Version Control

As a brief follow-up to the Lost Rivers trailer—and the full film debuts in less than one week’s time, on Wednesday, October 10th, at Toronto’s “Planet In Focus” Environmental Film Festival—it’s worth taking a look at a recent post on the excellent blog L.A. As Subject.

[Image: Older versions of Los Angeles: “1943 view of the Macy Street viaduct over the Arroyo de las Pasas’ former route. Today, the bridge carries Cesar Chavez Avenue over the Interstate 10 freeway.” Photo and caption via L.A. As Subject].

There, we read that the older, wilder geography of Southern California still breaks through the surface of the city—including lost rivers. Tracking down these older versions of Los Angeles takes research: “Archives have played a key role in rediscovering another forgotten feature of L.A.’s wild geography: the extensive system of creeks, arroyos, and other watercourses that once flowed through present-day Los Angeles.”

Fed by springs issuing from vast underground aquifers, storm runoff, or some combination of the two, these streams once crisscrossed the entire city. Today, many of them have suffered a similar fate as the Los Angeles River: paved over, buried and converted into storm drains, or eliminated altogether. Most Angelenos walk or drive over them every day without realizing it.

The post’s author, Nathan Masters, points us toward L.A. Creek Freak, a blog by Jessica Hall. “By studying the maps, photographs, and other documents preserved in the region’s archives,” Masters writes, “Hall has reconstructed a surprisingly wet L.A. landscape, braided with dozens of streams that now lie buried beneath streets and parking lots.”

[Image: A satellite view “overlaid with L.A.’s historical streams and wetlands. Courtesy of Jessica Hall, L.A. Creek Freak,” via L.A. As Subject].

Masters also links to a great old profile of Hall’s work on L.A. Weekly, first pointed out to me by Nicola Twilley a few years ago, during a conversation about the Tyburn Angling Society, that contains this awesome image:

“Do you know why there’s sometimes fog at the intersection of Beverly and Rossmore?” Hall asks. “It’s because there’s a perennial creek that runs through the country club there,” she says. “It goes underground beneath Beverly, and comes up again on the other side.”

Urban fog banks as tracking markers for underground streams!

As usual, L.A. As Subject includes some great archival photographs with their post, so it is worth clicking through—and scrolling down—to see them.

While you’re there, however, don’t miss their look at “why L.A. has clashing street grids,” the history of Chavez Ravine, or—one of my personal favorites—an incredible look at the “lost hills of Los Angeles” (previously mentioned on BLDGBLOG here). The center of the city is a history of terrain deformation, advanced topology in built form, as tunnels turn to streets because the hills they were cut through no longer exist.

(You can follow L.A. As Subject on Twitter).

3 thoughts on “Version Control”

  1. That creek goes back underground after the country club and then resurfaces for a couple blocks behind houses along Longwood Ave at Olympic. I lived in one of the houses as a kid; we had a beautiful stream in the backyard.

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