Posts tagged WLAM2015

Photo: Linda Daley

Photo: Linda Daley

I have lived in major cities all of my life, relying on public transit to get around. But it was in Los Angeles where I converted into a regular car commuter. The opening of the Metro Exposition rail line changed that. Although I still drive daily (Los Angeles is, after all, a big county), I am relieved to have the choice of public transit. The daily ride is my madeleine, triggering long buried memories of commuting by train in different cities and different landscapes.

Photo: Linda Daley

Photo: Linda Daley

My travels from Culver City station to Downtown Los Angeles have been an education in urban culture. From my seat on the train, I am drawn daily to the passing scenes and have been curious enough about them to look up their stories.

Automobile Club of Southern California Headquarters, designed by architectural firm Hunt and Burns in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style. Photo: Linda Daley

Automobile Club of Southern California Headquarters, designed by architectural firm Hunt and Burns in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style. Photo: Linda Daley

Some places, like the USC campus and Exposition Park, are well known destinations. My research revealed anecdotes of minor and prominent landmarks, as well as monographs of historic buildings and places.

Photo: Linda Daley

Photo: Linda Daley

Photo: Linda Daley

Photo: Linda Daley

What is the story of the Felix Chevrolet sign I see in the distance; or the murals along a wall of Los Angeles Trade Tech College? How large is the West Angeles Church’s congregation? Who were the architects of the historic St. John’s Cathedral and the Spanish revival building located down the street from it? Each story reveals a bit more about the city I have called home for over two decades.

St. John Cathedral was built in 1925 in the Romanesque Revival architectural style. Photo: Linda Daley

St. John Cathedral was built in 1925 in the Romanesque Revival architectural style. Photo: Linda Daley

By the way, have you noticed the lot used by LATTC for its pole climbing training? I made up my own narrative for it. I re-envision the space as a public art piece — a modern interpretation of an urban forest, neatly arranged rows of trunks without canopies.

Located next to the Santa Monica Municipal Airport, the Santa Monica Airport Park includes two soccer fields, an off-leash dog park, concession facilities, playground, passive open space, picnic areas, and permeable pavement parking.

Located next to the Santa Monica Municipal Airport, the Santa Monica Airport Park includes two soccer fields, an off-leash dog park, concession facilities, playground, passive open space, picnic areas, and permeable pavement parking.

Newly constructed landscapes need time to mature. With some exceptions, landscape projects typically have budgets that do not allow for the installation of many, if any, large-sized trees or specimen plants and, hence, younger nursery stock is used. Landscape architects are challenged to design with consideration of a project’s aesthetic and functional value immediately upon construction and the long term consequences of time and maintenance practices.

After an appropriate time, we often return to our completed projects to see for ourselves how they have held up. As landscape architects we’re pleased when a design achieves its intended goals, but equally pleased when we discover the landscape re-invented, functioning in a somewhat different way to better serve the needs of the people who use it.

Santa Monica’s Airport Park opened in 2008

Santa Monica’s Airport Park opened in 2008 and its dog park has become a popular socializing area for animals and their owners.

I am a regular user of a public park which our firm designed. The Santa Monica Airport Park opened in 2008, and at that time it was the first new park the city had built in nearly three decades, drawing the attention of several divergent special interest groups. From my perch at Airport Park’s dog park, I have observed the park’s maturity beyond its plant palette – which, by the way, has had some modifications. As a community space the park has held up to the original design intent and much more, becoming a popular destination for soccer matches, family celebrations, community group gatherings, picnics, children’s play and, of course, dog play.

AHBE_SantaMonica-airport park soccer_smap_kn_23_sm
Among the park’s unexpected surprises for me are the establishment of new friendships which would not have occurred without the creation of this public space. The park also has a wider reach than we originally anticipated. For example, owners of specific dog breeds hold monthly meet-ups at the park which are announced through social media, a technology emerging since the park’s inception.

On a recent visit to the park I heard a group of people complaining about the lack of parking on weekends and how far they had to walk to get to the park. I smiled. This landscape has become a social routine for people, one worth an extra effort.

South Park Streetscape in Downtown Los Angeles

Inspiration Park in Los Angeles; AHBE Landscape Architects

Landscape.

The word is ubiquitous, yet has layers of meaning. Said out loud in isolation, landscape will trigger images of remembered places, moods, or emotions based on our own histories. My landscape memories are defined by an urban upbringing and a life spent within the urban core of major cities. The word does not conjure visions of agriculture fields, river deltas, or forests. I respond instead with everyday scenes of bustling sidewalks and “pocket” spaces tucked between high-rise buildings.

Plan view the SouthPark Streetscape in Downtown Los Angeles

A plan view of the South Park Development and Streetscape in Downtown Los Angeles, showing the private spaces tucked between three condos; AHBE Landscape Architects

Our relationship with outdoor spaces, whether natural or designed, is based not on our past experiences alone but evolves over time with us. In the transformation of a site to “place,” we must start by listening to the people in the communities we serve because their stories will reveal their inherent connections to a particular site. Through this process, we hope to “find the gold” in design that meets their deepest needs for belonging and identity.

Photo: Topographic Map by TBWA Istanbul.

Photo: Topographic Map by TBWA Istanbul.

Several years ago my family decided that sustainability should begin with us. Thus we started reducing our household water, waste, and energy consumption. The transformation was not immediate despite our commitment. Although the people who lived around us seemed equally concerned about environmental issues, I remember nervously awaiting my neighbors’ reactions when we removed our front lawn. In the few years since, my drought tolerant front garden is among several in my area. The traditional lawn, however, is still prevalent in the neighborhood; so we can do much more as a community.

On April 1st, Governor Brown issued an executive order mandating a 25% reduction, from 2013 levels, in California’s water consumption. A frenzy of news reports and opinions followed the Governor’s announcement, accompanied by many eye-opening images showing the record lows of our lake and snowpack levels, the depletion of the Central Valley aquifer, and so much more.

Living a sustainable life sustainably is a practice that I am committed to personally and professionally. Our state’s crisis demands more rigorous conservation practices, even if it is disruptive to the way we live. In our profession of landscape architecture, water management and water distribution considerations will have greater significance in the design of spaces.

But, not everyone shares this point of view.

In the days since the Governor’s announcement, I have been surprised by people’s attitude of temporary compliance. Do people truly believe that our diminishing water supply will magically go away if the restrictions end? “Water fairies” will apparently save us.

Studies on human behavior reveal the complexity of a change in social practices. One such study, called the Consensus Project, examines sustainable consumption through multiple factors. Its findings indicate that people develop, over time, perceptions of what is “normal” for their daily routines and physical comfort and these perceptions shape behaviors. A new definition of “normal” must be reached for a change in social practice to occur. The situation we now face seems to be a defining moment for social transformation.

When I was filming From Sea To Shining Sea in 2013, one of the things I wanted to capture was how different landscapes sound. So every time we stopped the car to reset the camera and download footage, we recorded a minute or so of wild sound – whatever was happening around in the environs.Since we were on the side of the road it was usually the rumble of cars and 18-wheelers whizzing by. However, as I was editing together the audio collage, I was pleasantly surprised to notice that the sound of the landscape changes: one hears seabirds on the Virginia coast; the rain in Indiana; the rumble of the Golden Gate Bridge; the barfly chatter in Kentucky; the vast emptiness of Nevada; the crickets in Kansas; the canyons in Colorado.

Enjoy this audio collage – I hope to do the same thing in Iceland.