SUBSURFACE Magazine Issue 001

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SUB SURFACE LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE / current issues / culture + creative magazine ISSUE ONE. 2008. CAL POLY POMONA


A new student-run publication for opinions + ideas of tomorrow’s landscape architects

propaganda poster by Leslie Lemus


This all started at the beginning of my spring quarter of senior year. My studio project for the quarter was based on the USGBC competition, which this year was geared towards the scope of landscape architecture, with goals of reintegrating underused structures into the community. The site of the project is the old Lincoln-Heights Jail, which is uniquely situated at the confluence of the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River, in Los Angeles, California. After some research and a site visit, I had some rough conceptual design ideas. Next I set off to find some case studies which could offer guidance from successful projects of similar intent, site challenges, and structure. Landscape Architecture Magazine is the most accessible resource for built projects in our field, so that was a logical place to begin my search for case studies. From my three year’s worth of publications all I found was a mere three articles that related to my project. Although these were helpful to a degree, I was looking for more substantial and in depth coverage of contemporary projects. A classmate pointed out the discrepancy between the number of magazine publications that Architects have compared to Landscape Architects. There are numerous titles including Dwell, Praxis, Architecture Review, Architectural Record, and Architectural Digest. At our college library, these architecture magazine were present, but I also began to notice a number of publications from schools from all over the country that were showcasing student work as well as scholarly articles. These publications not only served as another resource for students to find current projects, themes, styles, ideas, and theories in our field, but it also served as explicit form of propaganda for that particular institution, which happens to be the a theme we are exploring in our design lecture for the quarter. All of a sudden fireworks started going off in my brain. Where’s our magazine? Where’s our resource? And as they say, the rest is history…



As a “going away present” to our university Cal Poly Pomona, the Landscape Architecture undergrad class of 2008 has published this magazine titled SUBSURFACE. Through our years of education we discovered that the public perception (and previously our own) of landscape architecture is limited to garden design/curb appeal, or the preservers of the “natural landscape”. We wondered why. Most of this perception can be attributed to the labeling done by mass media running 24 hours of home garden “how-to” on television and filling the newsstands with publications of similar topics. Though we don’t condemn any of this, we have other intentions. Through this magazine, we intend to daylight some great work. Subsurface will also respond to contemporary theory and opinions that are being raised within our chosen profession, and our own college as well. We also realized we needed to create an “alternative” magazine that the public can easily consume, showing them that there is a lot more to landscape architecture than the typical creation of the passive, picturesque landscape. In the following pages you’ll read articles, and see projects and renderings done by students that actively question the relationship between landscape architecture and current affairs. In the end, we hope to trigger a new understanding of landscape architecture, expose and stimulate new ideas and issues, and to foster a community of progressive thinkers whose drive is to continuously transform the world around them (and themselves). COVER Landscape architecture involves the ability to explore current issues and connect them through design. It is about seeing things that would normally be viewed as isolated elements or events and finding how they relate to each other, and to the landscape at large.



Alienation / Landscapes

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...examining the landscape through film by Mitch Howard

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10 T hings. won’t lear n until the sixth week of the last quarter of your senior year by Kimberly Kearney

F i r s t S t e p s To N a t u r e

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...a personal exploration by Joel Car rasco

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...attitude in the American Landscape. by Judy Lee

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In It For T he Win

Environmental Racism

...why I chose landscape architecture by Kelly Littman

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S o, D o Yo u G a r d e n ?

...what is landscape architecture by Lancelot Hunter

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Bus Or Bust

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Post All Bills!

...a personal account of the Los Angeles public transportation system by Courtney Embrey

...propaganda + landscape architecture by Bahar Mahgerefteh

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T hings Found Beneath the Surface

...speculation in the desert by Kimberly Kearney

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Beyond Landscape Urbanism

. . . o n s t a n a l l e n ’s l e c t u r e a t u s c by Jen R ueda


Photo Essay of landscapes by Joshua Llaneza SUBSURFACE 2008










THE FACES BEHIND THE IDEA (CLASS OF 08) Mitch Howard editor-in-chief + contributing writer Mitch doesn’t trust any biography more than ten words in length. He believes that anything more than what is written on a gravestone is going to include some amount of fluff. Yet, he takes great pleasure from a good story; whether or not it’s true seems to be of little consequence. Mitch is currently finishing an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Hopefully, this education will lead to a second career that doesn’t involve super-heated steam, fatty acids, or hydrogen gas at 300 psi. He has ridden in taxis, in cities from Tijuana to Rome, and has the stories to prove it.

Courtney Embrey editor + contributing writer Courtney believes that to achieve the greatest results you must make spur of the moment decisions… up until the last minute is the key. Courtney can take full credit, within a small group of friends, for coining the term, “last-minute-miracles.”

Kimberly Kearney editor + contributing writer Kimberly is crafter with interests in knitting, soap making, clothing design, and jewelry making. When Kimberly is not searching for new hobbies to get into or using her hobbies as a way to procrastinate, she can be found daydreaming about the times when living was easier. By the end of this sentence, she will have found two new crafts that require expenditures of time and money. Her interest in Landscape Architecture spawned from a deep yearning for a career which fulfilled her desire to contribute to a bigger picture, and provide an opportunity to work on projects which would affect a large community of people in a positive way.

Joshua Llaneza graphics coordinator + contributing photographer Joshua is a communication artist at heart, but he became interested in landscape architecture and urbanism after a trip to New York City. After seeing its breathtaking urban landscape and its ability to host dynamic interactions within the many subcultures, he knew he wanted to do something related to urban design. So over the years, he continued to travel in search of great cities, documenting and observing people and their environment. He has absolutely no idea where he’ll be in 10 years, but he does know what he’ll be doing; that is fusing his talents in communication arts with theories in landscape architecture and urban design. Oh and yes, he naturally has a crooked smile.



