Design Story: Landscape Architect, Rhett Beavers, ASLA

Last Updated: June 10, 2011

3780 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010, USA

Read Landscape Architect, Rhett Beavers', ASLA, design story, about how we can find place in history and how epiphanies slowly happen....

For me, epiphanies come as a series of insights and plateaus of understanding. It takes time to think about things we see, things we know and things we suspect. I suspect for most people this is true.

I don't think I've ever had an epiphany in the normal sense of a giant powerful blast of consciousness and awakening. Mine, one might say, are more in the lines of a continual unfolding of awareness. Products of conscious thinking about a subject, mulling it over and over, letting the thoughts sit quietly. Slowly, understanding unfolds like the way the fine clay particles are released only in quiet water and not in the purling and braiding of a running stream.

As a landscape architect, like architects, I see. Sometimes I don't understand what I'm seeing. Sure, it's a structure or a form, a house or lump on the land - I understand this but I often don't understand why. So I think about these things.

For the past 15 years I've been thinking about scraps of landscapes - those little remnants that lie quietly off to the side. Those voiceless shards of the past I've learned, have a story to tell.

I spoke of seeing, now I want to speak about voice. About finding a voice.

It's taken me 15 years to get to the point of sitting here and telling this story. It's taken 15 years to understand and speak about what I've been seeing. What I now realize is that for 15 years I've been telling stories.

So now, I'm going to tell you a story, this one about finding voice - this one about old Mose and Victoria.

We're working with one of the great institutional gardens here on the idea of stories as a way to interpret a 200 year-old landscape. A landscape that is now a verdant garden but was once an important rancho. A landscape scraped clean, time after time - a landscape imbued with the past and always a landscape of abundance.

What we see today is only the top layer of a palimpsest of landscapes - grapes, citrus, grazing lands, full of people - Chinese, Filipino, Mexican, African-American, Anglo, Native American - individually, all anonymous people.

We tell of Mose, who, as a young man was a runaway slave in North Carolina and we have him sitting in a wagon looking at the cool, clear water of a little lake and thinking about his past and his gratitude; about the abundance of this landscape and the abundance in his life.

We speak of Victoria, the woman who, in 1800, received the land grant from the Spanish government and about a grape crush in the 1840's. About the Native Americans who picked and crushed the grapes. About the smells and sounds of this dusty landscape. About the social injustice of the times. About abundance exploited.

The stories of Mose and Victoria tell the story of everyman. There was not a Mose, per se; he represents a group of anonymous people who were very much a part of this larger landscape. A landscape now peopled with folks from all over the world, who are not from here and don't know about the ground they live on. It's our job to connect these folks with their past so that they live connected, in some way, to where they live.

These stories and these scraps visibly remind us of the continuum of history on our little pieces of land and encourage an emotional attachment with this piece of ground and with the larger landscape. In doing so, home becomes more than a house. We become active participants in the history of our little piece of land.

Rhett Beavers, ASLA Landscape Architect/Planner


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Nathalia Morales-Evanks, nathalia@aialosangeles.org ,
Communications Coordinator at AIA|Los Angeles

Last updated: 11-Dec-2012 08:34 AM
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