The Fifth Ecology – a Swedish Take on Los Angeles and its River

November 12, 2009 § 2 Comments

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Swedes dunking the donut that illustrates the US fiscal priorities

There’s a fun Los Angeles River exploration show/project that’s opening this weekend. It’s called The Fifth Ecology: Los Angeles Beyond Desire. It’s the creation of a team of Swedish designers, architects, engineers and dreamers, collaborating through a year-long workshop based at Stockholm’s Royal University College of Fine Arts.

The team came and toured L.A. in February, brought some river folks to Stockholm earlier this year, and then dreamed up Los Angeles a river that would be vital and sustainable and wonderful. Their work is available as a handsome catalog online, and an exhibit at gallery G727 at in downtown L.A. (sometimes afectionately known as “James Rojas’ gallery.”) G727 is located at 727 South Spring Street, LA 90014. The exhibit will be up from November 15th through December 12, 2009. The opening reception is this Sunday, November 15th, from 5–9pm. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11am–7pm. At tonight’s downtown artwalk folks can see a pre-opening preview of the show.

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Stockholm architect Mania Aghaei Meibodi painting the trapezoidal river channel gallery walls pink!

I’ve had the treat of hanging out with some of the creative folks behind the show when they were out in February, as well as the past week as they are staying with me at Los Angeles Eco-Village. There’s a lot of big ideas in the show – including a focus on the monumental job of how to make Los Angeles carbon-neutral – getting Angelenos out of our cars, generating energy sustainably, even growning more food locally. They’re big ideas, but presented in ways that are playful and even fun. The crew is transforming the gallery space to feel like a mini-Los Angeles River, with brigh pink sloped trapezoidal walls.

I read over the team’s booklet when it arrived late this summer. For me, much of what’s striking about it is a European look at Los Angeles and the United States. The title “Beyond Desire” is a response to the culture that Los Angeles’ boosters project to the world: luxurious, materialistic, glitzy. The team ties this high-consumption resource intensive reputation to the current U.S. budget crises and bailouts, declaring that Americans are living beyond our means. While there’s plenty of truth to this, it seems incongruous to me to tie this sort of analysis to the Los Angeles River. There are luxurious materialistic areas and cultures in Los Angeles… but the neighborhoods along the river aren’t really tied into that culture. They’re very working class, very underserved… not a lot of stars homes. Perhaps then, that makes the river a perfect spot to unfold a vision of L.A. that isn’t tied to the boosterism that we project.

The team is recommending various large-scale interventions: 

  • Elevated sports fields connecting communities to the river
  • Agricultural pyramids
  • Flood detention wetland areas
  • Local energy generation from floating dams and biogas
  • Contain-O-Pod guideway transit for people, good and waste

and much more!

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The Furry Hub - multi-modal connections between transit, Contain-O-Pods, bicycling, walking - along the river and into the neighborhoods

Some of it is pretty fanciful, and a bit difficult for me to imagine really coming to pass… but it’s a worthwhile step in fostering a dialog around how to make Los Angeles more resilient and how to reconnect us with our neglected waterways.

See you at the opening reception this Sunday from 5pm to 9pm!

Fun terraced bike paths along the river channel downtown!

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