Sunday, December 29, 2013

Landforms as much as grids

Three cheers for cities that sit lightly on their landscape. Such a one, I am always surprised to be reminded of, is Los Angeles.

Just a few blocks north of us is Griffith Park, the "largest urban park in the United States". Unlike Central Park in New York it is not man-made. There are signs warning hikers against Mountain Lions and Rattlesnakes. The topography and the Live Oaks survive.

Developing an inner map of Los Angeles means memorising landforms as much as grids. Whereas in Sydney I learnt to map the bays and coves, here I am now seeing that Griffith Park is part of the hill chain that leads west to the Hollywood sign; part of the 'little hills' that the Native Americans called cahuenga, sitting between the coastal plain and the larger Verdugo Mountains which are backed by the peaks of the San Gabriels surrounding the San Fernando Valley. Memorising landforms also means developing an indigenous, pre-European view of the area.

Here in this photograph you can see the eastern end of Griffith Park. Go round this corner and you head toward Toluca Lake or northward to Burbank before embarking on the great east-west 'boulevards' that head sea-ward toward Ventura County. Pan right of this view and you might see snow on Mt Whitney. Four and a half miles from Downtown, there are freeways and traffic galore, housing, shopping strips...

...but also the original lie of the land. It's a pity the river was cemented, but in places it's going to be restored.

No comments:

Post a Comment