Revitalizing the L.A. River: 7 Architects Envision Fresh Uses for Old Waterway

The Los Angeles river changes dramatically as it snakes into and through the city, and these different design proposals carry that legacy forward while envisioning new, user-friendly, flexible and sustainable nodes of activity. The L.A. River Downtown Design Dialogue celebrates ten years of working to revitalized areas and create connections along the river’s route.

Currently, this often-dry river, encased in concrete, feels about as much like a river as Silver Lake feels like a lake, or anything can feel natural when so artificially contained. Seven architecture firms were given one-mile strips to work with and created a wonderful array of designs featuring lush green parks, bike paths, kayaking zones, climbing walls and more.

Gruen Associates tackled a section near Chinatown, created a series of elevated paths and natural meadows all tied into an existing railroad yard.

WSP placed walkways and terraces along the sides of the river while also offering stepping stones for people wanting to walk across.

CH2M took its zone near the Arts District and added bicycle paths and other amenities around a winding and widened section of river made to look and feel more like a local creek.

AChee Salette took over old railway tracks to create a series of gardens spilling down from the road grade above to the level of the river below.

Curving and wrapping paths and walls create an organic wrapper for the section designed by Mia Lehrer + Associates, creating a space to canoe and kayak.

AECOM’s  playfully integrated climbing walls, basketball courts and other sporting amenities, while adding light and color through mosaics and murals spanning their area.

Tetra Tech designed a new bridge to cross the river as well as a river walk, all taking advantage of the existing sloped sides, reflecting the river’s historic form.

Together, these schemes reflect a rich diversity of design strategies as well as usage possibilities — given how prominent and central the path of the river is, it makes a lot of sense to make it a more accessible and vibrant resource for the city and its citizens.