Letter To The Editor:
The Los Angeles River is an important green infrastructure project because the nation’s second largest city is addressing two significant challenges found in other growing metropolitan areas across the globe: communities lacking significant public open space and drought conditions that make water management critical to future growth and development of the city.
Green infrastructure and open space projects throughout the world have landscape architects front and center in the process, from conception to implementation because landscape architects are specially trained to understand, manage and design natural systems. For 11 miles of the preliminary study area to the full 51-mile stretch, the Los Angeles River reacts, changes and interacts differently with the multiplicity of edges, ecologies and communities along the way. Understanding the nature of this system and harnessing its potential requires the training and experience of landscape architecture.
Landscape architecture came as a result of the study and work of Fredrick Law Olmsted, visionary designer of Central Park, the Chicago park system, Boston’s Emerald Necklace, UC Berkeley and Stanford campus master plans, and many more. Olmsted laid the foundation of landscape architecture as a practice focused on place making through an understanding of site context and respect for natural systems.
For example landscape architects have led the most celebrated hydrology based open space projects across the country. Hargreaves Associates has award winning waterfront projects in Louisville and San Francisco, Field Operations has environmentally focused designs throughout New York, Sasaki has green infrastructure designs in Boston and Cincinnati among others, Michael Van Valkenburg and Associates’ waterfront work spans from New York to Pittsburgh to Tulsa. Civitas, Wenk and, Los Angeles’ own, Mia Lehrer and Associates led the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan in 2007.
The experience found in landscape architecture must lead the efforts of the Los Angeles River Revitalization, not simply have a seat at the table, because their specialized training in natural systems and place making are at the core of the project. Olmsted is the foundation from which the nation’s public open spaces are built. It’s only fitting to utilize the legacy of the father of American landscape architecture in the foremost landscape space of Los Angeles.