In a near future Los Angeles....
....the lines between urban and ecological challenges have become a blur. In the landscape of the Anthropocene everything we do, want, eat or dream requires careful consideration, as our individual actions have global impacts. Strong will and an adventurous spirit will be required to tackle the urban and environmental challenges of the future, resulting in new lifestyle paradigms to emerge that are rooted in an expression of the individual yet interconnected across society.
The cultural landscape of Los Angeles is rich in both history and context, yet often appears ostentatious and wasteful - a landscape predicated on auto-centric suburban urbanism and an unsustainable thirst for water. Suburbia is a unique vestige of cultural landscapes long entrenched in the history of private gardens. Private gardens have long been accessible to only the wealthiest classes of society, designed as cultural representations of the needs and desires of the landowner. The invention of Suburbia inverted this relationship between private gardens and wealth, creating opportunities for everyday individual to have a lawn of their own. In the production of suburban regions, landscape became normalized and no longer expressed the individual, but rather mirrored visions of a singular ‘American Dream.’ Lawns, manicured hedges and concrete patios emerged as the new vernacular, around the world, devoid of a reaction to local culture and climate. The 20th century created widespread access to the private garden as “oasis”, but under the pretense of a narrow aesthetic vision of American ideals.
In the wake of chronic drought, a new landscape vernacular has emerged that moves away from lawn to low water solutions of gravel and native plants. But, is trading lawn for gravel enough? How can the people of Los Angeles get back to the original premise of the private garden – the idea of a private “oasis? How can these gardens of the future be both culturally and ecologically performative? With the rich architectural and cultural diversity of Los Angeles, why do residential gardens have to follow a singular expression of outdoor living? How can a garden express our individual personalities while at the same time address our biggest environmental and spatial challenges?
Rather than lose our cultural landscapes in the name of efficiency and performance, a symbiotic relationship can emerge where societal needs are met through the interests and pursuits of individual Angelenos. By thinking of the residential landscape as a single building block within the urbanized region of Southern California, these gardens can work together as network to multiply their impact, scaling up to provide solutions to regional challenges.
Anticipating these new lifestyle paradigms that bring together the dreams and desires of the individual with the collective consciousness and limited resources of the city at large, the Fitzpatrick-Leland House serves as a model site for the development of gardens of collective individualism. The grounds of the Fitzpatrick-Leland House, originally designed as a speculative real estate venture for no specific owner, are re-imagined as the very specific oasis of three speculative owners. These hypothetical Angelenos of the future find themselves living in a city now defined by its interconnected patchwork of ecology and urbanity, a place and time where cities are the answers to our biggest challenges, no longer the cause.