Bahar Mahgerefteh graphics + contributing writer Some like school and some don’t, but Bahar finds herself to be in love with school. She takes pleasure in everything that comes about in her education; therefore she’s never missed a day of school. Bahar sets her goals, and then walks with reason toward her destination. She enjoys the unexpected detours; seeing them as opportunities to encounter new experiments. She has no fear of exactness, for she knows it can never be attained. Bahar’s goal for life is simply success, and she’s willing to take every step that journey requires.

Joel Carrasco public relations + contributing writer Graduating this year, Joel’s perspective on the profession is influenced by personal experiences and knowledge of the human/nature relationship. Often combining newly thought up words and phrases to provide no apparent resolution, Joel has become a posing Landscape Urbanist. By night he spends time bleeding monochromatic experiences and ornate ideas together to become extravagant designs for a future never thought of. By day, he is often found glued to a TV or computer screen. It’s hard to believe that his daydreams are of nothing more than an empty field in which he loses himself to the sky.

Judy Lee public relations + contributing writer Judy says “seek beauty in simplicity”.

Jen Rueda public relations + contributing writer Jen is currently pursuing a BS in landscape architecture at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and is poised to graduate this spring. Upon graduation, she is interested in collaborating with municipalities, agencies, engineers, architects, planners, and ecologists, to ensure that the profession of landscape architecture plays a leading role in developing solutions in an era of global climate change, resource exploitation, and habitat depletion. When she’s not harassing these other disciplines, she enjoys traveling, sketching, guitar playing, and numerous physical and social activities, including soccer, softball, bocce ball and cycling.

Lancelot Hunter contributing writer Lancelot is a student on the verge of graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Landscape Architecture from Cal Poly Pomona. Lancelot is a first generation American. His parents immigrated to this country from Sierra Leone, West Africa. When Lancelot acquires his LEED certification, he wants to travel to Sierra Leone to help that country and its people with the implementation of sustainable design solutions. His other interests include photography, traveling, and cycling.



WHERE PEOPLE LIVE Spaces between landforms created by Hargreaves + Associates. During the weekends, Crissy Field in San Francisco is jammed full of people. East of this area is where the public passes through a demonstration landscape that reveals natural processes of the area. Not only is this landscape a great place to be with the larger community, but it’s also a place to engage the mind about the “larger picture”.




Paris, Texas, 1984, directed by Wim Wenders



ALIENATION / LANDSCAPES a parallel narrative

The following pictorial essay is the 3rd iteration of a work in progress. This project hopefully will culminate in a film of my own, based upon appropriated images from these two very different films. I envision the completed work to be a moving collage of text and image. This film will speak to concepts that I am still grappling with at this stage of the work‌..



Just below the surface of Wim Wender’s film Paris, Texas, is a metaphor for America’s alienation from its own landscape. The film’s storyline follows Harry Dean Stanton as Travis Henderson on his journey back from insanity.

The Conqueror, 1956, directed by Dick Powell.

THE CONQUEROR I am haunted by a vision of John Wayne as the Mongolian warrior, Temujin, conquering his enemies, finding (kidnapping, actually) the love of Susan Hayward, then being proclaimed as “Genghis Kahn”; all this in the desert outside St. George, Utah .




In the film, the vast landscape of the American Southwest is much more than a backdrop: it is a character in the subtext, and it is the stage on which the story is set.

THE CONQUEROR I knew something was very wrong. Here was John Wayne , in a landscape that had to be familiar to him, yet he seemed completely out of place and distant; his discomfort was obvious.



Near the movie’s end, Travis describes to his estranged wife Jane (Nastassja Kinski) how his obsessive love for her led to his descent into madness. His fascinating narrative contains many parallels to our own story of occupation, settlement, and resource extraction of the American landscape.

He was not acting, but merely pretending to be the 13th century Mongolian leader who conquered more than half of the known world.




Treated as a metaphor, the film’s scene tells the story of alienation from a landscape that we fell in love with, occupied and conquered; from which we reaped multiple harvests, and scraped clean; the landscape we abused.


He was not in Bad Water, he wasn’t sitting at a campfire in Red Rock, nor was he riding across the top of Table Mountain; he was Genghis Kahn in the Gobi Desert. SUBSURFACE 2008


Finally, the landscape itself reacts--and turns on us in revolt.

He was also 130 miles downwind from Yucca Flats Nevada, the U.S. government’s test site for above-ground detonation of nuclear weapons.




Our attempts at re-imagining the landscape and its ecological repair are sincere; yet our redemption can never be complete--the wounds always fresh, and many of the scars continue to deepen.

THE CONQUEROR Of the 220 members of the cast and crew that worked on The Conqueror, almost half of them contracted some form of cancer, and half of those later died from the disease.



- by Mitch Howard All film stills were created using a Nikon D-70 to photograph paused DVD images played back on a war surplus Zenith television. SUBSURFACE 2008


Try a new approach. Then try another.

you WILL have no social life.

Remember, you are here to learn. Be experimental and do things differently each time. If you approach projects the same every time, chances are you will keep ending up with the same results.

If you put your all into your education, remain true to the real reason why you are in school (for an education, to be a part of a life changing career, to change the world and save the planet)


Appearance is everything. And showing up really is half the battle.

Your teachers DO notice when you ditch class. Your teachers DO take note when you show progress. Your teachers know who you are after a couple of meetings. Make sure you put all your energy into trying to impress them, because you WILL need to use them as a reference in the future.

Your way of communicating will change.

Try to stay grounded. You will be learning a new vocabulary that will only make sense to other Landscape Architects (and that’s if you are lucky). Don’t attempt to make others understand this new language.


Forget about trying to understand what you have just gotten yourself into. This field is SO broad and undefined that you will probably go crazy trying to figure out what exactly a Landscape Architect actually does. And because of this we are now in a great position to show the world what we CAN be, and by doing this, we can change the perception of what we USED to be.

Find your voice.


Read, listen and take note; but make sure you are forming your own opinions about things instead of regurgitating what someone else has said and believes. It’s great to be inspired by other designer’s projects and want to “borrow” ideas from them, but it’s even better when you can come up with your own solutions to the problem.

You can sleep when you’re dead.

