Los Angeles Green District Competition Winners Offer Visions of a Sustainable City

The Architect’s Newspaper and Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) sponsored the Cleantech Corridor and Green District competition, which asked designers to come up with bold concepts for a 2,000-acre redevelopment zone at the eastern edge of downtown Los Angeles (see earlier post). According to The Architect’s Newspaper, the city has set aside the zone as a base for future clean tech manufacturing. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa seems to be investing his own political capital in making the area a center for L.A.’s green economy and a showcase for sustainable urban redevelopment. The City of Los Angeles, Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, and the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority all participated as partners in the early conceptualization of the new district.

Winning entries offered bold new architectural designs, planning and land-use approaches, and infrastructure that could enable energy and water self-sufficiency:

A group of Norwegian designers, Constantin Boincean, Ralph Bertram, Aleksandra Danielak, nabbed the first prize for “Project Umbrella,” which centers around a “large mushroom-like structures” that function as solar evaporators and also treat black-water and distribute clean water. The Architect’s Newspaper writes: “the clear water is distributed and released into the streets through a process of evaporation and condensation triggering a transformation of the conventional streets into a network of lush, cultivated landscapes. Green webs spreading out from the evaporators generate incentives for new, sustainable developments within and around them. The central urban plazas become focal points within a gradual process of transformation that will affect the way people will see, use, and experience their city.” Learn more.

The second prize went to L.A.-based Labtop’s “Greenoplasty,” which create a new light rail line  and set of lightweight housing that could sit on top of the district’s warehouses. The designers write: “The urban approach we took in designing the Cleantech Corridor was to compress the nearly four mile site by implementing a local tram way, then rezoning specific areas in order to give space back to the pedestrian. At the local scale this translates into the opportunistic retrofitting of the existing environment along with the inclusion of highly visible urban markers.” Learn more.

Buro Happold, Mia Lehrer & Associates (see an interview), Elizabeth Timme, and Jim Suhr won the third prize, which would combine renewable energy, waste management, transportation, and stormwater runoff mitigation systems in an integrated approach. The designer contend that “the Cleantech corridor is a perfect site for a case study in creating a modern, performative landscape. There is a great deal of latent potential energy in the corridor, from the landscape and streets to the footprints of outmoded industrial buildings. The river to the east of the site is an enormous asset that if accessed appropriately could be a powerful input within a system that renews and recycles energy, water and waste for the greater Los Angeles area as a whole. We have also been interested in challenging the notion that a productive, urban, manufacturing district is inherently anti-pedestrian and unsafe.” Learn more.

All concepts propose innovative, site-specific ideas. The winners got $11,500 in prize money. Hopefully, the final result will be bigger than that prize money though, and L.A.’s Mayor will muster the political will and the city’s developers will structure the financing needed to turn parts of these visions of a sustainable downtown L.A. into reality.

Learn more about the winning projects and see the top three student winners. If you are near L.A., also see the concepts in person at SCI-Arch until October 27.

Image credits: (1) The City of Los Angeles, (2) Constantin Boincean, Ralph Bertram, Aleksandra Danielak, (3) Labtop: Thomas Sériès, Vincent Saura, Vuki Backonja, Amanda Li Chang, Eduardo Manilla, Benjamin Sériès, (4) Buro Happold, Mia Lehrer & Associates, Elizabeth Timme, Jim Suhr.

3 thoughts on “Los Angeles Green District Competition Winners Offer Visions of a Sustainable City

  1. Zachary Watson 10/18/2010 / 1:53 pm

    They look like great project from what I can see in the pictures of the boards, to bad you can read any of the information on them.

  2. Julie Kinnear 10/25/2010 / 4:19 pm

    In nowadays and in the future the urban architecture has to count with clean technologies that are concentrating for water supply system. California is located on unstable ground and that is certainly a big challenge for all architects. I hope that all good visions will become a reality…

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