At the end of January we had the great opportunity to help the students of the Los Angeles River School prepare for the Placemaking Design Competition, held by the Northeast Los Angeles River Front Collaborative. The morning was filled with teams of students coming to the LA-MÁS workshop and presenting their placemaking designs. The student teams came with impressive presentations for their proposals, with an enormous amount of documented research and community surveys.
Coming from the undergraduate school of architecture at Woodbury University, where part of our curriculum focuses on urban design and includes studio projects based in and around the Los Angeles River, it has been a great opportunity to help the students impact this waterway. As we brainstormed and explored different modes of representation, we saw the passion and drive that we had when we began college and have fostered through our education. Their innovative and visionary ideas were captivating and truly inspiring.
Their proposals ranged from activating vacant lots around their communities, to creating a more pleasant experience along the river. With their funny name aside, the student team Sizzle Sizzle Uhuh's had a very considerate community garden proposal within an abandoned lot near their homes. They explained that they chose this lot because it was one of the ugliest lots in their neighborhood, and the garbage left on the site posed a threat for all the children that played on the site. After sitting with them for a few minutes, we helped them to visualize a community garden centered around a water fountain that also acted as a water source for the surrounding garden plots.
Another Team, The River Girls, gave us a full Power Point presentation that laid out their objective of adding more lights along the rivers pedestrian paths. They explained that after dark the river was not an inviting space for their community and seemed unsafe. Their team also saw the open house as an opportunity to showcase their project and receive some of the opinions the community members had to offer.
In helping with the workshop, we were reminded that collaboration does not have to exist among people in the same profession or the same age range. The variety among collaborators produces new outcomes and generates new strategies and possibilities. Collaboration succeeds when people get involved and make a difference -- that is what the NELA competition is fostering. These design proposals are not only going to improve the physical conditions of the river, but they are impacting lives through the process. The innovative ideas, passion, and willingness of professionals and students to get involved, is profoundly inspiring and we look forward to seeing how the project will develop.