If you, like many of us, wait until the last minute to work on a project, you WILL be up all night, and I do mean ALL night trying to get it done. Just understand, that the quality of the project is inversely proportionate to each hour you spend working on it past 12 am. For all of you who are mathematically challenged, that means that the longer you deprive yourself of sleep, the greater the chance your project will look like a 3rd grader did it INCREASES.


Know who you are. Accept who you are. And be willing to ‘improve’ who you are. I guess this one goes without explanation… BUT, we all must learn to balance the act of compromising. Your way may NOT always be the best way. Learn to be flexible.

Find one person that gets you.

This goes a long way, and makes the ride a little more bearable.

you won’t learn until the sixth week of the last quarter of your senior year...

Be curious. Stay interested.

- by Kimberly Kearney

Curiosity gets you into a lot of trouble, and I’m not going to lie, curiosity requires A LOT of work. But in the end, it makes for a more interesting project, a project that is multilayered. And it makes for the type of project that you will NEVER forget, because it got you into so much trouble.



DAYDREAM Perhaps the best indication that a public/open space is successful is if people are willing to throw down their stuff and forget that they have that 3 o’clock hair appointment to go to.






“ Within those few steps the mountain was able to silence all the sounds of the city, and provide a natural barrier against the noise pollution we had grown so accustomed to.”



Have you ever screamed so loudly that you couldn’t hear yourself ? Yes, sound is coming out, but your brain doesn’t acknowledge this sense, it focuses instead on the pain you feel. This happened to me when I dislocated my arm at the age of 9. My memory of the incident is nothing more than a silent scream as I glanced at my paralyzed arm, and then up to the sky. There was a light coming through the trees, the wind rustled the leaves in near silence; while the clouds glowed and shifted to open to an infinite blue sky. This of course was a very painful experience, but I was somehow able to find a certain calmness about the situation just by looking up into the sky, into nature. Have you ever heard a city go silent within a few seconds? As young boys, my brother and I would go for long walks with our grandfather in the mountains above our Riverside, California neighborhood. These early experiences in nature introduced me to life outside the boundaries of an ordinary suburb. On one occasion, my Grandfather stopped my brother and me as we made our way around a bend in the mountain trail. He stopped us so we could listen to the city traffic in the distance. Then he led us forward a few more steps. Within those few steps the mountain was able to silence all the sounds of the city, and provide a natural barrier against the noise pollution we had grown so accustomed to. At that moment, the silence truly became golden. When did I become a Landscape Architect? I think all my memories of nature have added up to my appreciation of this profession. It is these memories that will lead me far beyond my original intentions. It is acceptable that nature involves many things good and bad, but I think I became a Landscape Architect when I realized that I wanted to bring out the best in nature, and to share that superlative element with others. I know my personal experiences will always be a part of the life I lead and the work I do as a Landscape Architect. - by Joel Carrasco SUBSURFACE 2008


ATTITUDE IN THE Where do the boundaries of Racism end? Is racism effecting what’s obvious, or have we reached a point in our society where racism isn’t that big of a deal anymore? In many ways we have accepted racism in our culture, through the media, the way we walk or even refer to one another, and currently even in the presidential campaign. Racism seems to be a factor we can never escape from but what are the extents of Racism?


But what seemed like an attempt at remediating one problem ended up turning into another. The area soon became one of the most hazardous environments in the United States. “Racism is the intentional or unintentional use of power The city now has the reputation for to isolate, separate and exploit others…racism is more the highest percentage of low-weight than just a personal attitude; it is the institutionalized births in the state of Pennsylvania, form of the attitude.” and now has a mortality and lung –National Council of Churches Racial Justice Working Together. cancer rate that is 60% higher than other cities in its county. The rate of Minorities in cities, and low-income families are now children with a high blood-lead level being subjected to what is defined as Environmental is among the highest anywhere in Racism. This form of racism is merely a new Pennsylvania. manifestation of past racial oppression. Minorities pay the greatest price when it comes to economic Every 4.5 minutes large trucks run by development, resource extraction, and quality of the city center, causing the foundation life and livelihood. Minorities are often considered of homes to crack, leaving unstable, as ‘disposable’ workers and are rarely given the and unsafe conditions in their wake. opportunity or time to advance. Even after the community called out for changes and worked together “This article is Are the consequences of Environmental Racism deaths and with the EPA, not much has changed. meant to illnesses for minorities? Today, Chester is home to the nations provoke you to 7th largest waste industrial incinerator, talk and maybe even take part Chester, Pennsylvania boomed during the nations largest medical waste in changing this the Industrial Revolution. The cities autoclave, a sludge incinerator, and a sewage treatment plant. And as if form of racism.” population continued to grow for decades but after the growth of all that wasn’t enough, proposals for international trade, many factories and the world’s largest tire incinerator and jobs abandoned the city leaving many additional medial waste centers are citizens vulnerable to unemployment being considered. and poverty. In order to save the city from dropping further below the But out of all the cities, why Chester? poverty line, the city started taking The population of Chester, as well in waste from surrounding states and as its schools and businesses, was permitted other polluting factories to established throughout the city. Could establish themselves within city limits. the big named industrial companies SUBSURFACE 2008


have known that the population consisted of 65% lowincome and poverty stricken African Americans who exercised little opposition to what comes in and out of their neighborhood as long as job opportunities were offered? Or could it just be a coincidence that other poverty stricken and minority cities are seeing the same pattern. Those living near waste facilities throughout the states are there because of residential segregation, housing discrimination, and limited incomes. According to the “Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty” more than 9 million minority Americans are living within 2 miles of the nation’s hazardous waste facilities. The extent of environmental racism goes far beyond waste facilities. Many minority farm workers in the state of New Mexico are exposed to deadly toxic pesticides daily and Native American reservations are prime targets for unwanted materials. And, despite the many studies

and actions taken by many US citizens, organizations, and the US government has yet to take any responsibility and action towards restricting, or remediating the situation. As an environmental designer and a human being, this is more then reading just another article, it’s the opportunity to gain a greater resource base in knowledge of issues that are not always obvious or discussed openly. This is merely an article to provoke you to talk and maybe even take part in changing this form of racism. - by Judy Lee





