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Title: INTERSTATE 0: A History and Theory of the Los Angeles River as Cultural and Urban Infrastructure
Authors: Mills, Alison
Advisors: Nordenson, Guy
Contributors: Allen, Stanley
Department: Architecture School
Class Year: 2014
Abstract: The following thesis will naturally transform the Los Angeles River into yet another highway in the city. The story of the river begins and unfolds over the last 100 years, throughout which Los Angeles has constantly wrestled with an unrelenting fear of water’s presence and absence. After a 50-year storm cost the city $1.3 billion in property damage in 1938, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers soaked the river in concrete, desperate to transform the irregular, unpredictable device into a flood channel with a highly controlled flow. Since then, theorists of urbanism in Los Angeles have struggled to comprehensively understand how the city occupies its river, making unfounded assumptions about its industrial nature. The old, foreign river has been repressed partially into the subconscious, and now, with the many renderings of revitalization that have begun to creep out of it, the city is left with a Freudian sense of the uncanny that it just cannot quite place. By deciphering the geographical, historical, and imagined contexts of the river, this thesis tackles these uncertainties, bringing architecture into the conversation surrounding the river, and arguing that the Los Angeles River is actually crucial to understanding how the city grows and works as both an architectural and cultural construct. In order to illustrate the ways in which the river serves as a template for development in the city, the thesis broadly collects and surveys satellite images of the contemporary edge conditions that occur along the river’s 52 miles, before focusing on 8 sites along the river to detail its precise relationship to the urban fabric. These 8 sites represent the various conditions that occur along the entire length of the river, effectively sampling the river to create an accurate assessment of its unique physical and cultural urban connections. By diagramming zoning, solids, streets, and density patterns at areas including the beginning of the river at Owensmouth Avenue in Canoga Park, the equestrian bridge at the Glendale Narrows, the 1st Street bridge, and the mouth of the river at Palm Beach Park on W. Shoreline Drive in Long Beach, the thesis asserts several crucial urban implications and architectural maneuvers that result from the concretization of the river. Having outlined the typologies of urbanism, movement, connection, and culture that surround the river for the first time, the thesis provides a comprehensive account of the effects of the history of the development of the Los Angeles River and advances potential revisions that might better serve the city at large. While the L.A. River basin is an important case to consider in and of itself, the thesis also seeks to briefly generalize some of its conclusions and strategies to apply to other urban rivers with parallel problems.
Extent: 246 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Architecture School, 1968-2017

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