When poet Lewis MacAdams founded Friends of the Los Angeles River 25 years ago – imagining a lifelong art project to return the bedraggled waterway to greatness and greenness – to some he might have seemed out to lunch. Now we know he was ahead of his time. (I have the distinction of writing the first-ever article about FOLAR; it was for Los Angeles Downtown News.) Witness the new Piggyback Yard plan. MacAdams has enlisted three top architecture firms to create a plan that not only creates green space along the Los Angeles River, it also performs a crucial flood-control role. The idea, reported in the New York Times, “is that on a few days each year, the river would overflow into the yard. The rest of the year, the land would be a park.” This flood-detention aspect is brilliantly essential to comprehensive revitalization, because flood-control was the reason for encasing the river in ugly, community-dividing concrete more than 50 years ago.
The architecture firms are Michael Maltzan Architecture, Perkins + Will and Chee Salette Architecture Office, along with landscape architect, Mia Lehrer. Their plans include a park with soccer fields; miles of paths for walking, running and biking; nature trails; an orchard; a sculpture garden; playgrounds; picnic areas; and large, earth-formed gathering spaces. And the proposal makes room for significant live/work housing and commercial development. That’s both visionary and practical. Best of all, they created a beautiful website to explain it all.
Now, if only they can get Union Pacific Railroad to give up the land.
— Jack Skelley