COLORADO RIVER: LOOKING SOUTH FROM HOOVER DAM Hoover Dam - The greatest public works project of its time.




et me tell you, any career path you choose comes with great difficulty. For everything that you dream of doing, and dream of doing well, you will have to work for it. I entered the university with the intention of being a landscape architect, and I do intend to be a landscape architect. However, my path in college has not always been easy. In fact, at times, it was so difficult that I truly wanted to quit, and I had doubts that maybe I just wasn’t cut out to be a landscape architect. My story is to show that even when odds seem against you, sheer power of will can push you through. I would stop to think of all the things everyone else seemed to know that I didn’t, or how much better others were at particular aspects of the curriculum than me. There are so many things I have learned by studying landscape architecture, and there are so many more things yet to learn. Those things that I don’t know now, I can always learn later. I made a decision: I would find it in myself to fight the odds. I would examine other classmates’ work to learn from it and get better, not be discouraged by their caliber, but use their skills and talents as inspiration for my own education. Freshman year I was commended for my innovative ideas. Sometimes they were a bit over the top, but I could just imagine how much impact they would have if they were really implemented. I loved taking these ideas and making them into models. Also, it was great learning to critically analyze a space, and to understand what sort of features the space was in need of. This year it was my math classes that held me back. I did well in my landscape classes, very well actually, but when it came to my math classes, I just wasn’t cutting it. However, I did have to leave for a year. I had to satisfy my math curriculum, and come back to rejuvenate my major in landscape architecture. It was hard explaining to people why I wasn’t with my original classmates anymore, and often times I kept it to myself. Soon enough I got over


it. I had my math done, and I could again focus on what I came to college to do. My second year was strong. I loved learning about plants, and advancing in design and graphics was a blast. We began to learn the basics of the major computer programs used in the field, and our knowledge took off… for the most part at least. Third year came around and my fear of math came back to haunt me. Our construction class practically took my legs out from underneath me. This portion of the major consisted of the same material as civil engineering. I tried so hard. The concept made sense, the mathematical proof didn’t, and I was lost. During this time, I doubted my own future in landscape architecture. This year I realized the major entailed a lot of math; I was scared, even still, I didn’t give up. Technically, I didn’t survive this quarter. However, by this time, our professors had personally gotten to know us all, and knew that those of us that didn’t meet the grade requirement truly gave a valiant effort. Because of their mercy, we marched on. Twice now, a wind greater than what I could walk against, threw me down, but I found a wall, and blocked its dominion over me. Finally, here I stand with cap and gown; against the odds, I fought and I won. Landscape architecture can make a difference, and that is what I want to do. These days, the conservation and protection of nature is so imperative, but there are so few people out there who are making the effort to improve our common landscapes. I fought to stay in this major, and to finish it because I want to be one of those people making a difference. Every little bit helps, and my footprint as a landscape architect will definitely be a step forward. - by Kelly Littman




t seems like every time the subject matter comes up of what my major is in college, I have to explain myself, rather than just being able to say landscape architecture.

“So, you’re an architect?” “No man, I said I’m studying landscape architecture.” “Oh that’s cool, you garden, you know you can practice on mine if you want.” It’s absolutely certain that when I say I’m a landscape architecture student, people split the two words in half. They think I’m either a landscaper, or an architect. After I explain, and convince them that there are such people as landscape architects, then they think architecture and landscape architecture are the same profession. And this is when I have to break it all down for them and explain that there is a difference. I really can’t say that I knew the difference all too well myself until I began the major. This profession appeals to me because of the constant alteration of a design. Whereas architecture is stationary and static; landscapes are dynamic; forever shifting and being manipulated with the passage of time. It’s not that I want to distance myself or our profession solely from architecture, it’s just that we as landscape architects have our own definition as well.

Don’t get me wrong, architects do great work and deserve a standing ovation, but we landscape architects have to blow our own horn; if no one else is going to do it. Now on the verge of graduating, I have compiled thoughts and created my own definition for landscape architecture. We create spaces of interaction that rely on science and strive for art. This is a profession where I get satisfaction that increases along with the growth and maturity of a design. Our profession is a multi-disciplinary field that covers a wide spectrum of design, ecological and social issues. Landscape architects have such a major and influential role in designs that contribute to the benefit of the environment, communities, and everyday life. As our profession grows and landscape architects are in more demand, and the question is asked, “What do you do”? I’ll say: I provide you with a place to interact with your world.

- by Lancelot Hunter





BUS OR BUST? A personal account of the Los Angeles public transportation system - a central component in landscape urbanism.

One day a bus driver was in his bus when the biggest man he had ever seen got on. The giant looked at the driver and said: “Big John doesn’t pay”, and took his seat on the bus. The bus driver was only a little man and he didn’t want to argue. This happened for several days. After a week , the bus driver was beginning to get a little angry. Everybody else paid, so why not the big man? So the driver went to the gym and started a course of body-building. He didn’t want to get frightened of Big John any more. Three weeks later the driver had strong muscles and was feeling very fit. At the usual stop, Big John got on. “Big John doesn’t pay”, he said. But this time the driver was prepared for him. He got up and said : “Oh, yeah? And why doesn’t Big John pay?” “Because Big John has got a bus pass”, the man replied.


s a soon-to-be college grad, just about to enter the working world as a young professional, I am already feeling the weight of responsibility bearing down on me. As I continue my search for the “perfect” place to live - let alone the “perfect” job, I’m experiencing a rollercoaster of debacles. I’ve found myself settling for “less-than-perfect” lately because of the high price and availability of each side of my search spectrum. I am mostly concerned with being close enough to my job to spare me that wearisome commute in my car that any Californians could relate to. This all calculates to paying higher rent if I wind up taking a position in a Los Angeles hot spot. I am, however, willing to sacrifice a little income for a better location, specifically near my job, because

