Alameda Corridor East

Alameda Corridor East is a $1b infrastructure project that sliped beneath the radar till the archeologists start uncovering spanish silver coins. The original Alameda Corridor from Long Beach to Downtown also created a new cargo terminal at the Port of Los Angeles – so where is the fill being disposed of from this project?

LA Aqueduct Bibliography 2012

I revisited the LA Aqueduct for a grant proposal related to the upcoming centennial of it’s opening (stay tuned), and started updating my earlier bibliography. My methodology was searching via google scholar, and cal poly’s library. Items in bold are seminal books and essential reading about the LA Aqueduct. The links take you to the most recent edition of the book.

(all images by HAER/Library of Congress.)







Alabama Gates

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Infrastructure Lifespan

How long our infrastructure will last. Via Mammoth (from the poster design for the GSD’s “Landscape Infrastructure” symposium by OPSYS/Alexandra Gauzza)

click image for larger version

“This chart visualizes the lifespans of equipment associated with waste, water, energy, and transportation systems across North America. As we approach — and pass — the breakdown point for many post-WWII urban infrastructures, important questions emerge. What and how should we rebuild? How do we build in the face of dynamic climates and coastal hazards? Should we design for permanence or for failure? Should we build stronger or weaker structures? Can natural systems be coupled with technological facilities? Cross-disciplinary action by ecologists, urbanists, historians, geographers, and engineers is necessary as we construct the next generation of public works projects for an era of unprecedented change and uncertain risk.”

See also

Tactical Infrastructures Screening


• A deliberate, phased approach to instigating change;
• Implementation of local solutions to local planning challenges;
• Short-term commitment and realistic expectations;
• Low-risk actions which hold the potential for high reward; and
• The development of social capital between citizens and the growth of collective organizational capacity among public, private, and non-profit institutions and their constituents

Project 2: Tactical Infrastructure     
As a process for city-making, tactical urbanism effectively addresses the convergence of three well-documented trends: shrinking municipal budgets, a generational shift to urban living, and the rapid exchange of ideas enabled by advances in information and communications technology.

The public is welcome at our final review and the screening of the student-generated videos for the project on Friday, March 9th, 3-6pm at Cal Poly Pomona, Building 7, Room 203.

LA402L’s Video 1: Eco-Technical Mapping of the Northeastern San Fernando Valley can be viewed here.

Infrastructural Art – Daniel Lara

Spotted in the lobby of SoCal’s Hotel Casa 425, Daniel Lara’s art engages many contemporary subjects including infrastructure, ubiquitous computing/networks (invoking DS+R’s early work), skeuomorphs, and palimpsests of graffiti. His mixed-media paintings of utility poles and industrial landscapes have captured my interest in infrastructural art. Lara recently earned his MFA in media design from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena – it will be interesting to see how his oeuvre matures as he shakes of the grad-school induced eclecticism.

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Towards a Terracentric Infrastructure

B.E. Mahall and F.H. Bormann have an eloquent op-ed in the LAtimes today that calls for resetting our view of nature. While I don’t have time to write much about their piece, it is certainly worth reading as it calls to question the anthropogenic bias in most climate models and calculations of ecosystem services as only serving people.

The other item worth sharing is Marcel Smets (thanks Nam) recent talk at the GSD (podcast) as he makes his round of the architecture school circuit, to promote his recent book: Infrastructure Design in the Contemporary Landscape. Smets writes/talks about that that there are 5 strategies for integrating infrastructure into cities:


The preferred approach of politicians, preserves or restores authenticity, or realizing authenticity a park or garden on/over parking garage


Making invisible by trees or foliage or by use of a trench or talus taking characteristics of the background


By way of typological imitation through the creation of a common layer


Marking the existing by detaching the new this approach usually features strong geometry and autonomous form also by landscape design (almost it seems he says, by de-urbanizing or re-organic-izing and thus de-imposing the infrastructure/object)


Which is he argues the most promising: oppositions melting into inclusive-distinction or by constructing a megastructure (an architectural intervention) or by constructing a hybrid landscape and thus a new category (thanks nam!)

Before I expand on this list, I want to point out that Marcel’s definition of Infrastructure is very narrow and only includes transportation facilities and corridors based on the examples given in the lecture. This misses a wide range of communication, energy, and water typologies that don’t fit so cleanly into the 5 categories above.

I would expand that list with the following (and there may be more tactics out there):

Ubiquity or Pervasiveness
Telephone pole, high tension lines, storm drain catch basins, manhole covers, and electric outlets are all examples of infrastructure that is so common we usually don’t notice.

Isolation or Obscure
Put the stuff far away from folks – not hiding as there is no attempt to conceal or camouflage. Examples are the Fort McHenry Oil Sands, many military bases (like Area 51), and many other large industrial complexes.

Hoover Dam & the Golden Gate Bridge come to mind as examples of exceptional elegance and scale that transcend the realm of engineering and become works of art.

