of Change

The high-speed rail system that will link California's southern, central and northern population centers has several goals: to offset the state's increases in automobile and air travel, to reduce roadway congestion, fuel consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions, and to generate more environmentally-sensitive urban patterns. But to harness that potential, we need far more study into the connection between high-speed rail and urban development. With such research, we should be able to better guide development around high-speed rail stations. This study established a multidisciplinary partnership of UCLA's cityLAB with the UCLA Department of Urban Planning and the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate to conduct three interrelated investigations: 1) to determine the types of urban development that have emerged around high-speed stations elsewhere through the Delphi method, 2) to identify the likely effects of high-speed rail stations on the Southern California communities adjacent to them through case study analysis, and 3) to delineate the best policy and planning practices to bring about urban development aligned with the state's larger environmental, land use, and transportation goals through participatory action research.

The study offered recommendations for the planning, design, and programming of areas around stations so that Southern California communities are better prepared for the arrival of high-speed rail, to leverage that investment, and to amplify its positive effects. For several stations, the surrounding areas were envisioned according to multiple scenarios. Led by Roger Sherman, these varied development narratives demonstrate possible urban consequences when cities take a proactive stance about the coming high speed rail.

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Tracks of Change Images


This course is formatted as a design competition. It is seeking proposals for the storefront of the future. Focusing on the condensation of multiple technologies into building enclosures, projects should explore the possibility of storefronts that are alive, that watch you, respond to you, and allow you to interact with them. Schemes must demonstrate the ability to provoke interaction, map interactions and reveal these flows through the integration of illumination, sensors and projectors within a full scale storefront system. Projects are to use the site of LACE located on Hollywood boulevard–near Vine–as a case study. Competition winners will install their proposal at this site leaving it up for three months. Projects must develop strategies that directly integrate the "stars" of the Hollywood Boulevard "Walk of Fame" within a two block radius of the site and work with information about them. Projects may consider the capturing of motion, sound or internet data and in some manner use the sidewalk in combination with the storefront of LACE as an urban "screen" for interplay and interaction.


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OPENINGS Installation Video on Vimeo

Village Scenarios

cityLAB engaged two teams led by prominent designers - Neil Denari and Roger Sherman - to suggest different visions for Westwood Village: Living Culture and Car-Lite Village

Living Culture
RSAUD with Edwin Chan

This scenario looks to UCLA’s world-renowned, but geographically “hidden” cultural resources as the key to Westwood’s rebirth as an arts-and-culture district unparalleled in southern California. Learning from the success of two of UCLA’s Hammer Museum and Geffen Playhouse, which have thrived in the Village, it exports from the campus to Westwood the Fowler Museum; and UCLALive!’s performing arts programs at Kaufman Hall and the Freud Playhouse. Doing so would establish the critical mass of cultural “anchors” to return to the Village the attraction it lost when the era of the single movie theatres that once populated it gave way to the multiplex. While some of those programs re-inhabit and restore the historic Village and Bruin Theatres to their glory, the new crown jewel of the plan would be the “Zocalo”, a public gathering space and arrival point from the MTA station portal, at the crossing of Westwood and Broxton. The relocated Fowler would face the Zocalo from the Gayley frontage of Lot 36. With a MTA-financed park-and-ride structure beneath, the Zocalo would be the site of public events ranging from a weekly farmer’s market to a speakers forum organized by the Hammer’s Zocalo Public Square. Above it hovers an entertainment/conference center/arts hotel “gateway” complex, programmatically and symbolically joining together the interests of UCLA with those of the Village. Last but not least, the plan re-earns Westwood its moniker as a “Village of Towers”, with a “skyline” of seven slender live/work mid-rises that cast a renewed ‘drive-by” identity for the Village from 405 freeway passersby.

Neil M. Denari Architects

Whether when stuck in a massive traffic jam, or when our imaginations take a utopic turn, thinking about Los Angeles with fewer cars on the road is not something that should be relegated to mere fantasy. With a growing Metro system, and its promise for light rail and subway lines extending deep into the West Side of the city, Los Angeles’ near future could very well present a reversal of identities for a place often known for staggering commuting times and an unsustainably expanding footprint.