I know, in large, I will be saving money and time on transportation. This brings me to my next quandary. If I want to avoid a strenuous commute, and, using a personal vehicle, what alternatives do I have? Public transportation? In Los Angeles? Are you serious? I have a few options in alternative to my car. I can walk. This would be great cardio and totally “green”, although, I will never make it in time to work, and then probably lose my job. Besides, modern transportation has come very far from the Oregon Trail. I could ride my bike. Again, a great workout and stylishly “green” but still not time efficient. Either alternative would also leave me a sweaty mess on those hot southern California days. Scratch both. The metro rail would be a lot of fun! On the other hand, it doesn’t span far enough out to the Westside, so if I do get a job anywhere near, I’d be stuck at some point. And then there is Big John’s choice, the bus, that usually sits at the bottom of the list just above hitchhiking for the typical car-dependent individual - or so it seems. The bus was never regarded as a hip alternative. This was the notion I created as other peers, predominately in my adolescent years, made jokes about those who took the bus. This impression seemed to stick, and I associated a particular taboo about the bus; they smell, you run the risk of sitting next to a crazy person, they’re crime ridden, they’re slow, and that riding a bus is basically a red-flashing indicator of lower economic class.



The threat that “you sure can‘t get a date with a bus pass” was the harshest of them all. But my perception of the bus system is changing as I hear about more middle class Americans breaking down and using it. And in most cases, preferring it to the isolation of the vehicle. These people are referred to as “choice users” (I found this out subsequently in my experiment). My general perception of the bus as an undesirable form of public transportation, maybe even degrading - has radically shifted as my environment changes and the economy fluctuates. Once I started to pay attention to some of the behaviors and actions of others affected by that environmental shift, I’ve noticed a new wave of diversity on the bus. Riding the bus is starting to be treated as “go green” propaganda, and those who agree are wearing their bus passes like a “badge of environmental awareness”. After my first experience on the Los Angeles metro transit bus system, I have to agree that buses, as expected, do have their shortcomings, but are not all that bad if you’re willing to take the good with the bad - or at least take a good book. The first Friday of May, I had two interviews in Santa Monica on the West Side. Had I driven my car it would have been a total distance of 92 miles roundtrip. At that time my car was full of fuel that I had paid $3.89 a gallon for. After my recent trip to Europe I acquired a knack for SUBSURFACE 2008

public transportation, not because I thoroughly enjoyed it, but because it was 1) cheap, 2) all I had. The inner adventurer in me decided to emerge - who comes out from time to time when I’ve been overworking myself (I place school partially responsible for that). So along with this adrenaline rush, curiosity, and willingness to burn a little bit of time on a Friday morning, taking public transportation to my interview sounded like a good idea. For the record, I am well aware that some people take a bus or train everyday to work because they have no other means of transportation. I admire your dedication, all of you. I consider myself taking the bus equivalent to, say, asking a debutant to cook and clean; she would be courteous and oblige but secretly be confused with what to do with a mop and apron. While those who are bus-cultured may call me naive, I consider it quite a bold move for a car-cultured person like myself. I am part of that vast population of Los Angeles bus illiterates, with limited experience except for a short introduction during a recent trip to Europe. I know Los Angeles well and can read the proverbial signage unlike in European cities because there are no language barriers to be hung up on (although, that’s disputable in some parts of LA). With a bit of inflated confidence, I thought that since I rode a bus around Germany, a place where I only spoke one German word fluently, “danke”, I


would do quite fine. I felt relatively good about the whole situation. If not for my own humble accomplishment, I really just wanted to better understand the daily struggles of those who actually have no other option but the bus. This simple idea of mine turned out to be risky business, mainly because I chose to conduct this experiment on the way to an interview - the last place I’d want to be late to. I don’t suggest this to anyone, although it did add a degree of excitement to the whole operation. My Route: Take Gold line at Sierra “ is good Madre Station to Downtown Los to see young Angeles Union Station. Take bus 33 people riding to 2nd Street and Santa Monica Blvd. the bus - it in the city of Santa Monica. Walk to shows an air of destinations (interviews). Take same independence bus back to Union Station. Take Gold in youth- an line back to Sierra Madre. I planned uncommon this trip out the night before on www. trait.” and found it very useful just following the simple steps. Type in your starting and ending point, and the rest will be calculated for you with a detailed itinerary of your trip (bus numbers and rail lines) and a map. Disclaimer: I cheated, more less, because I drove my car from home, 8 miles east, to Pasadena where I caught the Metro. In hindsight, I could have taken a bus that would have dropped me off directly at Sierra Madre. Next time… The following are some “good with the bad” notes I jotted down on my excursion: Riding the bus does create spare time. I notice a really thin and “interestingly dressed” woman get on - she seemed a bit disheveled and I assumed she was running late. I tried not to be the creepy-staring-type but figured that my sunglasses were dark enough. She was applying false eyelashes with tweezers and I think using a small safety pin to separate them. I was most taken aback by the meticulous application of the lip liner - bumps, turns, and sudden halts on the road did not phase her agility. I then thought about my own tasks that I could take care of. I reached inside my bag in hopes to find something to fiddle with; my magazine, my phone, a ballpoint, or something. My magazine would suffice. Riding the bus creates too much spare time. I memorized some of the rider’s codes of conduct, and I ripped off part of my cuticle as a random act of boredom. Had I fallen into some sort of matrix and my world appeared to be moving but realistically it was an illusion? Probably not… but it sure felt that way. The bus seemed to stop at every bend. I thought that many of the