Okay, gotta go run and give a lecture on hydrology. More later.

What’s next for 2010?

On this New Year’s day, I visited the writings of my mentor in networked urbanism, Kazys Varnelis. Thanks to the interview in triplecanopy and his blog post 2009 in review, I’m feeling very dystopic and nihilistic about our future. But the academic pursuit of investigating our civilization’s pending collapse is a dead end. I’d rather pour my efforts into staving off this eventuality and originalgreen’s the Green Top 10 for 2010 lifted my spirits.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been immersed in developing my spring semester classes. So figuring out the emerging ideas/memes that are worth exploring in design studio has been very much on my mind. Okay, my perspective is as biased towards landscape architecture and sustainable urbanism, so feel free to disagree (in no particular order):

  • parametrics & scripting are almost dead and should have died 5 years ago. (you can’t design a building/city in flash, no mater what Winka says).
  • building simulation has some legs left, but only when symbiotic with bigger questions.
  • informal urbanism has it’s proponents but needs to be less about poverty voyeurism and more about ecological justice.
  • disaster urbanism/post-collapse/post-war urbanism is very apropos.
  • biomimicry seems pre-bubble, but might have some life left.
  • urban infometrics/networked urbanism has some juice, but Kazys has his doubts.
  • blobs are dead (hopefully) and should be buried 6 feet under – just witness the breakup of FOA.
  • living architecture, maybe. but only if this means exploring more about eco-technical systems then just grafting trees into the building’s skin or genetically modifying trees to become buildings.
  • vertical farms are still just an utopian pipe dream (but I’d love to be proven wrong).
  • agricultural urbanism is still fresh.
  • shrinking cities/dead malls/foreclosed suburbia will still be with us for another few decades and haven’t gotten enough attention.
  • housing for the next 3.5 billion isn’t getting enough attention.
  • media skins/cinematic facades seems very 90s tschumi, even as the technology is finally mature.
  • green buildings, well you better define what sort of green you’re into and don’t even bother greenwashing yourself.
  • metrics and benchmarks are the future, but I hope that nobody bothers to form a studio around LEED or the SSI ever again. leave this for something to pick up in practice, not school. those benchmarks grow obsolete and irrelevant as quickly as modeling software, so please don’t waste the students tuition on something they can only use for a year or two.
  • infrastructure is a dead end according to Kazys, but I still think that students need to be understand all these pipes and wires that are the life support of our cities.
  • landscape urbanism has been kicking around for over a decade, but I’m starting to see LUas a updated version of McHargian ecological planning driven design and just a chance to use big words.
  • industrial ecology seems to be off the radar, but worth exploring from a cultural perspective.
  • ruralism has been ignored by many schools, but many of the solutions to our urban issues are out in the hinterland
  • suburbanism should be blindfolded and shot, but to many folks like the status quo so we need to find a better approach.
  • eco-cities, something close to my heart, but Masdar & Dongtan are bust and seem to have just been a Potemkin Village or smoke and mirrors. There is real potential in figuring out optimal urban morphology for specific bioclimatic zones, but there isn’t any scientific justification or methods to go about validating the design/planning choices – this remains my current focus.
  • 2nd life architecture is dead.
  • facebook architecture ???? I hope not.
  • video game architecture – what’s the point of studying architecture/landscape if you want to play games – get a degree in animation or computer science.
  • starchitecture is dead, but hero worship has never died. studios by famous architects/’scapers (and their minions) will continue to be popular.
  • post-water urbanism and architecture is a topic that is urgently, urgently needed.
  • post-carbon/post-oil is a tasty flavor of pragmatic green architecture/urbanism that is growing in popularity (several symposiums on this topic have already fertilized the field).
  • sea level rise is another topic that I’ve seen several fascinating thesis projects explore and expect to become more common (especially in schools located on the coasts).

Overall, exploring/learning how to find pragmatic solutions to environmental/social challenges versus form-making is where I’ll place my money for the hot topics in design schools. If architecture and landscape architecture wish to stay relevant for the future, then this is where we all need to push the environmental design professions (and the AIA/ASLA/NCARB/CLARB/et al).

[related posts: 2009 in review, & fleeting memes of the fall]

A Solar Farm for Owens Lake

The LATimes recently published a story about a possible new use of the Owens Lake Playa – a 616 acre solar power plant. The Owens Lake Playa is a place that I care about and have dedicated a significant amount of time researching and writing about.

Owens Lake seen from Horseshoe Meadow Road

Here is the Op-Ed I submitted to the LATimes to support the project:

It is important to remember that the Owens Lake Playa is an artificial landscape created by the growth of Los Angeles. While the entire Owens Valley is a sublime landscape, it is not a pristine wilderness. As such, the Owens Valley is an ideal location for locating a large concentrating solar energy facility, especially because the transmission capacity already exists and the potential benefit of further reducing the PM10 dust emissions off the Playa.

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