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8 New Things We Learned Today About Frank Gehry's Big Plans For Making Over the LA River

Image via <a href="">Steven Bevacqua</a> / <a href="">Curbed LA flickr pool</a>
Image via Steven Bevacqua / Curbed LA flickr pool

Starchitect Frank Gehry's big plans to make over the entire length of the LA River are still mostly unknown and undecided, but there was a media briefing today about what the architect and his team have in mind for the concrete waterway. Details and "solid information" about how the river might be altered under his vision were "noticeably absent," says KPCC, as was Gehry himself (recovering from back surgery) and Mayor Eric Garcetti. Representatives who ran the presentation explained that, while this initial part of the huge undertaking was mostly for research ("We don't have a design yet. There aren't any pretty final pictures yet," said one rep), a fair amount of work has been done towards the next step. Still, there were some new bits of information to come out of the meeting. Here are the most interesting new things we've learned:

— Gehry's months-long pro bono period on the project "appears to be coming to an end." Gehry Partners partner Tensho Takemori said that going forward the work would be "intense" and that a "dedicated staff" would be needed to complete it.

— Gehry's aim is to create one "continuous experience" along the LA River, possibly something like a "linear Central Park," reps told the LA Times.

— Even if it's not a stretched-out version of NYC's park, there will be a unifying element on the river, something that links it to the rest of the waterway. "There has to be something that you identify with ... whether it's a type of structure, whatever -- there probably is some element that gives you some cohesion," said Takemori.

— This first stage of the project, which has been largely research-focused, has been centered around creating a three-dimensional map of the river. (No one has ever made one before.) Takemori said that once it's finished, it is anticipated to be shared with the public.

— The research thus far incorporates information from all the master plans (those from the Army Corps of Engineers, from LA County, the Department of Water and Power, and several other organizations). Since there were so many sources of information, the info was grouped together in related data sets to create "a series of evaluation criteria" that could then be used to "coordinate information" between different, existing master plans, according to the presentation made today.

— Gehry's team is eventually going to make an online media platform (the LA River Media Platform) that will serve as a database on river research, with all the existing information on the river available in one central place. Having all the information on the internet will also help with community outreach on the project and, it's hoped, eventually help streamline an approvals process for projects along the river.

— Gehry's team has identified a "hypothesis" concerning the river's hydrology requirements. They note that the river is always studied (for public safety and for flood control) in one of two states: when it's not raining ("dry flow") and when it's full with the maximum amount of water that it was designed to hold ("design flow"). Between these two extremes (design flow conditions are present less than one percent of the time), Gehry's team wants to explore a "middle ground" of an 85 percent storm, the level the water is at or below 85 percent of the time after it rains. A storm like that would put about two feet of water in the river, but leave the "remaining 29 feet of channel depth ... unaffected." That could mean that people could use a lot of that extra space in the river, water could still be collected, and it could all be done without compromising public safety or the river's flood control capacity.

— The next phase of the project will be finding a balanced solution that will allow greater river access without endangering Angelenos in the rainy season (say, during a big El Niño like the one that's expected this winter). It will also include a deeper dive into "the hydrology of the river and how ecosystem services, recreation and other factors could fit into possible plans." The study should take about three to six months and start before the year's end, the Los Angeles River Revitalization Project's executive director told KPCC.

Here's the full presentation:

· A 'linear Central Park': Frank Gehry's plan for L.A. River takes shape [LAT]
· Gehry's plan for the LA River still in research phase [KPCC]
· Frank Gehry Wants to Incorporate All That Concrete Into His LA River Revitalization Plan [Curbed LA]