Not a Cornfield artist has a new idea for downtown

Lauren Bon's latest project is to install a large working water wheel to extract water out of the Los Angeles River (once the city's main source) and irrigate land beside the Broadway bridge, near the Los Angeles State Historic Park where her cornfield transformed a former train yard in 2005. The water wheel, similar in concept to many that once lifted water out of the river, would be timed to next year's 100th anniversary of the opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct from the Owens Valley.

“I think it’s really critical for us to take a pause and think about our definition of the city,” Bon says. “My position is that it’s time to look at the next hundred years. This work is about saying we need to do a lot better very quickly with figuring out two things: how to retain our water and how to send the rest of it out to sea cleaner.”

From a story at Supervisor Yaroslavsky's ZevWeb.

Indeed, the water wheel—to be known by its Spanish name, “LA Noria”—is expected to play a hard-working role that goes well beyond its aesthetics. Powered by the flow of the L.A. River, the turning wheel would lift river water in buckets high above the ground. The lifted water would be filtered, transported via a flume or pipe and used to irrigate the 32-acre state park while the rest rejoins the river on its way to the ocean. The project team estimates the wheel could provide 28 million gallons a year for park irrigation, potentially a $100,000-plus annual savings.

Mark Hanna, an engineer with Geosyntec Consultants who is working on the project, says the river, with 80 cubic feet of water per second flowing through “at the lowest point in the driest season,” is perfectly capable of powering the wheel.

The project to build the 60-foot wheel, with 30 feet visible above ground, is being developed and designed by Bon and her Metabolic Studio, a philanthropic endeavor of the Annenberg Foundation, of which she is a vice president and director. Exact costs aren’t yet known but are expected to reach several million dollars by the time the project is finished.

Building the wheel is one challenge. Navigating the complex maze of official permissions needed to make it a reality is another.

The prototype:


Top photo: LA Observed. Bottom photo: ZevWeb

More by Kevin Roderick:
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