To most, the Los Angeles River doesn’t look like much. For the majority of its 51 miles, it winds through the metropolitan area in a concrete flood-control ditch—a setting better suited for chase scenes in films like Grease and Terminator IIthan, say, a picnic lunch. But its gritty appearance belies its potential to become one of America’s great civic spaces. And, after years of complex—and contentious—revitalization proposals, things seem to be coming together.
The most publicized transformation strategy is being led by Frank Gehry and his team, who were commissioned in 2014 by the city-affiliated nonprofit River LA. More than two years into Phase I, a design has yet to be revealed. But behind the scenes, firm partners Tensho Takemori and Anand Devarajan, with the expertise of landscape firm OLIN and hydrological specialists at Geosyntec, have been in the midst of exhaustive data collection and analysis—an essential first step in getting a preliminary design off the ground. “Everybody’s wondering what it’s going to look like,” says Devarajan. “But if you predetermine that, you are not letting information drive the solution.”