LOS ANGELES — The Architectural Elements on Owens Lake, part of the Owens Lake Trails Project, were honored with the Award of Excellence at the 2016 Quality of Life Awards of the Southern California Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) last Thursday.
Each year, the Award of Excellence is given to the one project which, “represents an outstanding advancement in leadership, contribution, understanding, and/or achievement in the field of landscape architecture and that improves the quality of life in Southern California and beyond.” In addition to the prestigious Award of Excellence, the Owens Lake Architectural Elements, designed by NUVIS Landscape Architecture and owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), also received an Honor Award in the Landscape Art design category from a pool of 92 submissions.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to see this valuable community project receive such esteemed recognition,” Nelson O. Mejia LADWP’s Owens Lake Project Manager said. “The landscape architect honored the lake’s past as it worked to shape the space’s future, creating an art piece that is in harmony with the surrounding view shed while providing an important habitat benefit to the lake’s visiting migratory bird species. By working with the local community, tribal leaders, and state and local offices, the Owens Lake Trails and Architectural Elements are an exceptional example of what can be created through strategic collaboration.”
The Owens Lake Trails consist of three trailheads that provide the Eastern Sierra region with a new wildlife viewing destination as well as education about LADWP’s dust emission mitigation efforts. The trails have attracted new tourism to the area, improving local business, creating recreation opportunities, and increasing public dialog on water conservation.
Owens Lake Architectural Elements are located on a 700 acre parcel within one of the Owens Lake Trailheads, the Plaza Trailhead, began with State Agencies’ and LADWP’s commitment to meet the following goals: provide public access and hiking trails, create bird and mammal habitat, and preserve cultural resources while still meeting the dust emission controls. NUVIS Landscape Architecture, adhering to the approved dust mitigation palette (shallow flood, gravel cover, and managed vegetation where soil conditions allow), designed a solution which evolved into Architectural Elements named the Whitecaps. The Whitecaps are large land forms in four size variations that provide topographic variation for both plant and animal diversity. Although the project did not start out as an art commission, the design developed into a composition of simple materials and forms inspired by the Owens Valley.
“Imagine Owens lake before the water was diverted to serve the people of Los Angeles,” said Perry Cardoza, the landscape architect who designed the Owens Lake Architectural Elements. “It was a large body of water in a vast valley with 80 mile per hour winds blowing across its surface. Old photographs show the lake having the appearance of a small sea filled with whitecaps during its windy season. Our team, in collaboration with LADWP’s biologists, designed a monument to the lake’s past which solves the challenge of providing habitat for shorebirds, small mammals, and invertebrates, while meeting the strict dust control requirements.”
The American Society Landscape Architects is the national professional association for landscape architects, representing more than 15,000 members in 49 professional chapters and 72 student chapters. The Quality of Life Design Awards celebrate innovative design solutions, as well as stewardship of the land exhibited by firms and individuals who have made a positive impact on our evolving human and natural landscape.