333 stops seemed very unnecessary when they were two or less blocks apart. The bus is cheap. A buck and a half can get you farther than $15 worth of fuel - and that’s no joke - the trip planner website ( stated I saved exactly $15.45 according to AAA’s formula at 56.2 cents/mile. It almost feels wrong. I paid more for a halfway-stale blueberry bagel at Union Station. Some people are cheaper. Much to the bus driver‘s horror, some people still can’t toss in enough change to make the machine chime. Be it unlawful, I saw a few kids get a quick reprimanding on not having the correct change, as the driver let them slip by. Admittedly, it is good to see young people riding the bus - it shows an air of independence in youth- an uncommon trait. There is always someone you can talk to. More than likely you’ll hear someone vent their problems to you. You have every right to vent back - but I don’t advise it. On the other hand, I did have a brief exchange with a girl who was presumably a bit younger than I and on her way, again presuming, to an audition. I asked her if she’s a regular bus patron. She told me she bought a pass and uses it to go to class (UCLA) and run all errands, and there’s a bus stop right down the street from her at Santa Monica and Fairfax so it‘s very convenient. There is always someone that talks to you. It’s almost impossible to avoid hearing some stranger’s life story on the bus, whether it‘s fact of fictional. The bus runs on time. I can’t really describe how this is possible but the bus does operate promptly and will get SUBSURFACE 2008


photo from Flickr

you somewhere at some time (rule out afternoon rush hour). Sometimes it’s even early… but never will it leave the bus stop early (so don‘t panic and think that the bus got an early start and forgot you). At all my stops, at least, there was a bus every 5-10 minutes. You’re not guaranteed you’ll be on time (to your destination, that is). I take partial responsibility for this one. Apparently, there are two buses with Santa Monica routes, numbers 33 and 333 (express). You can imagine the confusion. As it turns out, I took the 33 (nonexpress) which means I could have been on time to my interview. Luckily, I made the executive decision to call my interviewer ahead of time and win myself 20 minutes. On a positive note, the Express Buses are starting to spring up throughout the LA transit system. These buses get you to a greater distance in one shot… no more of those agonizing stop-and-go headaches. The bus is getting high tech! There was a flat screen at the front of the bus showing a GPS map of our location that was unexpected and useful. I found it interesting that all the Santa Monica Big Blue Buses were powered by alternative fuels and bio-diesel and many elements of the bus had come from recycled material. The rest of the interior wasn’t bad, the space was roomy, it was SUBSURFACE 2008

ADA compliant, and the seats have come a long way from vinyl. There are still some glitches. I’m not convinced that every bus route listed on the signage at each bus stop actually is in constant motion. I waited and waited for bus 333 (Santa Monica) until I settled for 33 (Santa Monica). My gut told me to wait for 333 but I mistakenly gambled this one away. You see, with a 333 (or otherwise a 9) I could have “doubled-down” - but 33 (or 6) was the hand I was dealt. I took the “hit” and busted. It cost me another hour. I hope this weak blackjack analogy didn’t lose anyone. The bus doesn’t smell. The buses are new and haven’t been subjected to multiple years of the filth humans are capable of. They are kept well maintained. The bus doesn’t smell, but people do. Some, not all, of the bus patrons smell; mostly in the afternoon following a long day’s work. That’s how it is. Bring a clothes pin if you’re sensitive. A final note: My long day ended when I reached home at 6:15. In full, I spent 9 hours, and 45 minutes away. 2 hours in interview, 1 hour dillydallying at the 3rd Street Promenade shopping center, 15 minutes at Seattle’s Best


Coffee, another 15 minutes at some gyro place, 30 minutes of just walking to locations, and I spent the rest of the 6 hours in transit. I was exhausted. I was also in disbelief assuming 90% of the people on that bus with me make that lengthy commute everyday. Basing this off of the group I sat with the whole hour and a half bus ride from Santa Monica back to Union Station - this was an everyday occurrence for many commuters. This was their daily grind! I’m sure there is an unsettling number of hours some of those people had worked that day to add to their 3-4 hours of commute. I’d simply just strike - but that’s another article.

Bus or bust? There are advantages to both

bus and personal vehicle. The advantages of driving your own car (to work, in this case) you’re given the freedom to make pit stops, be at your own pace, have privacy, use your trunk as a second closet, park close to your destination, get somewhere faster, get a later start, and cruise with the top down, chrome spinnin’, and look really cool. The disadvantages are high costs to operate (including fuel, registration, and insurance), the contribution to global warming, the contribution to congestion, isolationism, and, for some, boredom. The advantages of riding the bus are low, low costs, eliminating the inconvenience of finding a parking space,

public interaction, environmental efficiency, and finally, you’re are removing one less car on the congested streets. The disadvantages are time inefficiency, no place for storage, less privacy, and you certainly don’t look as sexy as you would diving a Porsche (for all of you who care.) In overview, the age-old bus system, is not yet flawless, but it’s finally undergoing progressive change, upping its performance, and showing it’s worthy of taking advantage of. After reviewing a few websites, it’s nice to know that city governments, like many in the greater Los Angeles area, are revitalizing their systems by creating traffic diversion routes for buses during rush hour, keeping fares low, improving the environment inside the vehicles, and converting over to alternative forms of energy. With that, bus or bust?… Bus! The riders cash in, and the house loses everything. - by Courtney Embrey



ACTIVE LANDSCAPES Overlooking the downtown Los Angeles skyline is this temporary experimental communal garden by Farmlab. “Pods� and water towers are available for anyone to cultivate their choice of edible plants. Farmlab is part of Not A Cornfield, a project that brings forth questions about the nature of urban public space and land use. For more information, visit +





HUMAN SCALE From up above, the dense urban city can be percieved as an ecological disaster and a place that is void of any safety and comfort. However, once you get down to the human scale, those perceptions disappear. The urban landscape can provide much more than any suburb; it provides life. And, the best way to capture that is to just sit and watch.





