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5 Models Afloat: Designing Our Own LA River

Article Photoby Worldchanging Los Angeles local blogger, Jennifer Murphy:

Following on Bruce Cheung's post "Some Imaginary Cities" about creative visualizations of the metropolis, I want to invite readers to check out another exhibit that re-imagines our city's physical and social landscape.

5 Models Afloat is an art exhibit and interactive model building project inspired by the L.A. River. Presented at downtown Gallery 727, this exhibit is based on the L.A. River Revitalization Master Plan, a project of the Los Angeles City Council Ad Hoc River Committee and LADWP.

As Siel explained here last Sunday, this plan looks at possible improvements along the 32-mile LA River aimed at "celebrating neighborhoods, protecting wildlife, promoting the health of the river, and leveraging economic development". By the end of the planning process, a 20-year blueprint for the river will be developed for implementation by the City of Los Angeles.

5 Models Afloat allows the public to physically lay out their visions for these improvements. Models of five different sites along the river have been constructed on large white tables. Tubs of playful and eclectic building materials are available to build villages, parkways, residential zones and whatever you can imagine. Legos, old knobs, bingo tiles, bolts, blocks, chess pieces and bottle caps find their way into neighborhoods Dr. Seuss would feel at home in.

The designs change and evolve as new participants come in and add to them. Since the plan is a 20 year blueprint for the river, children are especially encouraged to attend and contribute their ideas. Gallery owner James Rojas, an urban planner, invites people to stay as long as they wish during gallery hours. On Saturdays and Sundays, he's available for technical training on model building.

On the walls surrounding the tables hang artwork by 18 different artists inspired by the idea of revitalizing the river. The diverse collection, curated by Helen Campbell, includes one of Leo Limon's famous river cats, and a painting by Aristides Medina of the iconic blue Los Angeles River sign, revealing with its distressed, flame colored surface both the river's plight and its potential transformation .

Gallery 727 is located at 727 S. Spring St, in downtown Los Angeles. Hours are Friday and Saturday, 12 pm - 6 pm, Sundays 12 pm - 4 pm. The show will be up through Sunday, March 18, 2007.

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