Sunday, October 28, 2012

Honoring Los Angeles' Sixth Street Bridge

Among Los Angeles' least-celebrated treasures are her bridges. Not that they don't have their admirers, but the glorious concrete and steel spans that cross the Los Angeles River, as well as her tributary the Arroyo Seco, just don't tend to get a lot of attention. They seem to do a lot of filming down at the bridges and along the river, but nobody talks about the bridges much. There has been an exception lately, which is the Sixth Street Bridge, only the attention it has been receiving isn't exactly the good kind.

Apparently, the concrete of the Sixth Street Bridge has been diagnosed as having Alkali-Silica Reaction, or
ASR. This is a chemical reaction among the concrete's ingredients that eventually causes the concrete to expand. This expansion creates internal pressures inside the concrete, which increase until the concrete starts breaking apart. (Mind you, not breaking apart as in exploding, but more like crumbling.)

About a year ago, the L.A. City Council voted to replace the bridge, and earlier this week they announced the winning entry from among 3 teams that participated in the competition. There is a YouTube channel at this link, where you can see short videos of all 3 competition entries.  The 3 teams were Parsons Brinckerhoff, AECOM, and HNTB with Michael Maltzan. HNTB/Maltzan won, and you can read more about the new bridge over at CurbedLA.

Back when I worked at Studio Works, we were just a stones throw from the 6th St. Bridge. I made many a trip across it at lunch time, for the excellent tacos at Carnitas Michoacan. It's just across the river, about a block or two beyond the end of the bridge on the left side, corner of Whittier and Soto. Those have to be some of the best tacos in L.A.  If you look closely at the taco stand, you can see that the place used to be a filling station. Look up above the counters where you order, and you can see the garage doors still up there in the ceiling. But I digress (and I'm making myself hungry!)

Since we've been having some pretty outrageously bright and clear mornings of late, and you never know when the next 7.0 is going to come rumbling through and reduce our beloved viaduct to a pile of steel and rubble, I went out and spent some time around, under, and on the bridge. I was reminiscing, and studying, as well as just enjoying. I'm not quite ready to mourn, but I will when the time comes for that.

I started off by checking out the bridge from the east side, and eventually made my way across the 7th Street Bridge, which is the next one to the south. I got out and walked back out on the 7th St. Bridge and took some pictures looking north. Click to embiggen.

The distinguishing feature of the Sixth Street Bridge is its mirrored pair of eccentric steel arches that carry the roadway across the L.A. River. The vast majority of the bridge is concrete, and just that center portion employs steel as the primary structural element. It is this hybrid combination of materials that makes the bridge so unique. There are a lot of concrete bridges out there, and a lot of steel ones. It's not uncommon to see a steel bridge with concrete abutments or piers, but you rarely see the two materials integrated so artfully into one structure.

In plan, the bridge isn't a straight line. It bends in the middle, so that the western flank is nearly straight east-west, but the eastern flank aims slightly south-easterly. This heightens the visibility of the steel arches as you approach from the west, since they are not in a straight line with your direction of travel.

You can see this in the image below, taken from alongside the western approach:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Garden Make-out Bench

Between March and September of 2009, I wrote a few blog posts under the Parson Studio Group banner, before I launched Creatures of Prometheus as my main blogging platform. Since the old PSG web site is now being completely re-branded and re-designed, and the old blog will go away when my new website launches, I will be occasionally re-releasing some of those posts here over the coming months. 

This post originally appeared on the Parson Studio Group blog on September 23, 2009.
I was recently approached by a collector who bought 2 of my pieces last November, when I participated in the Arroyo Artists' Collective fall show.  Said individual indicated that he was going to a wedding and wanted a piece he could give as a gift, and wanted to know what I had in stock.  As it turns out, he also prefers my furniture unfinished, that is to say without any paint or coating.  He would rather let it rust naturally.
Since I didn't have anything that wasn't already powder coated, I seized the opportunity to make a new piece and innovate a little bit.  (Especially since I had the idea for this all worked out in my mind, and had been wanting to try it.)
I had these two steel tube remnants that were already cut to this shape when I got them:

And I had the idea to do a bench like this:

So it was a pretty simple matter to weld the center seam and add legs.

The biggest question I had was whether or not it would need a fifth leg at the apex, which it did.  I thought it probably would, but wasn't sure.  I also thought that if it were needed, the fifth leg might bother me.  As it turns out, it doesn't bother me at all.
I did, however, put myself through a major aesthetic inquiry to make sure I was satisfied with this style of leg for this object.  I actually debated myself and agonized over it for the better part of an afternoon.  I almost changed them to boomerangs at the last minute, but that will be another bench for another day.
The last step was to add the chrome feet.

When I first sat on it, I realized that the size and angle of the bench give it a really intimate feel.  If you share it with someone else, you aren't just sitting next to them, you are actually slightly facing them, and at pretty close range, with your legs more or less sharing the same space.  With the right companion, it pretty much lends itself to (if not downright encourages) putting your arm around them, and getting in close for a little smoochin'.  Especially if you find yourselves sitting under a shady tree, in a partly-concealed corner of a secret garden somewhere (as opposed to the concrete driveway in front of my shop, where these shots were taken.)
So, I think it is the perfect wedding gift!  Cheers to the newlyweds!