As a way to explore this future, our proposal relies on the dramatic effect that the extension of the Purple Line to Westwood Village and the extension of the Exposition Corridor Line to the West will have on the entire city. With a proposed dedicated express bus line connecting these two lines along Westwood Boulevard (from Exposition through to the center of UCLA), Westwood Village promises to become a significant node for not only development along the Wilshire corridor but also for the reestablishment of a pedestrian oriented nexus of activities that will positively inflect the cherished low rise world of the historic center of the Village.

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Westwood Village Images


The current atmosphere of LA's urbanism consists of defined O-Zones distributed across a residual field of holes delimited by policies of exclusion and disinvestment. In LA, the O-Zone produces the hole. Rather than imagine that these closed enclaves of identity and theme can be resisted, the current proposal accelerates the installation of new O-Zones (neO-Zones) within present and anticipated holes of default. As future communities of affiliation, the proliferation of diverse neO-Zones will disrupt older urban categories (ethnic, eonomic, gender, generational, and even geographic) by producing new audiences that cut across those social and spatial statics, undermining previous models of identity politics and special interest.

O-Z.LA is a proposal for Los Angeles in the year 2106, completed for the History Channel's City of the Future design competition in 2006, and exhibited at LACMA. cityLAB's Dana Cuff, Roger Sherman, and collaborator Robert E. Somol undertook the project with a team of students. A book was also created as part of the exhibition, available as a pdf here.

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2006 O-Z.LA (Somol, Sherman, and Cuff)

O-Z:LA Images

Prop X

Prop X is an experiment to test new strategies for transforming the city through two distinct means: agile planning and constructive collaboration. The goal of Prop X is to demonstrate that taken together, agile planning and constructive collaboration provide new approaches to intractable urban problems like affordable housing, homelessness, traffic, and sustainability. Agile planning stands in contrast to the utopian thinking and master plan so heavily relied upon in the past, which have produced poor policies and projects in real places like Los Angeles. Instead, we must model new policy–Prop X–to be responsive to existing conditions, flexible enough to change with the times, and mindful of an emergent urban order. Such a task requires the expertise of planners, architects, developers, community stakeholders, and policy makers who collaborate constructively, building ideas together in a multidisciplinary fashion from the outset. Only when we recognize that the city itself ignores professional boundaries, can we creatively collaborate on innovative solutions. We take Los Angeles as our laboratory, for as our region lurches forward in population and commercial growth, it is essential that we have policies and project models that work to produce the kind of places we all want to see–beautiful, functional, and sustainable.

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Prop X Images

Parking Day

The road is America's largest public space. there are 3,981,512 miles of public road in the US, roughly 69 feet (.0132 miles) for each person in the country. Yet, we rarely treat the road as a public space. In celebration of Park(ing) Day 2008, the 'drive-by, walk-in' capitalized on this untapped social infrastructure, linking the public space of the road with the public space of the sidewalk.

In 2005, the Rebar group, a creative collective out of San Francisco, started Park(ing) Day by transforming a single metered parking spot into a park-for-a-day in an effort to make a public comment on the lack of quality open space in American cities. Now Parking Day is a global one day event.

On September 19th,2008 UCLA students, sponsored in part by cityLAB, participated in Park(ing) Day LA.

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Parking Day LA Website

Parking Day_Image_2.pdf

Parking Day LA Images

Up in the

This research project documents the various obstacles elevated rail stations face in leveraging light rail transit investments for transit-oriented development; develops a typology of urban design strategies for better integration of the stations to their surroundings; develops a set of performance and functional measures for these different urban design solutions; and test their application to a proposed and an existing Southern California Light Rail Transit highway median station. Transit advocates and some scholars have long argued for the positive urban implications of transit stations on their surroundings, yet forces combine to undermine potential positive outcomes. To contain construction costs, avoid right-of-way acquisition, increase train speeds, and limit modal conflicts, some cities, including several in California, plan and construct light rail train systems in existing highway rights-of-way. Some questions, however, about this strategy, include the impact such stations have on adjacent neighborhoods (in terms of land values, noise, and safety) and the lack of integration with surrounding activities and land uses, resulting in lost opportunities for transit-oriented development. Scholarship exists on the effects of such stations on real estate values and economic development but little has been done on how urban design might achieve better integration of highway median stations with neighborhoods.

