Northeast Los Angeles Placemaking Competition: Acoustic Mirrors


Project submitted by Alex Sasayama

Project designed for entire NELA area

Project Summary and Scale

Acoustic mirrors installed on both banks of the LA River will foster connections between the people and neighborhoods that surround it. Used during the first World War to detect the movements of enemies, and more recently in science museums (as "whisper dishes") to demonstrate focusing of sound, this simple yet elegant device will be elevated to the noble purpose of bringing people together - and bridging divides - through the use of sound.

Why are you committed to this project?

While large-scale, capital-intensive improvements are needed, it is important that the vision for a physical future is first experienced even if only momentarily so that we can better imagine it and become more invested in it.

What are the most relevant characteristics of project site and scale?

The sites for the placement of the acoustic mirrors are the same as the ends of the planned Taylor Yard Pedestrian Bridge, allowing people on either side of the river to experience through sound a connection that will eventually be possible in person. Once the bridge is built, this installation could be relocated to other points along the river.


Describe how this project will reinforce a sense of place or enhance the built environment.

Not only does this project encourage connections between people on either side of the river, it reinforces a sense of place by providing an activity in a specific location that gives participants a reason to spend time in one place. At least on the Cypress Park side of the river, there is space to build off of the installation with a pop-up cafe and/or other temporary activities/events that foster community building. And by bringing attention to the planned bridge, this temporary installation helps stakeholders imagine and move towards a permanent improvement to the built environment.

Provide a description of the project's necessary planning activities.

The project requires a feasibility assessment of both the technology involved and proposed sites. Meanwhile, community engagement strategies such as public meetings and/or surveys will be employed to solicit feedback from residents and visitors on either side of the bridge. The assessment and community input will then inform the design and implementation of the project.

What is a rough estimate of your project budget?

$25,000 for the planning, design, building, installation and launch of the acoustic mirrors.

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How does this project leverage existing resources and efforts?

The project primarily leverages efforts to better connect the neighborhoods surrounding the river with each other, including the initial placement at the future site of the Taylor Yard Pedestrian Bridge.

What community need is your project serving?

The project serves the need for community building. Often misunderstood and/or underappreciated, the need for social connection has well demonstrated implications for both individuals and communities. For individuals, placemaking results in mental health benefits that are equally as important as the physical needs more commonly addressed in public health efforts. For the communities in NELA, building social connections across the river help residents and stakeholders overcome physical barriers to understand their shared interests and work collectively towards a better future.

If your project is realized, what does success look like?

A Spanish-speaking grandmother in Cypress Park holds a conversation, with the help of her NELA-native grandson, with a young artist living and working in Elysian Valley and they learn that they have more in common than they expected.

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