Post All Bills! Propaganda is the voice of today’s actions. It has always been a compelling form of communication in raising awareness of a cause. Successful propaganda is one that provokes deep understanding of the matter and subconsciously transforms one’s idea into reality. As landscape architects, we have the opportunity and the knowledge to raise questions and illustrate them through propaganda to inform people of environmental issues. As fourth-year landscape architecture under-grads, we were asked to reveal today’s environmental problems through the use of propaganda posters. At first glance, one could see a number of posters that focused on green movement issues and their impacts on our surrounding environment. Some, like my poster, emphasized the misleading and hypocritical advertising that is presented to us in the world of marketing and advertisement. There are a large number of goods and materials that are produced every day that are labeled “green”, yet they are far from the true meaning of green design. Some portray only a small portion of the impact that a particular product has on our land. The rest is hidden in the 6-point font sub-titles which no one ever reads. It is time for someone to notice the repercussions of deficient design in our society and raise consciousness of these issues. Propaganda is one of the best tools to call out wrong doings and inform people of problematic issues that are or are not visible to our eyes. After all, I believe that who better, but a landscape architect can see the environmental problems of our world so thoroughly and with such wide comprehension. So raise awareness and POST ALL BILLS… - by Bahar Mahgerefteh



Propaganda poster questioning the green movement - by Bahar Mahgerefteh


- Adjacent to Art Intalla-

of warm water

1 location, 2 separate pools=A special


Night + Day Experience REdux

If it’s true that a wild burro stays within 10 miles of a water source...then this should keep them coming back for more...

Things Found Beneath the Surface The project site is located in Shoshone, CA, a small town located about 90 miles West of Las Vegas, NV and about 230 miles NE of Los Angeles, CA in Inyo County. The goal of this project was to propose a design for the town that would help boost the economy. Site attributes such as views, colors, found items, and textures that trigger a visitors emotional response (memory) begin to hint at the towns rich history. Attributes are layered on the board,


suggesting the act of “digging beneath the surface” to reveal unique traits of the town site. Speculations were made about the natural patterns of deposition of materials such as boron and calcium carbonate, as well as the patterns of human extraction (mining, miners’ caves) and the deposits/residue left behind on the site (memories of past usage and occupation). Speculations were also made as to how these findings tied into future usage of the site, and how this information


Site Attributes and Speculations 45 On the Surface There is “nothing”. The desert is barren, harsh and at times uninhabitable... a wasteland.

How we view this landscape... wasteland...



desolate... barren...

What “waste” can be... REused, REcycled

Beneath the Surface There are memories of our past that tie directly into the future of how we view our landscape and how we deal with “wasted” land.

Natural Pattern

efficient and innovative building materials

Human Pattern

of deposition

of extraction

What is left behind... How can you put a price on specific attributes that relate to the unique characteristics of a site? A price on ecology?

Miners’ Caves

A price on phenomena?

Calcium Carbonate

A price on history?

Hot Springs

Human Pattern

A price on human residue?

of extraction

Miners’ Waste

Mine Tailings

A price on memories?

Ghost Towns


Wasted Land

Wild Burros


Shoshone, CA Stats:

Population: 52, in 2000 County: Inyo Area: 28.7 sq. mi. Elevation: 1,585 ft 90 miles W of Las Vegas

Human Pattern

Points of Interest:

of extraction

Shoshone Museum Crowbar Cafe & Bar Adobe Building The Flower Building Old T&T Railroad Building Shoshone Post Office General Store Brown Residence Dublin Gulch

could contribute to or influenced future designs. People “escape” to the desert to be exposed to out of the ordinary experiences, EXTRAordinary experiences. An extraordinary experience (whether good or bad) is marked by a memory. Emphasis is now placed on night and day recreational activities, which create unique experiences that will trigger new memories of what a vacation could really be like.

Night swims with wild burros and camping beneath the open sky, constellations and art installations are all part of this new experience. By day, peaceful burros gather around the local watering hole. By night they join visitors pool side for a night swim under a sky blanketed with stars. In an outdoor area adjacent to the revamped pools, visitors are able to camp out under art installations designed by local artists. - by Kimberly Kearney



REthinking the way we vacation Open Swim A way to enhance Shoshone’s existing swimming facility and use it as a way to tie into the town’s past, educating guests about its unique history, as well as providing


an opportunity for a possible encounters with past inhabitants and wild burros.


Camp + Installation Grounds Provide a multifunctional site which incorporates permanent and temporary art installation space for Shoshone’s art community, as well as a site that provides

a unique camping experience that allows visitors to camp outside under a clear open sky and congregate between natural and man made structures.





This lecture highlights the success of landscape architecture and architecture in the field of landscape urbanism, until the q&a portion reveals some true colors

After the Stan Allen lecture, a classmate asks me what I thought as I grub on free grapes and crackers. At first I was not sure what to say ‌did I like it, or did I think it was boring? But while I was formulating my response, the synapses began to connect and read through the lines of Allen’s lecture to reveal a subversive message. This lecture was intended to inform architects of the increasing popularity of landscape urbanism and the fact that landscape architects are far better suited to handle these projects. In essence, architects need to wake up before landscape architects take over the power in the design field. An interesting message, but even more interesting is how did I wind up with such a conclusion? That is a good question; let me fill you in. Allen lays out a simple format for the hour talk, and before he starts, he gives us the heads up on the topics he will cover, including a brief introduction into landscape urbanism before moving onto some of its criticisms. He starts off with the introduction to landscape urbanism, which the handful of the Cal Poly Landscape Architects in the crowd are familiar with because our lecture course last quarter was based on that principle. landscape urbanism is a theory of urbanism arguing that landscape, rather than architecture, is more capable of organizing the city and enhancing the urban experience.



The most interesting thing Allen mentions here is what architects can learn from landscape architects. Remember, this is a practicing architect speaking to a crowd of architecture students and a few Cal Poly landscape architects. Allen states, “we (as architects) could really learn from landscape architects because of their ability to interpret surface, use surface to inscribe program, and create pathways of movement and nodes.” He repeatedly makes this statement as he goes through this set of slides explaining the foundations of landscape urbanism, which he has categorized into paired themes, natural+artificial, surface+pattern, program+event, info+territory. These categories systematically layout how landscape architects think, process and develop projects by interpreting surface. Allen’s discussion of landscape urbanism was really a showcase for landscape architecture as Allen pointed out our profession’s biggest strengths. It was refreshing to see this architect acknowledge and respect our profession. Allen then goes on to discuss some of his collaboration work with James Corner, specifically the CMC project, the Contemporary Music Center in Taichung, Taiwan, an 18,000 capacity outdoor amphitheater. The three goals of this project include {performance + exhibition + lab} which in turn develop the program for the project. For the design, the landscape was shaped to promote activities and a mix of programs. This process developed the concept of “event’ landscape, the idea that different landscapes can accommodate different activities and programs. Overall the project seemed exciting and forward thinking, taking top designers from these two fields to create an amazing space for the community and visitors of the museum. This project was a successful example of collaboration, with heavy influences from the landscape architecture profession.

