For seven years, several of Los Angeles’s scattered departments have been working on a way to bridge the intimidating chasm between the city’s Downtown Civic Center and the El Pueblo de Los Angeles historic district created by the massive 101 Freeway. Their solution, the “101 Freeway Overcrossing,” which will finally open later this month, provides a gestural “pedestrian enhancement” buttressed by large steel rings and a mesh-like kinetic awning spanning the sidewalk of Los Angeles Street.
The $2 million project—a joint effort by LA’s Bureau of Engineering, Department of Cultural Affairs, Board of Public Works, and California’s Department of Transportation—was conceived by artists Jenna Didier, Oliver Hess, Ned Kahn, and Marcos Lutyens. Its technical layout was managed by Nous Engineering, WKE, BuroHappold, and the LA Public Works Engineering Bureau with construction by Acon Construction.
The showcase is a 22-foot-tall by 17-foot-wide by 123-foot-long arc-canopy along the (widened) westerly sidewalk of Los Angeles Street. A more rectilinear structure is going up on Main Street. The artists drew inspiration from the freeway below, “warping” that infrastructural language. “How do you use the vernacular of Caltrans to grow a more natural or organic feeling structure?” asked Didier. The project also serves as a gateway for those entering the city from the freeway below.
The upper section of the Los Angeles Street edifice consists of a series of etched metallic panels fastened to stainless steel cable netting (designed by FabriTec Structures). LED lights are slotted into aluminum nodes attached to the structures. The Main Street bridge is topped with Galvanized steel beams that will sway slightly as pedestrians walk underneath.
While it was originally green lighted in 2008, the project has been held up by design revisions, “project uniqueness,” and “unforeseen issues during construction,” according to Jimmy Tokeshi, a spokesperson for LA’s Department of Public Works.
But finally a blank scar in the urban fabric is starting to garner some attention, and pedestrians may be drawn to a new monument, or at the very least to some shade. Perhaps a freeway cap, or more interventions like this, will follow?