Designing Spring Street Park – A Visit with Architects Michael Lehrer and Erik Alden – August 16, 2012

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“they paved paradise and put up a parking lot?” –  not this time!

A Design Appreciation

Our hosts at Lehrer Architects, Michael Lehrer and Erik Alden, invited Rowan Park Committee members to come view artifacts from the Spring Street Park design process.

Off a winding Hyperion Avenue, in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake area, sits a converted office space, white, light, open and informal. At one end, a lovely bamboo garden patio is accessed by oversized roll-up garage doors. The line separating inside office and outside garden is a dotted one; landscape design experienced inside, as well as out. A prototype Spring Street Park seat sits among existing bamboo. Most likely it will stay there; the seat weighs hundreds of pounds, so the concrete must be cast in place. The sturdy aluminum back is comfortable. An image of bamboo is “etched” through optical illusion –differently sized milled holes.

Most of the design process items are pinned up on office walls. They are shown here in the order in which they were created, anecdotes from an evolutionary design process reflecting various clients and constituencies. Lehrer Architects does not commission presentation models. These are rough conceptual models, encouraging free discussion and easy alterations.

Our hosts were gracious in allowing these iphone snapshots to be taken. This was our second visit to the Silver Lake practice.

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Earliest model; major subsequent changes include shifting “red” walkway angle to open onto Harlem Place; creation of uninterrupted elliptical Grand Lawn; elimination of Southern end fountain; elimination of surface treatments on Spring St and flanking sidewalks; elimination of palm trees plus addition of curved Great Bamboo groves; and straightening of the perimeter security fence, to the North and East.

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Early conceptual sketch (Center) by Michael Lehrer sharing wall space with an early model (top).

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Early model, similar to final approved design.

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Not a model, but a full scale prototype of typical seating, located in Lehrer Architect’s garden. The seat is cast-in-place concrete. Back is aluminum milled with varying size holes to create an optical image of bamboo. Spring Street Park bamboo will have thicker culms than these garden plants. Some real bamboo can be seen through the image in the chair back. No matter what size, all bamboo is in the grass family.

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Two models of a complex curve water feature located near the intersection of South Spring St Sidewalk @ El Dorado Lofts’ driveway.

Note: The lean is intentional. The square pipes are not fencing, but actual pieces of the water feature arranged to form a complex curve releasing a straight sheet of water into the shallow collector pool below. Inasmuch as no one could climb between them, they continue the curvilinear secure fencing line to the right and left. Inexpensive fiber optic lighting (located in a shallow trench in the pool) will illuminate the water “curtain” falling from above. The water feature may be enjoyed from inside or outside equally. It is doubtful the City will ever color-treat the sidewalk surfaces as they are shown in the picture below, of assorted models [Wrong: LA City did color treat entrance areas]. Michael Lehrer envisions the surrounding areas to become “jealous” of the Park, inspiring future improvements to the sidewalk and Harlem Place surfaces. Good design as contagion.

Government can’t produce? The evidence here says otherwise, especially with ongoing community support. Lehrer Architects has produced superior architecture. Landscape design was provided by City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering Architectural Division staff, with Recreation & Parks Department acting as client. Spring Street Park promises to be a special place.

© 2012 / 2014 by Steven Dornbusch

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