Frank Gehry is one of the world’s most famous architects – and we just learned that he’s working on a plan to revitalize the Los Angeles River. The planning committee told the 86-year-old architect that they wanted him to give the riverfront a cohesive look, but Gehry balked at that approach. He insisted that water issues would take precedent if he were to take the job, and the committee agreed.

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Before World War II, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers wrapped the river in concrete in order to prevent stormwater from flooding the city. Instead, it collects the water and channels it southward toward the Pacific Ocean. These days, treated wastewater also finds its way into the river, and that too is sent out to sea. Gehry, whose firm is based in Los Angeles, has apparently been fascinated by the L.A. River for some time, and sees a lot of potential in harnessing the river’s ability to capture stormwater. Eventually, he believes, the city might even be able to treat and use the stormwater, thereby saving a bundle that it currently spends on importing water from other areas. Considering the years-long drought plaguing the state, Gehry’s approach makes a lot of sense. “I think we’re wasting a lot of water at a time when we need it,” he said.

Related: Gehry and Foster selected to add architectural icons to London’s Battersea Power Station

Gehry’s client for this project is the L.A. River Revitalization Corporation, a nonprofit founded by the city in 2009 to manage the river. It seems a little unusual for an architect to head up a project like this one, but Gehry’s personal interest drives him. Groups of engineers and designers have been meeting at his office to consult, and two of the architect’s younger partners, Tensho Takemori and Anand Devarajan, are leading the redesign.

Although Gehry’s redesign will focus on water reclamation, per his insistence, the facelift will also provide much-needed public park space to the river. It’s too soon to speculate how that will be incorporated or how much there will be, but it’s a goal that the Revitalization Corp and the architect agree on.

+ Gehry Partners

Via LA Times

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