with the structure. The project is a church for a tiny congregation. The church resembles many other religious buildings with one slight difference; there is no door to enter through. Instead there is essentially a breezeway that connects the church to the surrounding landscape. The congregation was thrilled with their new church, and celebrated the first mass with plastic yard furniture. Allen comments that the particular image is perhaps ‘corny’, although, I think it is a tribute to the success of the church. During the q & a, one question provoked a particularly interesting response. The question revolved around the expiration of collaboration between Allen and James Corner. Previously in the lecture, Allen had blamed the break up over academic scheduling conflicts, however, during the q & a, Allen states to the effect that he, “does not want to be a ‘landscape architect’,” in a slightly harsh and condescending tone, like it was along the lines of garbage collectors or pig farmers. He also mentions he is not interested in participating in competitions like James Corner, in such a manner that implies that he was not interested in taking design orders from anyone other than an architect. His true colors now come out.

“we (as architects) could really learn from landscape architects because of their ability to interpret surface, use surface to inscribe program, and create pathways of movement and nodes.”

Next Allen presented another project dealing with applying the event landscape in an effort to undermine the validity of landscape urbanism. The intent was to apply the ‘event’ landscape to the surfaces of the building as opposed to utilizing the landscape. Allen was proud that the structure was able to provide for multiple activities and a mix of programs. This project created the ‘event’ landscape within the confines of the building. In closing Allen discusses a small community project that also utilizes this idea of creating ‘event’ landscape

We had just spent a solid 30 minutes on landscape urbanism, why landscape architects are allies in this new design trend, and how we can work together to create solid projects. But then he shows his true colors and the entire lecture takes on a whole new light. There is this subtle agenda running through the whole thing. The introduction to landscape urbanism was not intended to give landscape architects credit or ‘props’, but to threaten architects, who are comfortable at the top of the food chain. These are the things that landscape architects are good at and we are not, which sets landscape architects in the position to dominate this new field of landscape urbanism. The discussion of collaboration was a case study to show how landscape architects are taking charge of the projects in this new field. But architects enjoy being the ones calling the shots, and any threat to that position of power must be addressed. Hence the idea of creating ‘Beyond Landscape Urbanism’; the anti landscape urbanism (land scape urbanism without the landscape). If architects can design structures that can accomplish the goals of landscape urbanism without the landscape, then there is SUBSURFACE 2008


no need for landscape urbanism and landscape architects, which would fix that power threat real quick. I think it is interesting that Allen created this anti landscape urbanism design concept. He obviously understands that landscape urbanism is increasing in popularity, so they (architects) either need to work under landscape architects, or create a whole new genre of design that attempts to fulfill the goals of landscape urbanism, yet without the landscape and without the need for a landscape architect. Which is exactly what he does with ‘Beyond Landscape Urbanism’, but fundamentally, how can you create a ‘Landscape Urbanism’ design that

If power was our main concern then I guess we would be sitting pretty, but our goal is much bigger than that. It is about creating spaces, and ecosystems that will be able to survive over time and provide comfortable places for communities to enjoy. We should be working together and not fighting for the limelight. We should focus on all of our best qualities and not the weaknesses. This will be the only way that landscape urbanism will truly be successful. There is this conflict between ‘starchitecture’ and progressive collaborative design, when to me it seems like a no brainer. Are we not supposed to be designing for the benefit of society as a whole? Who benefits if all the design professionals do is fight. If

“as [landscape architects], your strength is in the fact that you can see the big picture, whereas architects are focused intently on the building, and the building only, creating structures that are disconnected, but you are the ‘tissue’, and work on everything between those isolated buildings.” does not display concern or connection to the landscape. Initially, I thought that the title, ‘Beyond Landscape Urbanism’ referred to the future potential of landscape urbanism, but obviously Allen was referring to his attempts to undermine landscape architects success with landscape urbanism. Landscape urbanism is a theory of urbanism arguing that landscape, rather than architecture, is more capable of organizing the city and enhancing the urban experience. The bottom line is that ‘beyond landscape urbanism’ design is not landscape urbanism. We caught up with Allen after the lecture and asked him something to the effect of how can we improve the working relationships between landscape architect and architects? He answer was along these lines, “You (landscape architects) should be happy, you are sitting pretty. The shift in the design field is moving in your direction. Your strength is in the fact that you can see the big picture, where as architects are focused intently on the building, and the building only, creating structures that are disconnected, but the you are the ‘tissue’, and work on everything between those isolated buildings. But it will take more time though before all the power is yours.” SUBSURFACE 2008

Allen spent as much time collaborating as he did with trying to undermine landscape architect’s by creating alternate genres, there would probably be amazing projects happening. As Allen points out, we (LA’s) do have skills that they don’t, but that also goes the other way because they (A’s) have skills that we don’t. Buy why should that be cause for bickering, we should be working for the common good and not personal stardom. I think there is a portion of the architecture profession that needs to reassess their goals and realize that their designs can have lasting effects on society and the planet, which create lasting impressions beyond their own ego. Don’t be fooled by the academic forum. People always have an agenda, particularly people with power, and especially people in power threatened with loosing that power. In what better venue to distill and spread a new design genre, ‘Beyond Landscape Urbanism’, than at a prestigious southern California architecture program? - by Jen Rueda






The undergrad class of 2008 at Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy. The Department of Landscape Architecture Italy Study Abroad Program 2007 SUBSURFACE 2008




“PROCEED + BE BOLD� - Samuel Mockbee This pilot issue of SUBSURFACE magazine provides the initial link in a network of thought. This netwotk will extend through time, and connect with the ever-expanding community of landscape architecture. It is a showcase of images and words, addressing the issues that concern students, academics, and professionals within our chosen field. > to be continued... SUBSURFACE 2008

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