Gehry Partners Opens Up on Los Angeles River Progress

When Frank Gehry's involvement in the L.A. River restoration was announced in August 2015, the firm had already been conducting research on the project for nearly a year. For some time after that, details were scant and speculation abounded.

2 minute read

February 29, 2016, 6:00 AM PST

By Elana Eden

Los Angeles Downtown River

shalunts / Shutterstock

In a presentation at VerdeXchange in Los Angeles last month, Tensho Takemori of Gerhy Partners delved into the details of the firm’s approach to the river's hydrology—beginning with the very basics.

"We started by asking our client [the LA River Revitalization Corporation] for a 3D model of the Los Angeles River,” Takemori says. “We found out something interesting: there wasn’t one."

And though a number of plans and studies have taken the river as an object over the years, Takemori says none have crossed jurisdictional lines to paint a picture of the river as a whole.

So Gehry Partners embarked on an extensive research period to start filling in the gaps. The team is now compiling a 3D model of about 70 percent of the river’s 51-mile length (the portion that has a concrete bottom), and has identified a set of data topics to evaluate. Ultimately, GIS data on water flow, public health, greenhouse gas emissions, the arts, and more will be able to be overlaid with the model.

"We’re trying to formulate a single comprehensive database that everybody who works on the river can use," Takemori explains.

Additionally, by determining correlations among the various sets of data, the firm hopes to build a case for state and federal agencies that investment in the river can yield returns in a number of social, environmental, and economic areas.

That multi-faceted approach was echoed in VerdeXchange's keynote address by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, who offered a vision of the river that was by turns personal, historical, and practical. On the following panel with Takemori, veteran environmentalist Joe Edmiston and L.A. Deputy Mayor Barbara Romero also provided insights into the many ecological and community-based impacts the river restoration could have.  

VerdeXchange’s "A River Runs Through It" session, which included both the keynote and the panel, is reprinted in The Planning Report.

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