The Skyvillage offers a radically different way of thinking about development in car-centric cities.
Los Angeles proposes some huge problems for urbanists who want to reduce Americans’ car use. Though urban planners malign freeways for destroying and dividing neighborhoods, the entire city is flat and spread out, and its network of highways seems crucial to its culture and way of being. How can LA be adapted for a more social, sustainable 21st century without massive disruptions? One unusual proposal, an honorable mention in the 2014 eVolo skyscraper competition, is Ziwei Song‘s Skyvillage, which lets LA residents have their cake and eat it too – it proposes to connect the city’s four quadrants (Downtown, Chinatown, Echo Park, and Temple Beaudry), which are separated by the freeways known as 101 and 110. There are more than 27 acres of wasted space around those roads, creating ample room for the structure to set down its pillars.
The admittedly pie-in-the-sky proposal is described as an “architecture organism” and would incorporate the mixed-use programming beloved by urbanists. It’s really more of an aspirational sketch than a fully-fledged idea – for example, it wasn’t specified how people will get into and out of the structure – but its goal of fulfilling residents’ living and entertainment needs within a half-mile radius is an honorable one. It breaks down the common assumption that tall towers in cities must always be isolated and have a single use. The ‘transitional’ spaces in the Skyvillage are as impressive as the main towers themselves, and they offer “rich spatial effects” that frame a view of downtown LA.
As for the ‘pollution-scrubbing’ aspect, the Skyvillage’s pillars will contain plants specifically chosen for their ability to filter pollution out of the air. CO2 emissions from the highway’s cars would be converted into breathable oxygen by these plants. It’s interesting to note, though, that little has been done with the actual green space on the ground around the highways in the rendering; perhaps it’s a matter of who owns the land, but the Skyvillage could potentially extend its tentacles further, improving the existing land around it. Though it would take a lot of work to make a proposal like this realistic, it offers a variety of radical ideas that could eventually creep into urban planning.