Readers React: Frank Gehry, not a landscape architect, will help re-work L.A. River. Why?
To the editor: Thank you for this story demonstrating that the era of the star architect has yet to sunset. While Frank Gehry, who will draft the master plan for the redevelopment of the Los Angeles River, is certainly one of the most talented and revolutionary architects of our time, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s comparison of him to the greatest landscape architect in North America — and yes, this is a separate credentialed profession — is nearsighted. (“Architect Frank Gehry is helping L.A. with its Los Angeles River master plan, but secrecy troubles some,” Aug. 7)
Perhaps the best indication of the mayor’s misplaced focus is that although the team of Olmsted and Vaux developed the design for New York’s Central Park, it is Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect, whose work has remained timeless and a model for all other major civic parks. The seamless orchestration of natural systems and infrastructure make Olmsted’s work genius.
If the mayor really believes that we need a sexy star capable of creating a master vision to complement and elevate the work previously accomplished, I would recommend studying this list of the next possible Olmsteds: James Corner, Laurie Olin, George Hargreaves, Adriaan Geuze and Michael Van Valkenburgh. Not only are these landscape architects capable, they also have all accomplished similar work and seen it built in their lifetimes.
Esther Margulies, Venice
The writer is a lecturer in the USC School of Architecture.
To the editor: Having fly-fished the L.A. River for five years, I know that miles of it are a wilderness now. There are so many fish and birds.
When it rains in the mountains, there are giant waves of water that flow into the river. The waves last for a few days, and then there’s finding the fish again — the bass, bluegill, carp and crappie. The Los Angeles River used to be a natural steelhead salmon run — as did Malibu Creek and other waterways south of us. This part of the Los Angeles River is mighty and dangerous, verdant and lush, not to be tamed easily. It is a flood channel.
The embodiment of Gehry’s work is artistic juxtaposition, a life work that stands out from the environment, not integrated with it. The revitalization of the Los Angeles River has produced a wilderness in our midst. Gehry’s participation is odd.
I would like to see proposals other than Gehry’s.
Leslie Riley, Culver City
To the editor: Has anyone told Gehry that the continuous flow of the L.A. River in this time of serious drought is about 23 million gallons per day of treated water?
Enough to serve about 85,000 homes, this water originally was intended to replenish the aquifer beneath the San Fernando Valley. We pay for the water, we pay to have it treated, and we dump it into the river.
Why not reduce the dumping until the drought ends and use it as originally planned?
Roy W. Rising, Valley Village
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