For those who may not know, a parkway, as it's known in Los Angeles, is the belt of space in between a sidewalk and the curb. These parkways are situated in a peculiar place in between notions of "private" and "public," they're heavily trafficked, and often ignored or misused.
AltParkwaysLA imagines what could be possible if parkways were used for something different. What if the resources dedicated to watering these virtually unused spaces was redirected? By illustrating the extravagant alternatives to these parkways, and by focusing on them as separate entities from residential lawns, I hope to open up the dialogue about how our resources are used, and to be mindful of the archaic nature of some everyday practices in Los Angeles. Why is our city built this way? How have our priorities changed since then?
Southern California is a desert, after all, and fresh water is not an endless commodity. Even today, one out of nine people worldwide lack access to clean water. Meanwhile, Angelenos continue to water their lawns every day so it can look nice next to their neighbor’s equally green lawn.
It’s time to shift perspective.
Every time I see someone mindlessly blowing leaves onto a street, I roll my eyes and wonder why we still deal with such antiquated practices. I decided one night while walking my dog and happened upon a broken sprinkler head shooting water straight into the air that lawns would be the subject of my independent project.
Although this was a good start, I had to get more specific. During our initial critique it was suggested that I speak with Mike Manalo, who gave me excellent advice and recommended ArcGIS, a mapping app that can measure distances, create paths, etc. He encouraged me to hone in on one aspect of lawns, create a map as a quick exercise, and go from there.
I walked around my block with my dog as I do several times each day, and took a photo of each parkway (the small 5-foot strips of grass between the curb and the sidewalks).
My walk led me to the following questions: How many of these parkways were on my block alone? How much space do they take up total, and how much water do they use?
I found that on my block alone, approximately 5,000 square feet was taken up by these parkways, which roughly translates to 3,500 gallons of water per week to upkeep (500 per day, 182,000 per year!). Now that I had these numbers, what can I do with them?
I started researching what ridiculous things I could do with that much water and/or that much space. In order to put things in perspective while keeping the mood light, I found all kinds of ridiculous alternatives: A cattle ranch, a jacuzzi, a water park, giant slip-n-slides, etc.
Most importantly was the addition of social media to the project. I opened a Twitter account called @AltParkwaysLA, and set up tweets with random facts using automation with IFTTT, speaking from the point of view of the actual block, aka "Your Lawn." Using this voice allows residents to hear these facts from a different perspective and point of view, allowing for a unique learning experience.