This spring, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, in collaboration with its project partners, including the State Coastal Conservancy, Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission celebrated the restoration of the Malibu Lagoon. It’s considered by many to be one of the most ecologically significant wetlands restorations ever undertaken on the West Coast. One of its key players is architect Clark Stevens.
While the intention was to revive a waterway classified by many as threatened due to the chemical changes wrought by a build up of silt over the course of several decades, it was decided early on to create an environment that saved the wetland—and connected visitors to the place. “We were not merely satisfied with putting back critical endangered ecosystems,” Stevens says of the project. “The danger of locking something like this up is that people won’t get to know it. We wanted to create interests—and conservationists—where we wouldn’t have otherwise.”
To that end, Stevens created a range of architectural and landscape features that draw visitors to the wetlands in expected and unexpected ways. One of the most compelling is the winter ramp/summer clock, one and the same, but with changing names to match their changing seasonal functions. In the fall and winter months, when the lagoon is open to the tides, the ramp leads visitors down to the tidal range. In the spring and summer, what was once a ramp slowly becomes submerged—time is marked as the water slowly and very visibly makes its way up the ramp.
The winter ramp/summer clock and other features (a bird blind, viewing platforms) “are put in places and positions where vistors can have amazing spatial experiences,” Stevens explains. “They can wonder about what is going on, read about it or ask someone about it.” Engaged, they themselves can become better stewards of the environment.
The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, will hold their 25th anniversary celebration on Thursday, October 17, at the Annenberg Community Beach House. For tickets and more information, click here.