Posts tagged Le Corbusier

typical LA neighborhood
When my grandparents came to Los Angeles to attend my graduation two years ago, they continually complained about the American neighborhoods. These complaints came as a surprise, as my grandparents would often remark, “Nothing compares to a single house with frontyard and backyard”. They had plenty of complaints:

“You cannot take a walk outside after dinner!”
”Why there is no convenient store within your neighborhood? What ?! A supermarket of 5 minutes drive?!”
“Where is your community security people?”
“ This is unacceptable!”

typical Chinese community design

A typical Chinese residential community design.

Thinking about my neighborhood in Beijing – a big gated community with tons of people dwelling in high towers, all connected by wide expanses of public space – I do understand and agree to some extent with my grandparents’ criticisms of Los Angeles. Back in China every morning and evening, my mom walks my two dogs within the gated community, a trip that can take up to 2 hours just to navigate through all the pocket parks. I used to wake up early on weekends due to the loud music that accompanied the activities of morning dancing and exercising groups nearby.

With modern Chinese metropolitan cities operating under the duress of growing population density, residential tower communities reaching upward seem to be the only solution. A few months ago the Chinese government issued a statement declaring the end of constructing gated communities, causing more urban troubles. But I do see some interesting effects resulting from building upward rather than outward, especially the appearance of wide open landscape.

Le-Corbusier-A-City-of-Towers1Towers can accommodate for more people in a smaller footprint, leaving more ground level space for urban ecology and transit access, a basic concept from Le Corbusier’s assumptive urban planning scheme [right]. Such urban layout works well for certain types of residential projects, such as student housing, industrial parks, residential community, etc. Reviewing the urban planning changes, it’s easy to imagine the application here in Los Angeles where we could reclaim public spaces to improve communities.

The illustration below might seem idealistic or perhaps even “delusional” – a conceptual exploration overlooking political, social and economic issues. But even so, the idea of denser and larger developments with multi-level buildings (earthquake-safe, of course)  is worth exploring for all the benefits of incorporating more open landscape connecting multiple residential parcels instead of developing small parcels separately, with vacant spaces converted into community gardens. Los Angeles will always struggle to find opportunities for developing large open spaces for the community, but perhaps we can integrate numerous smaller open spaces to connect neighbors to neighborhood as they’re doing in China today.

A “Delusional” reimagining of Century City, with a Chinese residential towers and open public spaces connecting the buildings together. Image by Yiran Wang.

A “Delusional” reimagining of Century City, with a Chinese residential towers and open public spaces connecting the buildings together. Image by Yiran Wang.

Creative Commons photo by Takeaway

Creative Commons photo by Takeaway

John Singer Sargent, Frederick Law Olmsted, 1895

John Singer Sargent, Frederick Law Olmsted, 1895

A couple weeks ago, my coworker and coffee connoisseur Heejae and I discussed the process and craft that goes into making a good cup of coffee. As new coffee shops and coffee roasters pop up across the city, we wondered exactly what it is that sets each apart? We talked about where different beans are grown, various varieties of the coffee beans themselves, styles of roasts, and even the signature style of individual baristas preparing each cup. Of course, this discussion about craft eventually segued into parallels with our profession as landscape architects “crafting” landscapes through the process of design.

A misty morning in Frederick Law Olmsted’s Prospect Park in Brooklyn is evidence of crafting an experience for visitors with carefully placed elements, trees, boulders, benches, that meticulously frame a space. As silhouettes appear and elements disappear, Olmsted’s intentional and deep understanding of space directs the viewer to how he envisioned the landscape. Whether a pastoral or an urban project, landscape architects are perpetually crafting experiences this way.

Creative Commons photo of Igualada Cemetery by Mcginnly

Creative Commons photo of Igualada Cemetery by Mcginnly

Enrique Miralles is another amazing talent gifted in crafting the landscape experience. His drawings of Igualada Cemetery illustrate both the complexity and simplicity of the interconnected space, where cast concrete tombs and paving patterns work in intricate collaboration. Miralles utilized excavation and concrete work to provide a unique and enclosed experience of a landscape dedicated to the buried and their visitors.

Roberto BurleMarx - Safra Bank Headquarters, Sao Paulo

Roberto Burle Marx – Safra Bank Headquarters, Sao Paulo

Le Corbusier's The poem of the Right Angle plates 6, 1955, via Moderna Museet

Le Corbusier’s The poem of the Right Angle plates 6, 1955, via Moderna Museet

Roberto Burle Marx and Le Corbusier both incorporated painting in their exploration of space and form. Whether an intentional plan or a painting, Burle Marx’s craft and style is incorporated into his landscape with bright colors partnered with amazing forms. His craft extended into the palette of plants – uniquely so – utilizing flora to create a distinct flavor. Similarly, Le Corbusier also used paintings to explore ideas of scale, color, form and theory, in the process putting forward his visions of design still appreciated and studied today.

Taking this idea of craft – whether in preparation of a cup of coffee or while designing a landscape – its practitioners strive to take the technical understanding of their work, perfect their style, and produce something memorable and amazing.