For the last ten weeks, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona students have been working on their own discrete mile of the river, attempting to understand the nuances of each small part that makes up the 51-mile whole. "It's a nice way to understand the river as a whole system," said Rennie Tang, assistant professor of Landscape Architecture, who teaches a ten-week class alongside two other instructors, Doug Delgado and Phil Pregill. "We encouraged them not to just look at the river itself but at the adjacent communities," she said as we spoke about the project.
At Mile #34 in Vernon, where the last armed resistance in the Mexican-American war occurred, student Jose Devora found a mostly industrial site. Construction workers mostly hung out in the parking lots, eating their lunch. Devora's proposal considers the possibility of turning those abandoned train tracks into pedestrian corridors that would cater to the working community in Vernon. An elevated structure would raise people above the din of construction and show them the bigger picture of their city.
At Mile #12, between Fulton and Coldwater Canyon Avenue, Michael Paccone offered a daring plan hinged on the question, "Could we bridge the gap between the two river banks by capping the river?" Paccone theorizes that the neighborhood might be better connected with such a proposal.
Another theme that kept cropping up in the proposals was how to address environmental issues along the river. "There was definitely a strong ecological bent, especially toward the end where it's dirtier," said Tang. Proposals included using plants that would clean the river, adding wetlands, or removing some concrete surfaces to allow more water into the ground.
At Mile #48 Alexander Wade found himself at a transition area, where the river's concrete hard bottom met a natural soft bottom. To capitalize on this rare transition point, Wade proposed building an environmental education center where one can view the wildlife flourishing on the soft bottom and the sudden man-made intervention of the concrete.
Parallel to this project, each student was given another assignment: to build a model of his or her mile of the Los Angeles River. Each student had to laser cut a 1/8 inch-thick slice of the river, which put together would mimic the path of the river. The slices of the river came complete with miniature renderings of bridges, the creeks that flowed into the river, and even the wildness of the soft-bottom areas.
Hung up from rods at the ceiling, the model wound its way through the main gallery of the College of Environmental Design. Though infinitely smaller in scale, the students' models captured just how far-reaching this waterway is in Los Angeles.
Curious to see what students thought of the river in your neighborhood? Check out the proposals here.