On April 14th, 2013, I fulfilled one of my life goals to bike the infamous Los Angeles River. Guided by Down by The Los Angeles River: Folar’s Official Guide by Joe Linten, I planned to start in my residence in Gardena, Take Compton Blvd. East toward the 710 freeway, and take the Los Angeles River Bike Path to Long Beach.
My journey started very urban and blocky surrounded by plain one story buildings and warehouses. However, shortly I encountered a small river incased by concrete. The river was about 30 feet below street level, vertical concrete walls on each side, and fenced off with a bike path on the left side. My book told me that it was Compton Creek so I decided to take the path to the Los Angeles River verses biking in street traffic. The bike path was free from any other bicyclists other than my biking buddy. To the right of the bike path was the creek and to the left was residential backyards. Trash was overflowing in every direction. The most memorable was probably a folded dirty mattress right in the middle of the bike path. The experience here was dull and unpleasant due to the unnaturalness of the concrete creek and the litter. I eventually reached a dead end where Joe Linten advised me to travel around a few streets to reach Compton Creeks lower end.
I took a few corners and walked my bike over an unwelcoming gravel path along train tracks. Once I reached the end of this short path I became overwhelmed by the view. The creek suddenly transition from straight concrete lining to a lush landscape. To the right of the creek were train tracks and the bike bath continued on the left side of creek. The creek now winded through the native plants and the banks were now sloped. Life seemed to flourish in this part of the creek with shades of green, grey, and purple. I was surprised to see the creek also was habitat for some red necked birds, ducks, and turtles. I still noticed a minimal amount of litter and the left side of the bike bath was industrial buildings colored with graffiti. The cruise from here until I reached the Los Angeles was very enjoyable due to the lush scenery.
The lower Compton Creeks lush scenery eventually came to an abrupt end when it joined the Los Angeles River. The image above shows the vast concrete landscape right where the Compton Creek joins the LA River. The water level here was near zero and slowly picked up to a powerful river spreading across the concrete banks. The Los Angeles River Bike Path was a calm cruise on a clean and smooth surface. To the left of the river would be residential across the street, some native plants and weeds and sometimes small pocket parks. There were also many other cyclists going in both directions. One group had even brought motorized ATV and dirt bikes on the path. The Los Angeles River bike path eventually ended at a inaccessible Golden Shore Marine Reserve in Long Beach. I continued biking in Long Beach where I continued my adventure.
This journey was very interesting in the diverse environment. From suburban city streets, to following a littered creek in peoples backyards, to a more natural green and live creek, to a vast concrete river, to a social and urban environment. It was a mix of human design and ingenuity intertwined with natural systems. Although I’ve read signs that all trash and sewage drains to the ocean, I didn’t really believe it until I saw litter lining the Compton Creek and followed the creek all the way to the ocean. I also came to realize the environment is pretty much all designed for human use with little left for other wildlife.
This video shows the amazing power of nature to desalinize desert climates. These methods are currently being applied to a project I am involved with in Escondido, CA.
This method is a good tool to have in the pocket as we Landscape designers re-work land and make it functional as well as visual.
Cramer enhances the reflective quality of the still pool by installing the pyramids. Ernst Cramer 1959. Visionary Gardens: Modern Landscapes p.259
Through the installations of a wind-resistant steel frame that offers advertising space above the bus stop and taxi stand, Querkraft reveals the need for wind protection for the passerby. Querkraft 2001. Urban Landscape p. 115
The lighting grid that brightens the once lukewarm business center also gives a sense of scale to the otherwise non-delineated space. Maurice Brill 2004. Urban Landscape
It was one thing to see the streets overtaken with cyclists, the people becoming cars and traffic. It was quite another to see the side streets, empty, void of bicycles, skaters, and most significantly, cars. The concentration of people in a single line left plenty of room for a pedestrian like me. I walked freely through the streets, reveling in the switched roles that took place that day. My progress was only halted at a few intersections where two worlds collided, stopping traffic frequently to allow a trickle of vehicles to interrupt the steady line of cyclist traffic. I suspect that my slower pace offered a more relaxing experience as I felt like I was constantly on the move and not very often stopped by such cross traffic. Plus, I never had to stop and fix a flat tire. I enjoyed the freedom of right of way on the sidewalks as well as periodic ventures into the line of bicycles. Despite the general lack of vehicular traffic, Venice Boulevard was by no means quiet; music blared from speakers and sometimes from live performers on the sidewalks. The usual homeless crowd lined the sidewalks, either shouting or just watching, on the periphery. This noise was reminiscent of the usual city sounds, but with a thousand voices replacing the distant rumbles of traffic. In this new Los Angeles, even as a young student walking alone, I felt safe. The constant stream of cyclists and the many bystanders lingering on the sidewalks transformed the atmosphere of the usually fast-paced city. Talking to the occasional lingering cyclist, I got the impression that this was a real treat not only for out-of-towners like me, but for those who drive these streets every day. One such cyclist commented on how quickly the downtown area has grown in the past 20 years, and how enjoyable it was to take back the streets, even if only for one day.
Shop Creek Stream Restoration: Wenk Associates, 1996
Design Landscape Forum
By using soil-cement drop structures to blend with the natural soil, the creek once again reinforces the view of the natural prairie.
Waterworks Garden. Lorna Jordan, Jones and Jones, 2011
Design Landscape Forum
In this site, the designers controlled the natural movement of water of the wetland so people can experience the natural cycles of water
Eibs Pond Park, Linda Pollak Architect, Mary Miss, 2001
Design Landscape Forum
As the path diverges into the lake, the observer experiences the view from a lower point of view, changing the perception of the lake.
Vinaros Microcoasts, Guallart Architects, 2006
Image Source: http://www.guallart.com/projects/vinaros-microcoasts
These platforms were created because the rocky surface was uncomfortable for the public that came to enjoy the view. It is now a comfortable spot for them to sit or lay on when enjoying the view.
Designer: Abalos & Herreros
Image Source: http://www.architonic.com/pmsht/xurret-system-escofet-1886/2016929
These benches were created for everyone to use in any way they prefer. They were designed in such a way that it would not tell people how to sit or where to look.
The Red Ribbon, Turenscapes
Image Source: http://turenscape.com/English/projects/project.php?id=336
The Red Ribbon is located in Qinhuangdao City, Hebei Province, Chin and spans about five hundred meters. This project makes the landscape more accessible and enjoyable for the public and its bright red color makes it pop out in the landscape.
Urban Landscape, Xurret System & Pep,
Designer/Year: Abalos & Herreros 2004
Benches are hard scape art that resembles organic shapes of nature.
Nou Barris Park
Designer/Year: Arriola & Fiol Arquitectes, 1992
It’s land art that amplifies abstraction.
Pause, giant deck chairs.
designer/Year: Nip Paysage, 2004
Art larger than life and when the kid went to land of giants.