News Article

A Complex Crossroads: in Los Angeles, a Regenerative Art Installation Cleans Stormwater Runoff
Date: Dec 01, 2018
Source: Landscape Architecture Magazine ( click here to go to the source)

Featured firm in this article: Hyphae Design Lab of Oakland, CA

When the artists Freyja Bardell and Brian Howe installed their guerrilla-style River Liver sculpture series in the Los Angeles River 10 years ago, they had no idea it would lead to a paradigm shift in top-down Los Angeles City gover-nance. The "livers"--bamboo rafts carrying plant massings, chains of regenerative plant pods, and stacks of mini-habitats piled up on the banks or hooked to the back of a paddleboat--would float, sink, or wash up ashore and, in the process, break down pollutants in the water. The project was convivial too, as many of the "livers" were construct-ed and maintained by neighborhood groups along the river.With the "livers" project in mind, Bardell and Howe, who work under the studio name Greenmeme, sub-mitted an entry to then-city council-man Ed Reyes's call for a public art piece at a street and highway intersec-tion where three neighborhoods-- Elysian Valley, Cypress Park, and Glassell Park--come together. They considered their proposal a long shot. "We were huge underdogs for this project," Howe says. But, Bardell adds, "We knew they'd been through a round of proposals already, and two had not happened. We wanted to propose a good strategy in the constraints they had." Greenmeme's approach offered interactive sculp-tures of residents' faces in a mi-crolandscape that also remediated stormwater runoff. Now, 10 years later, their winning concept has been realized. A high-speed and highly trafficked hard-scape, amid a web of bureaucratic oversight, is the venue for their precedent-setting art piece, Faces of Elysian Valley, which is as much about regenerative urban runoff strategies as it is about the inter-connection of the neighborhoods it serves. The "faces" are 3-D scans of residents' likenesses, collected by Bardell and Howe at neighborhood events. The sculptures are built from local granite that is water jet cut, sliced, and stacked into egg-shaped A COMPLEX CROSSROADSIN LOS ANGELES, A REGENERATIVE ART INSTALLATION CLEANS STORMWATER RUNOFF.BY WENDY GILMARTINCOURTESY HYPHAE DESIGN LABORATORY AND GREENMEMEBELOWThe roundabout's "treatment train" conveys runoff from surrounding streets and bridges.1102457698131211465231 STORMWATER BYPASS MANWAY2 MODULAR PERMEABLE PAVER MAT3 GRANITE CURB4 6'' TREATMENT FLOW HDPE PIPE5 4'' PERFORATED HDPE PIPE6 PRECAST CATCH BASIN7 6" PERFORATED HDPE UNDERDRAIN8 HIGH!FLOW CATCH BASIN TO BIORETENTION AREA9 MITERED DRAIN10 RIPRAP: SOLIDS SETTLING AND ENERGY DISSIPATION11 DRAINAGE GRAVEL, PROVIDES INFILTRATION12 BIOSWALE SOIL MIX "SANDY LOAM WITH LOW SILT#13 12'' HDPE OVERFLOW PIPE TO STORM DRAINFOREGROUND/NOW
totems, then fine-tuned to fit in the constraints of the street engineers' view corridor and impact regulations. The site's complex, conflicting grade changes drove design decisions too, out of which the team developed a chain of bioswales--they call them a "treatment train"--to direct wa-ter into the roundabout. Whereas a concrete roundabout would have presented enormous runoff issues, Greenmeme's design, developed in collaboration with the ecologist and designer Brent Bucknum of Hyphae Design Laboratory in Oakland, Cali-fornia, conveys half the runoff from the overhead Riverside Bridge, as well as surrounding streets, includ-ing busy thoroughfares such as Figueroa Street and San Fernando Road. Overflow is directed to the Los Angeles River. "If you want to revitalize the L.A. River, you have to regenerate upstream interven-tions as well," Bucknum says. "The roundabout does that."Throughout eight years of design development, and coordinating with dozens of municipal agencies, the team managed to maintain the proj-ect's integrity, avoiding rounds of potentially catastrophic value engi-neering. Bucknum emphasizes the importance of drawings from which the contractors make their bids and maintain control over specifications and construction details. "Strategiz-ing drawing production is the only way to get good integrated systems," he says. "Getting that stuff into the details and specs is imperative.""There are 30 different utilities run-ning under the roundabout, so the project was like threading a needle," Bucknum adds. "That we got to do it not out of concrete is insane. That we are flooding it with two million gallons of water is insane. It's super progressive to approve a roundabout in the U.S. alone. That it got built is commendable to the city of L