Nine USC graduate landscape architects under the direction of internationally renowned landscape architect Aroussiak Gabrielian (FORGROUND Design) took a practical approach in choosing bicycles for the their site visit to Santa Monica Airport where they started working on a three month project to design a park to replace the controversial facility. They jumped at the chance to ride their bikes to evaluate the site. Since the site was designed many years ago expressly to exclude pedestrian access, the bicycle turned out to be the right tool to explore the airport site with a four mile ride around the perimeter fence – which someday could be a dedicated bikeway.
USC is a fairly bike friendly campus with a rapidly growing bicycle culture so nearly everyone had a bicycle and were quite completely comfortable on a group ride. The class demographic includes students from across the country and around the world. There was one student from China, who had NEVER been on a bicycle, yet even she didn’t even miss a beat. She took the extra initiative and learned to ride a bicycle just for this visit, though in the end, opted to rent a Tandem from Perry’s just to be sure that she would keep up.
Leading the ride was Michael Brodsky, a Loyola Marymount University Professor and Santa Monica Spoke member. Also in attendance was Mike Salazar, a Santa Monica Architect, member of the Santa Monica Conservancy and an expert in historic preservation. Both are founding members of airport2park.org which is a group dedicated to creating a grand park to replace the Santa Monica Airport.
Aroussiak Gabrielian is using this opportunity for her USC group of graduate landscape architects to put practice into real life. She has designed a rigorous timeline of environmental, social analysis and needs assessment that will inform the development of the project. Each student has an assigned specialty including the natural environment, history, topography, site mitigation, and community connectivity. All data collected informs the final design proposals which should be completed by May 2014.
During the 3 hour bike ride there were many stops to talk about the role of parks in the social fabric of the community. Discussions ranged from the westside’s regional need for natural habitats, water reclamation, and carbon rejuvenation, to the more local needs for bike paths, sports and playing fields due to the severe lack of parks in Santa Monica. They also had the opportunity to explore linkages between the south side of the airport site where the Santa Monica College classrooms (and public art galleries) are located, with the north side Ocean Park community by what could be a newly created bicycle and pedestrian access.
While the ride was constantly interrupted but he roar of jet planes and the smell of jet fuel, the participants on their bikes were also able to see the spectacular views of Century City with the Hollywood sign to the east and to the setting sun on the Pacific Ocean in the west. These views are currently reserved for only those privileged to be flying in private planes or jets, yet these coveted vistas could one day invite thousands of hikers and bikers to enjoy what could be a most extraordinary park in Santa Monica.
IMPORTANT UPDATE FROM Airport2Park: The Santa Monica City Council will be meeting on Tuesday, March 25th to consider what to do with Santa Monica Airport after the FAA contract ends in July 2015. For more information on how you can support in this project visit Airport2Park for updates for the latest updates and how you can get involved. If you would like to see this turned into a grand park complete with 150 acres of walking and biking, you may write the city council before the March 25th meeting at firstname.lastname@example.org