DECEMBER 15, 2021

Los Angeles, December 1st, 2021: Greening LA organizes an unprecedented ecological urbanism collaboration among Los Angeles colleges and universities, government agencies, the U.S. Green Building Council LA, architecture engineering and construction firms, and nonprofit organizations in a project to "greenify" and beautify Los Angeles.

The California Department of Transportation – Caltrans – has embarked on an ambitious goal to design-build a deteriorated, leftover freeway space in just seven weeks, and is doing so with the help of its talented and interdisciplinary community. Caltrans is in a unique position to reimagine community engagement and work with Los Angeles to adapt effectively to urban decay and climate change challenges. Senior Caltrans Landscape Architect and primary liaison between collaborators, Ed Siribohdi, shared how this open-minded, multisector collaboration enabled Caltrans to improve the environment at a faster pace, as well as himself to apply his creativity and skills to help transform a deteriorated site into a functional green space


This urban green site is a multi-purpose space that serves many community functions. Not only does Greening LA’s most recent urban intervention contribute necessary green space in an area dominated by concrete and limited greenery, but it also augments the space with a sustainable water system demonstration area along with drought-tolerant landscaping. The site provides space for urban farming, interactive art experiences, and an educational demonstration center designed to attract visiting local educators to use the space as a teaching site. The site engages students holistically with core subjects embracing Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Architecture, and Mathematics (STEAM) outside the traditional classroom and through its interactive design. STEAM education aims to help students to think intersectionally about these disciplines to develop critical, creative thinking skills to prosper in and contribute to the world around them.

This model was developed by the Los Angeles Trade Tech College (LATTC) Architecture Program and has been identified as a multi-disciplinary catalyst intersecting all spheres of knowledge and revitalizing the education system. For example, the Program's bioswale design will afford visitors the opportunity to experience the power of art in the built environment, water systems, urban farming, biology, physics, and even geopolitics. This development is an ecosystem, where multiple disciplines merge in harmony, a physical manifestation of the balance of the mind and our connection to nature.

The multidisciplinary team behind this inaugural Greening LA project is a model of intersecting spheres of knowledge in collaboration. The team is composed of local Los Angeles residents from LATTC’s Architecture Program, Caltrans, L.A. Mayor Garcetti’s Careers by Design LA Program, the USGBC LA Urban Landscape Committee, the Design One Group firm, and social inquiry artist Álvaro Márquez. The Greening LA team is an example of a new green workforce in the making, bringing input and expertise from a diverse network of highly qualified local designers, builders, and visionaries into its green urban design work.

This collaboration highlights unique new opportunities in how cities can protect and expand access to high-quality green spaces through intersectional community-driven design and talent. Through this initial project, the Los Angeles community can understand its unprecedented opportunity to become an actively engaged and respected participant in green infrastructure development where it lives.

Local urban farmers, from the Niles Foundation are growing and maintaining food and plants within the site, facilitating local food access, green education, and community gathering for the South L.A. community. The Niles Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to the development and growth of our local communities through free education programs, sustainable projects, and hands-on community growing action.

Additionally, South Central local fabricator and LATTC Architecture Alum Antonio Moreno, owner of Anthony Stainless Steel Company, was able to provide high-end laser-cut metal design services for the project. Antonio shares that he would never have been able to participate in this opportunity and share his skills without his education in the LATTC Architecture Program.

Lining the fence of the site stretches “Pieces of Tovaangar,” multiple art pieces designed by Álvaro Márquez. The polygons that make up the piece are tracings from a map that detail the network of original ranchos of Los Angeles county before its annexation to the United States. The title “Pieces of Tovaangar” reflects on the word the Tongva indigenous people of Los Angeles county used to describe Mother Earth or the area they call home. In “Pieces of Tovaangar,” artist Álvaro Márquez brings attention to the residual structures that have created the complex, hierarchical, and profoundly displaced urban space that is Los Angeles today. Márquez aims to make art that is informed by the past while offering an aesthetic experience through the site’s garden and artwork, where the visitor reflects on their place in history, and where they stand in larger systems of power.