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Up in the Air Report

Up in the Air Images

Duck and

Duck-and-Cover: Thinking Out of the Big Box, exploits the desire of retailers to build their brand, membership, or following through lifestyle and experience, not merely through the products themselves. the underutilized surface parking lot surrounding a big box store (for example, Target) is an opportunity to literally and figuratively build a new form of community space that a) alsteres the suburban stand-alone big box formulate to make higher and better use of the costly land in urban markets that those retailers increasingly covet; b) changes the retailer/neighborhood relationship from the typically acrimonious (NIMBY, not-in-my-backyard) to one that is mutually beneficial (WIMBY, welcome-in-my-backyard); and c) presents an opportunity to widen the store's audience through engagement of the global perspective, as defined through satellite and aerial imagery of Google Earth. By selecting levers of ecology, economy, technology, and identity, Duck-and-Cover gathers the political support necessary to reshape the big box as a metropolitan building type.

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Duck-and-Cover Images

Chia Mesa

CHIA MESA transforms the strip mall into a prototype and a recovery strategy for Phoenix. Rapid urbanization of the metro area–its unbridled horizontal expansion into the outlying landscape–has destroyed not only its potential agricultural productivity, but its civic identity as well. With CHIA MESA, a new imageability emerges for the city as a whole–one whose morphology ironically recollects that of the landscape it is rapidly consuming. Instead of being anonymously absorbed into the endless and undifferentiated urban fabric (Phoenix's own version of Banham's Plains of Id), the scenario we propose envisions the next generation of strip malls as climactically and socially "cool hotspots" in an arid field. They will become the new landmarks of Phoenix's urban future, as the indistinct identity of this city develops a singular imageability of its own, as recognizable to the world as Dubai's "palm" islands, New York City's skyline or, closer to home, Vegas' neon glow. CHIA MESA is a strip mall that grows green: the color-striated lettuces, vegetables, flowers and algae that wrap the shops and offices literally demonstrate a new desert ecology of cars, consumers, and productivity.

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Chia Mesa Image 2
Chia Mesa Image 3
Chia Mesa Image4

Chia Mesa Images

Playa Rosa

Playa Rosa grew out of cityLAB's WPA 2.0 ideas competitions and symposium in 2009, both of which explored the potential for new design thinking that could be exploited alongside the potential for Federal government infrastructure investment related to stimulating the lagging economy. Located next to a major transit node, on the site of a failing commercial center in South Los Angeles, the Playa Rosa project works to define a new model of community revitalization for the post-sprawl era in the form of a hyper-consolidated public service hub. This demonstration is designed around the health inequities including a high rate of childhood obesity and whose manor employer is the nearby Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center. Portrayed in film at the 2010 Venice Biennale, Playa Rosa, condenses community programs: transit stop, public library, middle school, after-school center, workforce housing, and grocery. The project focuses on a metaphorical urban beach, where a new high performance, high density public open space unites the entire project. Other programs included are a sports park, agricultural/horticultural park, dog park, Zipcar, and bike rentals, area storm water collection basin, pool, and farmer's market. This pilot demonstration defines a new prototype for open space-making in densely populated but under-built uran areas like South Los Angeles, where land is scarce and expensive.

Together, these projects portray the cityLAB operating system in action. While still relatively young, cityLAB as a center for research and design, has created a distinct way of working within the disciples of architecture and urbanism. In the coming decade, our priority is to implement pilot projects that render in material form the next generation of urban thinking.

Tracks of Change  

Westwood Senarios RSAUD's Vision of Westwood Blvd

Westwood Village Scenarios  

O-Z. LA  

Duck and Cover RSAUD

Duck and Cover RSAUD

Prop X  

Parking Day LA