Northeast Los Angeles Placemaking Competition: Public Baths


Project submitted by: Laura Blosser

A project for Elysian Valley

Project Summary and Scale

Baths are central to human existence, and have often taken place on the banks of rivers; in cultures across the world, bathing is both public and quotidian, constituting a means of socializing and building community. This small intervention would capitalize on water already feeding the LA river, purify it, and allow it to flow to public bathtubs before entering into the LA river.

Why are you committed to this project?

This project touches on a primal aspect of daily life, one that has the power to unify a community. I genuinely believe the NELA community would benefit from and immensely enjoy the use of public baths, for relaxation and cleanliness. I am committed to bringing this vision to the people of NELA, and as a local resident, I myself would greatly appreciate access to this amenity.

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

The project site is at the transition between the hardscaped river and the landscaped river. This is relevant both for the context of concrete as primary building material as well as for the enhanced view that the riparian plants provide. The scale is that of the human. The path to the baths is easy, safe, and clearly marked. Baths are both familiar and ritualized.

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

This project enhances the built environment by being beautifully constructed; more than this, it reinforces a sense of place by creating a sense of place. The people who come here and the activities they engage in will, in themselves, form the sense of place. The opportunity to bathe provides a service to the community. The activity of bathing provides an avenue for community members to interact with one another in proximity to the river, while taking advantage of the water already flowing to the river.


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

The project is quite simple in function and operation: run-off water will come off the existing gate, be filtered by an in-channel filtration system, and be held until needed in a concrete storage tank adjacent to the baths. From there, it will be gravity-fed into concrete bathtubs on demand. After taking a bath, visitors will unplug the drain and allow the water to drain to the river. The concrete construction of the baths is otherwise standard and no other systems are required. Activated by rainfall, the baths have an option to override the system in drought months with piped-in water from upstream.

What is a rough estimate of your project budget?

The project budget is roughly $200,000, including all of the path-making and stairs required to access the baths, including concrete work, basic plumbing, and water filtration systems.

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How does this project leverage existing resources and efforts?

Simply put, this project leverages the existing water source (the runoff channel) and the existing drain source (the river). This highlights the river as a source of primal nurturing and cleanliness.

What community need is your project serving?

This serves anyone who bathes, ever. It is everyone from the homeless people who do not have access to regular showers to the hipsters who think it's cool to hang out by the river. Bathing is ageless and classless: it appeals to all.

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

Success is use. Los Angeles has the benefit of warm weather 10 months out of the year, so it is not difficult to imagine outdoor bathing. If it is used, it is successful. If it is used for more than just bathing, it is more than successful.

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