As principal of SALT Landscape Architects, Compton immediately encouraged members of LALA (Los Angeles Landscape Architects) and others to weigh in on the issue.
“This this looks a lot like the well-worn strategy of city making that relies upon the supplication of a few brand-name architects to bless the city with their objects. The fact that the mayor’s office hopes having Gehry aligned with the project will add a stature to the project that it wouldn’t otherwise have suggests that perhaps Los Angeles isn’t quite through that phase.
Why, after years of public outreach, presentations, and master planning efforts, has this one been so shrouded in secrecy? We’ll have to see if this announcement marks the beginning of public involvement, but it doesn’t yet feel like a good faith effort or respectful of the decades of work done to date.
Lastly, the mayor’s comparison of Gehry to Frederick Law Olmsted is ill conceived and reflects a limited understanding of the differences between landscape architecture and architecture. One wonders if the city and the Los Angeles River Redevelopment Corp have correctly defined the problem or whether they are confused about which skills are needed to lead the effort.
Perhaps another way to say this is, from a preliminary perspective, this choice appears to be a figure-ground problem—Gehry is a figure specialist at work on a complicated ground problem.
Faculty at the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate, Habibi penned the report LA’s Next Frontier: Capturing Opportunities for New Housing, Economic Growth, and Sustainable Development in LA River Communities, which was commissioned by the Los Angeles Business Council Institute. The report links revitalization efforts with building sustainable and equitable communities.
“There has been a lot of anxiety about the announcement because it seems like a top-down approach. This was not your traditional RFP where constituencies get to weigh in.
The LA River, however, is already a patchwork of different initiatives. This just adds to the tapestry of many players. The thing that makes it so interesting is the thing that makes it so hard to coordinate. The river is 51 miles long; it snakes through different neighborhoods and council areas. There’s not a lot of homogeneity on plans, initiatives, and government agencies.
In terms of development and architecture, my gut sense it that this is additive. Regardless of the process, if you look at it holistically, Gehry’s involvement has a gravitational pull to other developers.”
As a member of Project 51, a collective of LA River-loving artists, designers, planners, writers and educators, Gudis developed Play the River, a placemaking game and series of riverside events funded in part by a NEA ArtPlace grant.
“We don’t need a celebrity architect to advise us on hydrology. What we really need is a proposal from Mayor Garcetti about how to ensure that the public continues to have a say in this grand public works project. Where’s the plan for how real public interests and voices will be attended to, and how low-income communities of color who have suffered the LA River for the last hundred years in its flooding and in its brutally toxic state will be ensured the ability to stay and enjoy the amenities of a revitalized riverside? Their interests should be the first considered when it comes to mobilizing capital for redevelopment, which is what this ballyhoo is all about, after all.”
The Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation Statement on Frank Gehry and the Los Angeles River
The Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation (LA River Corp) could not be happier that Gehry Partners has agreed to bring their world-renowned vision, thoughtfulness, and foresight to the Los Angeles River. It truly marks a significant turning point in the life of one of Southern California’s most underutilized open spaces.
The LA River Corp was established by the City of Los Angeles through its LA River Revitalization Master Plan as an entrepreneurial, non-profit whose mission is to ensure that the 51-mile Los Angeles River integrates design and infrastructure that bring people and nature together. Before we approached Gehry Partners, we were looking for a group that would to bring a more integrated framework to the entire river. We knew we needed a team with the foresight, reach, and experience to be able to think about and assimilate an array of very complex challenges at both a city and regional level. We needed a team with experience working across multiple jurisdictions, and who understood the potential that these kinds of public resources hold to revitalize and strengthen communities. And we needed that team to be local to Los Angeles, because they had to truly understand and embrace what the river means for our community. Putting all of that together, it was clear that Frank Gehry Partners could be our only choice.
Frank Gehry and his team have spent 9 months doing due diligence, all pro bono: reading over numerous river-related plans, compiling their own data about flood control, hydrology, water flow, land use, public health and the myriad other complex issues relating to the river. The Gehry team is gathering this data so that they can explore the art of the possible for the river. An expansive, forward looking approach to improve communities, improve water conservation and reclamation that can even help with drought relief, and expand recreational opportunities along its entire reach.
Gehry Partners’ efforts will expand upon the decades of important work that has come before, yet will be an integrated approach that knits together all 51 miles of the river. Far from complicating any other efforts, their work will complement those efforts, including the Army Corps “Alternative 20” plan, by contextualizing them in a larger framework, showing how the entire river can work as one ecosystem.
LA River Corp is tremendously supportive of Alternative 20, having made many trips to Washington, DC to lobby for its passage, working closely with Mayor Garcetti and others to ensure its approval. We know how important Alternative 20 is to the future of the river, and we know that Gehry Partners’ work will only serve to make Alternative 20 even more attractive to policymakers.
We are launching the beginning of what will be an inclusive process to develop this 51 mile integrated design vision, with input from a wide variety of stakeholders. This project will have a tremendous amount of public input from the diverse talent and ideas of people across the region.
Finally, this discovery phase wouldn’t be possible without the leadership and support of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, State Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, LA County leaders, and many other state and local elected officials and community leaders who have played a critical role of helping us get to this point.
Gehry Partners’ involvement is truly helping to bring this region together to embrace and elevate this tremendous public resource.