Rapid Landscape Prototyping Machine for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's Owens Lake Dust Control Project in Inyo County, CA

This project undertakes designing, building, and deploying a custom rapid landscape prototyping machine to improve the design of dust mitigation landscapes at the Owens Lake near Lone Pine, California. 

Gradually desiccated by the diversion of water into 1914 Los Angeles Aqueduct the ~108 sq. mile Owens Lake became the single greatest source of deleterious PM10 air particulate pollution.  After years of litigation, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) was mandated to manage this hazard and has built dust control landscapes costing over 1 billion dollars with annual potable water expenditures equal to the needs of the city of San Francisco. Because the project must abide by the State’s Public Trust Doctrine the utility has found it difficult to find water efficient ways to control dust, while still providing public values.

The rapid landscape prototyping machine addresses this complex and timely design challenge. Hybridizing engineering physical modeling techniques, robotic technology, digital projection, and 3D scanning the machine creates a new multi-sensory design platform to rigorously address the design issues present on the alkali lake. The machine creates a common ground where designers, engineers, and the public can fluidly engage in the multiple concerns inherent to the infrastructure. The designs developed with this machine are presented within an interactive multi-media landscape “player” that employs 21st century interactive pictorial representations to immerse users in the on-going search for resource efficient public values for the lake.

See The Spoils of Dust for related publication.

Site Research and Perceptual Studies

Due to the massive scale of this infrastructural landscape, it is critical that any intervention is carefully scaled to efficiently match performance parameters. Following the methodologies and findings of Tadiko Higuchi, qualitative perceptual effects are calibrated to quantitative measurements of space. Dust control technologies, existing and proposed, are mapped according to engineering and public trust values. The spatial performance logistics of each dust control technology is carefully studied and represented in preparation for modeling.

Machine Development and Topographic Studies

Based on site research and engagement, a custom landscape prototyping machine system was developed to create dust control landscape morphologies. A robotic arm and other industrial technologies modeled scaled sand representations. The physical exploration of sedimentary construction was informed by feedback from a 3D scanner, paired with custom visualization and analysis software; linking digital and physical techniques and enabling a rigorous exploration of performance form.

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"Greetings from Owens Lake" Public Design Engagement

The initial seventeen iterations of sand landscape topographies for dust control mitigation on the Owens Lake have been been vacuum formed and are presented in public forums with an interactive hybrid digital / analog interface. The landscape “player” engages people in developing and evaluating final design treatments for the topographies within a visual environment that merges pictorial traditions with perspectives of power, control, and public resources. The output of the engagement is distributed and shared to propagate dialogues that advance expectations for what the Owens Lake is and could be.

ACADIA Conference (preview)
@ USC University Campus
March 4th 2015 - April 4th 2015

Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (L A C E) "After the Aqueduct"
6522 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
March 4th-April 12th, 2015

"ambiguous territory: architecture, landscape, and the postnatural"
Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Univesity of Michigan, Ann Arbor
September 27-October 18, 2017

Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center
U.S. 395, Lone Pine, CA 93545

Upcoming in works...