ACT 2: The second site visit of our summer series Field Trips: Backstage LA.

Located at the confluence of numerous urban systems, from energy extraction to the production of public space, the Baldwin Hills will set the stage for discussing and viewing its surroundings.

Greg Hise, Ph.D., Professor of History at UNLV
Therese Kelly, AIA Associate, Urban Designer
Taal Safdie and Ricardo Rabines, Principals of Safdie Rabines Architects

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
6300 Hetzler Road, Culver City CA  90232.
Made possible by the support of California State Parks.


Therese Kelly shared her firsthand knowledge of Baldwin Hills’ One Big Park master plan process, while Greg Hise spoke to the history of how parks shape cities and truly serve as infrastructure.  He dispelled the myth that LA is an unplanned city by revealing the number of transit schemes drummed up over the years (albeit not implemented…).  Even Clifford Clinton (founder of Clifton’s Cafeteria) drafted his own depression era solution for Los Angeles! Olmsted and Bartholomew’s vision for parks, beaches and playgrounds were, in fact, gateways for mobility.  Greg packed it in with great stories of other cities whose economy is reliant or improving due open space attractions, mentioning the Millennium Park as the new Bilbao effect.

Interestingly enough, the $7M budget for Baldwin Hills was spent mostly on grading the landscape.  Taal Safdie & Ricardo Rabines described their design process for re-sculpting the land after it was graded for a (since shot-down) residential development.  From their initial instinct to utilize the highest point of the site, to more humbly tucking it back into the land and building a viewing platform at the brow of the site, we learned about their sensitivities to the gaze and behind.

The q&a led by Therese left us with food for thought.  Had it not been for the oil fields, much of the Baldwin Hills would not have been preserved as the open space that it is today.  Ergo energy industry pumps an economy that feeds off parkland sitting on energy.  It got us thinking about the role of oil extraction and other land dependent energy systems, the role of public opinion in valuing recreation networks and the role of politics in determining budgets for public and accessible spaces in the city.

siobhán burke

august 6, 2009

photos by Thurman Grant & Emily Morishita