LAR 8010: Reinventing Downtown Los Angeles: The Piers at Piggyback Yard
Downtown Los Angeles is ready for a renaissance. A massive river revitalization plan is underway, a high speed rail station is slated for downtown, the city is planning for a new Cleantech Corridor, and there is widespread clamor for more public space. The Piers at Piggyback Yard presents a bold landscape move to catalyze the coalescence of downtown's future transformations. Piggyback Yard, a 125-acre underutilized rail yard, will transform from an inert patch within L.A.'s fabric, to a dense network of edges and corridors that serve as a new model for infrastructure as public space in the city.
Derrida said "something is not the most itself at its center, but near its edge, near what it is not—the essence is found at its boundary." This project seeks to create new types of public space for downtown L.A. through the interaction of multi-scaled infrastructures, and through amplifying the edge conditions that make the public realm thrive.
The Piers at Piggyback Yard creates a new type of edge condition for Los Angeles, one that is centered on the ecology, hydrology, and morphology of the L.A. River, and one that celebrates the sometimes unexpected characteristics of public space in L.A. The strategy at The Piers is to work at the scale of the vast. From the armature of a dramatic new river's edge grows an improvisational and intricate city fabric, a new version of hybrid urbanism for Los Angeles.
The primary design move is to amplify the edge of the Los Angeles River, increasing the public access to new green space within the heart of the city. A massive earth-moving effort will create urban piers up to 150 feet wide and hundreds of feet long. The piers themselves are constructed with diverse edges—some soft, some highly articulated—which grow diverse public space and uses over time. The bays between the piers become extensions of the riverine habitat, as they filter stormwater and greywater, and provide recharge to local groundwater systems.
The Piers take elements from important public spaces in L.A.—the beach, the hills, the strip—and recombine them into an urban riverine beach. Trails weave through the seasonally dry riverbed; pedestrian promenades wrap the river's edge; cafes, museums, and performance spaces serve as beacons at the end of the piers; and a massive solar array anchors a bridge across the river that doubles as new civic plaza, one literally centered on the river.
The Piers aspire to bring critical density to downtown L.A.—a necessary move in the face of climate change, population growth and resource depletion. A pedestrian bridge connects the site to a transit village, to Union Station's new future high-speed rail service, and to the Cleantech Corridor, a future hub of innovation, creativity, and sustainability. Development at The Piers will be grounded in an ethic that demands a healthy river, a robust civic realm, and flexible and intelligent infrastructural systems.