Students

  • Week 1 - A River of Waste

    Week 1 - A River of Waste

    The LA River is quite literally a river of waste. During dry periods, the majority of the river’s flow comes from recycled water (treated sewage) from the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant upstream. During rain events, untreated stormwater shed off the city’s abundant roadways and paved surfaces which serve as “headwaters” for the river complete with oil, grease, metal, coolants from vehicles, fertilizers, pesticides from lawns, bacteria from pet waste, and trash from the street. While it may be impossible to completely remedy this issue without cutting the river off from the stormwater system, there are certainly opportunities for improvement.

    The LA River is quite literally a river of waste. During dry periods, the majority of the river’s flow comes from recycled water (treated sewage) from the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant upstream. During rain events, untreated stormwater shed off the city’s abundant roadways and paved surfaces which serve as “headwaters” for the river complete with oil, grease, metal, coolants from vehicles, fertilizers, pesticides from lawns, bacteria from pet waste, and trash from the street. While it may be impossible to completely remedy this issue without cutting the river off from the stormwater system, there are certainly opportunities for improvement.

  • Week 2 - The Landscape Project Part I

    Week 2 - The Landscape Project Part I

    The idea of cutting the channelized LA River off from the city of Los Angeles may seem like an extreme move. Sometimes it’s a bold move encourages real change. The City of LA has a water problem – there just isn’t enough for the population, its reaction to the water that does enter the city through precipitation is to jettison it from the city as quickly as possible. Flooding is an issue in contemporary Los Angeles because the amount of impervious surface in the city doesn’t allow for rain to be absorbed by the ground the way it was before the area became urbanized. What if the city’s fabric was reimagined to contain vegetation that could retain water during storm events? This would help maintain the city’s water table and filter stormwater as well as eliminate the need for the LA River to function as a flood management tool.

    The idea of cutting the channelized LA River off from the city of Los Angeles may seem like an extreme move. Sometimes it’s a bold move encourages real change. The City of LA has a water problem – there just isn’t enough for the population, its reaction to the water that does enter the city through precipitation is to jettison it from the city as quickly as possible. What if the city’s fabric was reimagined to contain vegetation that could retain water during storm events? This would help maintain the city’s water table and filter stormwater as well as eliminate the need for the LA River to function as a flood management tool.

  • Week 3 - The Landscape Project Part II

    Week 3 - The Landscape Project Part II

    The thing about big, bold moves is there is rarely sufficient funding or will to tackle them all at once. To start the ball rolling on a large, decentralized project often requires pilot projects to demonstrate the benefits of future investment. In the case of my proposal to contain LA’s rainwater within the city rather than ejecting it into the LA River, there seems no better place to start than in the city’s Arts District. Not only are artists known for being open to new ideas, but also, the area is severely lacking in public gathering spaces, vegetation, and access to the river. The District will be a natural fit for an urban laboratory.

    The thing about big, bold moves is there is rarely sufficient funding or will to tackle them all at once. To start the ball rolling on a large, decentralized project often requires pilot projects to demonstrate the benefits of future investment. In the case of my proposal to contain LA’s rainwater within the city rather than ejecting it into the LA River, there seems no better place to start than in the city’s Arts District. Not only are artists known for being open to new ideas, but also, the area is severely lacking in public gathering spaces, vegetation, and access to the river. The District will be a natural fit for an urban laboratory.

  • Week 4 - Punk Performance Park

    Week 4 - Punk Performance Park

    Performative Punk Playground responds to the physical and cultural conditions of the site to create a venue for artistic expression, experimentation, recreation, and celebration. At the watershed scale, the project re-establishes a dialogue between the river channel and the urban fabric, bringing some of what each does best to the other.
    This functionality is brought to the River by physically severing the pipes that flow through the site and re-appropriating them as new access points to the channel. What the channel does best is to prevent flooding. This task is moved into the city itself by retaining the water that had traveled through the pipes in a sculptural stormwater garden under the bridge space near the Lucky Jeans Headquarters.

    Performative Punk Playground responds to the physical and cultural conditions of the site to create a venue for artistic expression, experimentation, recreation, and celebration. At the watershed scale, the project re-establishes a dialogue between the river channel and the urban fabric, bringing some of what each does best to the other.
    This functionality is brought to the River by physically severing the pipes that flow through the site and re-appropriating them as new access points to the channel. What the channel does best is to prevent flooding. This task is moved into the city itself by retaining the water that had traveled through the pipes in a sculptural stormwater garden under the bridge space near the Lucky Jeans Headquarters.

Rachel Vassar

2e3084ea_screenshot2013-10-09at9.34.12am_114x114

I have a BA from New York University, and am entering the third and final year of my MLA at the University of Virginia. Prior to attending graduate school, I worked for an environmental non-profit, where I coordinated an urban sustainability campaign to enhance Philadelphia’s environment, strengthen neighborhoods and increase the city’s economic competitiveness. I am fascinated by the significant role that the visual and spatial quality of the landscape plays in shaping a society, and conversely, the way the physical form of a place is influenced by the values of the people who live there. This relationship is particularly interesting to me when considering places shared by diverse communities, with different, and sometimes conflicting views about public space.

I am interested in the design opportunities that exist within this tension; From the power dynamics that allow some values to be prioritized over others, to the way subcultures can subvert the dominant culture’s conception of public space. Through repurposing urban infrastructure they can serve their own social, economic, and ritual functions. I have had the opportunity to explore these issues in coursework, teaching/research assistantships, and collaborative research during my time as a graduate student, and look forward to bringing this lens of inquiry to my work this summer at SWA.