Do you remember that scene in Terminator 2: Judgment Day when teenage John Connor is driving his mini-sport motorcycle only to become chased by the T-1000 in a Mack truck? Young Connor, thinking he can lose his much larger opponent, enters a sparse and menacing concrete area with a tiny patch of water running through it. Then, of course, in comes the T-800, the future real-life Governor of California, on his Harley wielding a lever-action shotgun in his right hand to save the day. The location for this shoot is utterly depressing, a perfect locale for such a morbid and terrifying exchange.
Yes, of course, this dismal place where robots from the future go to murder adolescents is the Los Angeles River Aqueduct.
In recent years though, the Los Angeles River Revitalization movement has made significant progress in changing all this. In 2002 an Ad Hoc Committee on the Los Angeles River was created, and among the most significant efforts to renew the area was the creation of the Revitalization Master Plan – a plan designed at adding value to local communities through the creation of a secure environment: parks and trails, along with environmental restoration, riverfront living and commerce, job opportunities, and increased neighborhood pride. The Value of Architecture understands that the purpose of good design is living with nature, not against it. This revitalization plan marks an important movement in cities—that, no matter what, we must cohabitate with our natural environment and not force humanity’s hand on nature, no matter how densely populated the area is.
The Los Angeles River Revitalization movement has attracted the attention of some of the top architecture firms in the world: Gruen Associates, WSP, and Mia Lehrer + Associates, to name a few. Recently an Archdaily article offered up plans that include sculpture gardens, promenades in elevated parks and walkways, overlooks and cascading gardens, art installations and galleries, bike paths, and eateries. It’s a reminder that the purpose of architecture and design is to improve the quality of life of citizens. It’s a reminder that even the most affluent of cities, there’s always room for improvement.
No matter what the average Angeleno thinks, the Los Angeles River is the first creator of life for the city. For centuries this was the home of the Tongva and, later, the European settlers first made home there. Today, the Los Angeles river flows through 51 miles of urban areas, through the San Fernando Valley, in Burbank and Glendale, Griffith Park and Elysian Park, through Downtown LA and then through some of LA’s most ethnically diverse neighborhoods, such as South Gate, Lynwood, Compton, Paramount, Carson, and Long Beach.
The Los Angeles River Revitalization is a vital step in creating a livable Los Angeles for the future.
By: David Plick