Since a fellowship at NASA, project leader and Architecture Professor, Marcela Oliva has guided the LATTC Architecture program over the past 15 years to develop a methodology that “looks at the mathematics of art and nature to find the key patterns, rhythms and algorithms to apply to design configurations and the geometries of a project, product or building''. This Greening LA site is a multi-disciplinary environment that offers the space and resources to promote learning by doing, where the city is the laboratory and its citizens are its research assistants.

Oliva expresses how “Caltrans was in need to collaborate with the community, and through our long standing relationships with LA Metro and other government agencies, we were confident our group could deliver." She further explains, “People believe we are lucky, but I believe that luck is when preparedness meets opportunity. We were prepared.

We have been working for over three years with Mayor Garcetti's innovation team, where we assisted the sustainability team with a new curriculum called Careers by Design LA in which we develop urban interventions that can be quickly implemented to 'greenify' LA and elevate the living conditions of our community.” The LATTC Architecture and Environmental Design program that Oliva leads operates as a Green Makerspace producing design projects by the community for the community. Specifically, students in the “Green Jobs for the Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC) Industry” course work closely with industry partners like Mia Lehrer and the USGBC LA Urban Landscape Committee, as well as community artists, to design holistic urban interventions, such as Greening LA, that implement Sustainable Development Goals directly into the community.

Greening LA urban interventions are additionally integrated with a smart 3D landscape database that LATTC has been developing over the last 25 years. Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Geospatial Information System (GIS) tools are integrated and optimized within this smart landscape database, to sustainably design, build, operate, maintain, and assess all development and spatial data information on necessary resources such as water, air, and closed-circle recyclable systems. The integration of this robust spatial data reveals formerly unavailable opportunities and patterns that inform best practices when it comes to operational management of our shared built and natural environments.

Greening LA is partnered with Nexus Terraforma, a developing sustainable design platform 'metaverse' featuring digital twins integrated with gamified access to CAD design tools, ecological data, and leading-edge biomimetic “active inference” Artificial Intelligence. A digital twin of the project will be placed in a game engine for an augmented reality experience and immersive learning.

Greening LA will exist in a virtual immersive environment hosted by the Nexus Terraforma platform. The platform’s technology brings together a participatory community inside a virtual world called The Nexus Terraforma or TNT. TNT uses virtual space for collaborative, AI-augmented generative design that can operate within fully transparent ecological and social constraints. The virtual world of the Nexus has a cognitive structure that provides an armature for understanding and influencing the various life cycles of buildings, communities, and cities as they are conceptualized, constructed, and recycled. On the same platform Greening LA will have an educational environment enabling teachers and students to learn about multiple subjects and use the city as a laboratory. The community will be able to participate as an active participant.

Greening LA's mission is to make Los Angeles a model sustainable, livable, and fascinating city of the future. Design One Principal Jill Lewis believes Los Angeles can be in tune with the Earth, be sensitive to its needs, and can use technology to our advantage to sustain our collective life. She knows Los Angeles as a “highly creative” city and believes Greening LA initiatives can “ensure highly creative approaches and new ways of thinking that bring life and joy to our city.”

As a multi-sector collaborative that focuses each urban intervention project on maximizing the utility of all available and accessible resources and technologies, Greening LA aims to retrofit leftover spaces into beautiful and optimized green spaces. Greening LA urban intervention projects create opportunities for profound community collaboration, ecological discovery, cultural activity, interactive art creation, technological innovation, food security, and wellness programs to flourish. The Greening LA initiative is a new form of ecological urbanism that through its Design-Build Workshops offers a new model for the knowledge economy to produce green spaces in Los Angeles that can self- sustain and help generate a dynamic, creative “green workforce” with a core mission to keep their communities resilient and thriving.

Greening LA’s green development work has only just begun and will continue to take great strides in leading Los Angeles as a community that champions sustainable design and community participation. Greening LA’s next steps include, working closely with the UN Sustainable Development Goals CFO Taskforce on the LA County Sustainability Plan, as well as collaborating with Pando Populus, Pico Union Housing, Caltrans, and Otis College of Art and Design to design an application platform that will help facilitate and streamline future Clean California green space designs and developments in communities across Los Angeles at scale