Frank Gehry Is Redesigning the Los Angeles River Basin Waterway

First Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River.  COURTESY WIKIMEDIA

First Street Bridge over the Los Angeles River.


Frank Gehry is turning his attention to landscape architecture, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. The architect, famous for his work on the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A., has been secretly working with Los Angeles city officials to redevelop the bleak 51 miles of Los Angeles River Basin’s central waterway from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach, including bridges, bike paths, and walkways.

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and the nonprofit Los Angeles River Revitalization Corp. only addressed Gehry’s involvement after the L.A. Times broke the news last Friday, with Garcetti saying that Gehry is working for free and is, to quote the L.A. Times, “producing a master plan, in the truest sense of the word.” Garrett also referred to Gehry as the Frederick Law Olmsted of our time, comparing him to the urban designer responsible for Central Park.

Though Gehry’s involvement will end a decade-long attempt to renovate the river and its banks, some are skeptical due to the confidentiality surrounding the project. Others are concerned that this redevelopment might impede funding for a $1.4 billion restoration enterprise in downtown and northeast L.A.

Members of the nonprofit group Friends of the Los Angeles River sent a letter to the River Revitalization Corp. denouncing the project, and in an interview leader Lewis MacAdams stated that the group’s objection was rooted in the similar method of top-down planning that turned the Los Angeles River into an ugly drainage channel in the first place. MacAdams told the L.A. Times, “Last time there was a single idea for the L.A. River it involved 3 million barrels of concrete. To us, it’s the epitome of wrong-ended planning. It’s not coming from the bottom up.”

The article also reminds readers that Gehry does not usually work closely with planners, though the city’s deputy mayor for city services, Barbara Romero, has assured the public that the project will be taking citizen feedback into consideration in the future.

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