Landscape architecture students aiming to reach higher levels of the discipline’s study and acquire their degrees have to first get through LA 203L, which teaches the fundamentals of site planning and design.
This year, students tackled new challenges with the help of new technologies, planning and designing a park in one of the most unique areas of Los Angeles.
The students will showcase their findings to jurors at a final review at 9 a.m. Monday, June 9, in Building 7.
“We’re not engaging the decorative and ameliorative approach that says the landscape architect comes in at the end of the project and throws in some trees and shrubs to make it look good,” the studio’s lecturer James Becerra says.
Associate Professor Andy Wilcox, Assistant Professor Barry Lehrman and Becerra were the instructors for the 54 students in LA 203L, which consists of three studios of 18 students.
The studios mark the transition from the students’ first and second years — their “investigation” phase — to their third and fourth years, their “application phase.”
With downtown’s skyline looming in the distance, the Los Angeles State Historic Park sits in one of the Southland’s most unique and urbanized areas. The park is across from Chinatown and between Spring Street and the Metro Gold Line tracks. Elysian Park and freeways hem in the surrounding area.
This complexity made the area an ideal proving ground for students looking to advance in the Department of Landscape Architecture. The 32-acre park also allowed the students to take on a project that was larger than any they had previously worked on.
“You see everything Los Angeles has to offer from that singular location,” Wilcox says.
“It puts them in a place where they have to negotiate all of that and really deal with that tense complexity of sites.”
The instructors stressed that students had to evolve their thinking about what a park represents and what it does. Expectations would not be focused on the locations of typical park amenities like baseball and softball fields or bathrooms. Instead, students had to organize the park based on strategies, such as for planting, as well as answer the larger question of what the park should mean to locals.
By considering these new possibilities, students will share unique ways to engage the park setting and different configurations of the grounds to the panel of jurors on Monday.
“It is a great area for students to study, as it gets them into a part of town they didn’t think of previously, gets them to think of parks differently and gets them to think of open space differently,” Becerra says.
Students were also tasked with advancing their understanding of certain technologies to provide for more complex maps, diagrams and other elements. The use of computer numerical control milling machines helped students better showcase their models
“So the idea with the studio is we’re trying to advance the digital fabrication and software fluency as early as we can for students, and, in doing that, increase the rigor of our lower division to really set them up to have all the skill sets they need to move on to their third and fourth year in the program,” Wilcox says.
Los Angeles State Historic Park will soon be undergoing its own remodeling that consists of many traditional park elements. While the students’ work won’t be considered in those plans, their efforts have provided them with a glimpse of alternative ideas for landscape architecture.
“It’s the process. They are making drawings that they haven’t made before. They are breaking down these stereotypes of what landscapes look like and how they operate,” Wilcox says.
“They’re breaking down their own preconceptions about that stuff.”
For photos of the studio and the latest work by the Department of Landscape Architecture, check out #cppla on Instagram or visit https://iconosquare.com/tag/cppla/.