Los Angeles 90012

Vacant lots are full of nature. How do we keep them that way?: “Vacant lots are islands of wildness in the urban jungle: small and scraggly yet bountiful and biodiverse, a place to enjoy nearby nature and a home to city creatures. Yet there’s a tension inherent to them. Unless people protect vacant lots, they’ll eventually be developed — and they are “often considered a neighborhood eyesore, a place for crime and trash,” write researchers in the journal Sustainability. “Vacant lots are usually deemed a local problem for neighborhood residents.”

Who will save LA’s trees?: “It’s a pretty precious resource in cities, and you don’t want to take them down—you want to be adding to them,” he says. Instead, since 2000, many neighborhoods in the LA region have seen a tree canopy reduction of 14 to 55 percent, according to a University of Southern California study published in 2017.”

Marvel at Bodys Isek Kingelez’s spectacular cityscapes made of everyday materials: “On the third floor of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, a gallery is currently filled with colorfully fantastical visions of the future. Crafted by the late Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez, the cityscapes are part of Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams, the first retrospective of his work.”

Californians approve bond measure that will provide $200 million for Salton Sea: “Supporters said they hope the infusion of funding for the Salton Sea will help state officials get moving with the construction of ponds and wetlands on sections of the exposed shoreline, as envisioned under a 10-year plan released last year. The projects along portions of the shoreline are intended to help control lung-damaging dust while also creating wetlands to revitalize bird habitats.”

How to Design Our Neighborhoods for Happiness: “The way we design our communities plays a huge role in how we experience our lives. Neighborhoods built without sidewalks, for instance, mean that people walk less and therefore enjoy fewer spontaneous encounters, which is what instills a spirit of community to a place. A neighborly sense of the commons is missing.”

Aerial view of Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green, showing greenery, paths, and a pond, surrounded by buildings. Photo by Dronepicr/Wikipedia (CC BY 3.0).

During an open house event for a park this weekend, I noticed a gentleman grew disinterested speaking to me while I was responding to his questions when he realized I was “just the landscaper”. Despite AHBE Landscape Architects being the lead firm responsible for designing the park, the man wanted to talk with an architect. The interaction made me realize any talk about the future of the profession of landscape architecture seems premature today, considering how little the general public or even our peers in the A/E industry, know about our profession.

However, all things evolve, even landscape architecture. When landscape architects talk about the future of the profession, we are talking about how landscape architecture has been practiced and perceived over the last 150 years versus how we believe it should be practiced over the next 150 years.

Traditional landscape architecture primarily concentrates on aesthetics – more specifically, the idealized English country garden aesthetic our “Father”, Frederick Law Olmsted, imported to the United States through his design of Central Park in New York City. This pastoral aesthetic has since dominated how Americans build parks, cities, and our own residences across the country. Unfortunately, in our effort to achieve this idealized vision, landscape architects have forced the aesthetic into environmentally incompatible locations. For example, in Southern California we expend a vast amount of resources to maintain a northern European-style landscape comprised of lawn grasses, herbaceous shrubs, flowering northern latitude woody plants, annuals, and bulbs. This type of landscaping requires a great deal of water, fertilizer, specialized equipment, specialized irrigation equipment and a myriad of soil amendments to install and maintain.

Fast forward to 2018 and landscape architectural design has slowly evolved to take into account the amount of effort and resources necessary to maintain our landscapes. We have become more sustainable, and consequently, more deliberate and scientific in our approach to design.

The future of landscape architecture will demand we use our knowledge of living systems to create environments that reduce or eliminate the use of natural resources, while still creating places of value and beauty for humankind. For example, planting a native California landscape locally naturalizes to our climate, expending a fraction of the resources required to maintain the landscape. Native plants would also be regenerative to the local environment by creating habitat for local wildlife. The challenge is getting native plants to survive in our urbanized environments, while also imagining aesthetic value for the public.

For decades, landscape architects have been regarded by the A/E community as a second-tier profession that did not provide essential services for humanity (as my friend likes to say, we are “hair and makeup”). Even though we have always fought for relevancy using ideas of “nature” and “beauty” as essential elements to design, Americans in particular have always thought of buildings, bridges, and roads as more essential. In a way, the criticism carries some truth, noting landscape architects have tended to only represent nature and beauty in an idealized form, regardless of the impact to the surrounding environment. As we run out of resources and push our planet to the edges of human habitation, landscape architects must change to incorporate the natural sciences into our designs. Designing natural/living systems become an essential requirement of our profession. Of course the irony here is the dire circumstances of climate change will push landscape architects to the forefront of the design world, delivering us the legitimacy we have always craved.