Mia Lehrer on what makes a successful park, and how L.A. can build them

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Mia Lehrer on what makes a successful park, and how L.A. can build them
Mia Lehrer is an urbanist, a landscape architect whose "blue-sky" thinking imagines how the city's green spaces and places could be bigger and better, even in an epic drought
Mia Lehrer on what makes a successful park, and how L.A. can build them
Mia Lehrer is an urbanist, a landscape architect whose “blue-sky” thinking imagines how the city’s green spaces and places could be bigger and better, even in an epic drought

Landscape architect Mia Lehrer has designed some lavish private gardens in Los Angeles, but she has also made her mark with “guerrilla planning,” creating and blue-skying plans for parks and public spaces, from the harbor to Silver Lake. She’s Salvadoran by birth, and alert to analyzing how open-space needs and use by newcomers may teach L.A. how to enhance its footprint. Now that the drought is dictating terms, it’s also making new ones possible, and Lehrer doesn’t intend to miss the opportunity that scarce water provides to get Angelenos to regard the natural world in a way that makes sense here and now.

Out your office window, I see a lawn with a copse of pine trees in front of an office building. Size up that space for me.

It’s a simple park. There are people doing yoga, kids throwing balls, people with their dogs. It’s designed by Peter Walker, who was a professor and partner of mine. He did the World Trade Center. It’s used so much, and it speaks to the kind of spaces we need. You could use lawn varieties that use less water, also gray water from the building. You could drip-irrigate the pines once a week, the lawn could be a native meadow — and the doggies will be playing, people will still be doing yoga, but you would [cut] 75% of the water used now. Getting rid of 100% of lawns is not necessarily realistic for a city that needs these little oases. The issue is that about 70% of our lawns are in backyards, an enormous amount of water is used for them, and they’re more visual than functional. We can educate people about options.

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