Photo & Sketch By Alex Castellon

Photo & Sketch By Alex Castellon

My thoughts on what I am about to say do not correlate with what was written in the web article, Landscapes Over Time by Lisa Speckhart. But it did get me thinking. As a student of Landscape Architecture, the article hit close to home and was rather informative as to how a Landscape Architect should continue revisiting their design for many a number of years. The purpose of the continual site visits is to ensure that the intended design usage is one that is still feasible for what in once called for, and if not, when possible, make changes. That however is not what this blog post is about. As I began to read the first few lines of the article, a cord was struck regarding the LA Aqueducts. For the past two quarters, 3rd year undergrad Landscape Architects Students of CalPoly Pomona, under the tutelage of Professor Barry Lehrman, have been undertaking the task of learning the history of the LA Aqueducts, its present state and its possible future. As the aqueducts were being built, it was assumed that the water would continue to flow and feed the hydrological needs of the city of Los Angeles. This came at the cost of not just the people that lived where the water was being siphoned from but also to the Ecology and Environment of the Owens Valley. The Los Angeles aqueduct is an engineering marvel and has continued to serve its purpose well. However, despite its genius, it does have a tremendous fault. Its design did not foresee the havoc that it would create on a regional scale. (The environmental problems have been discussed in previous post in the Los Angeles Aqueducts Futures blog which can be accessed here for further reading). As Landscape Architects, we define how a space will be used and what the intended use of the space will hopefully be. It is us who designate not only how the space will serve in its immediate time but, hopefully, and here is where it gets dicey, on how it will serve in the future. The LA aqueducts continues to succeed in that regard with its immediate use. The design however failed because it did not consider its future effect on its local ecology. I know that it seems that I am all over the place with my commentary here but hear me out. Great design is not always the best the design. This does not suggest that poor design fares any better, after all, poor design is POOR design. The design of the LA aqueducts is the result of bad design because it failed to conserve or maintain the quality of the ecosystem in the Owens Valley. For the time that it was built, it served its purpose. Designs like that however, should be rethought and reconsidered on how they will affect not just the ‘landscape’ over X amount of time but how it will affect the whole system for an eternity of time.


2 responses to “-PAST-PRESENT-FUTURE-

  1. I think one of the main problems with dealing with problems is looking at the problem in an isolated way and finding and isolated solution. The Army Corps of Engineers did the same thing with the channelization of the L.A. River. The main problem was flooding and they isolated the problem. How do we prevent this from happening. They channelized the river and the repercussions were environmentally catastrophic. The solution like the one you mentioned was successful but it was narrow-minded and we can see the repercussions every day.

  2. The ideal solution is to not do anything at all and let natural courses take there course. Where there is the occurrence of natural disasters, such as flooding, simply put, people shouldn’t build there. However, we can be certain that such behavior will never happen. If you recall our visit to the Paiute Wellness Center in Owens Valley this past fall quarter, looking at their history, they had it right. They lived in harmony with the land. They did channelize the river, from what little historical context there is on the Paiute Indians, but not at the extent or magnitude that modern channelization is designed. The Paiute created small water ways to irrigate their crops without dramatically altering the ecosystem because this is how they did things, this is how their culture treated the land around them, with respect. It is not my intent to say that we don’t respect the land as much, less or greater that the Paiute Indian did, but it is obvious that we have to make cultural changes to our society on how we deal with the natural world around us. Unfortunately, this would have to be done by a law that would give us guidelines to follow on sustainability and environmental impacts simply because our culture will do everything and anything but the right thing to alleviate the problem.

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