Archive for the ‘engineering’ Tag

Los Angeles River bridge walk

The LA River cuts through the eastern edge of downtown Los Angeles, deep in a concrete jungle of warehouses, trendy lofts, America’s largest Skid Row, and some of the busiest commercial areas of the city. A series of historic bridges were built in the early 20th century, to provide essential infrastructure, but also to re-build after disastrous flooding along the river. The channel itself was covered in concrete mid-century, so very few traces of the wooded, meandering river still exist.

Downtown, from north to south, it starts with the complex of bridges of the Arroyo Seco Parkway and the unusual sidewalk that straddles the northbound and southbound lanes of the 110. I’ve written about that in a previous post. South of this are the Broadway, Spring, North Main, Cesar Chavez, 1st, 4th, 6th, 7th, Olympic Blvd., and Washington Blvd. bridges, ranging from the modest to the grand, built between 1905 and 1933. They’re perhaps the most hidden and underappreciated structures of the city, beautifully detailed, but mercilessly spray painted, graffitied, and covered in trash. They are also the most viewed structures in the city, appearing in countless commercials and movies. Seismically, they were built before current earthquake code, and many aspects of the bridges have been modified, or copied, or widened. So in classic LA fashion, they look unchanged from a distance, but up close, the changes, makeup, and restoration really show. The development of the Arts District on the west side of the river and the slow gentrification of Boyle Heights on the east, has brought the bridges back in focus, and they are busy creative spaces. It’s easy to find a fashion or film shoot going on at any hour, but also easy to find solitary, creepy zones.

I put together a route that links the bridges in downtown LA, which can be found in the link below, and walked them in June 2015. I’ll try to post on my walk in a future entry on this blog. Happy exploring!

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Sixth Street Viaduct, Los Angeles

Another post about a doomed structure.

This is LA’s grandest bridge, and at 3500 feet in length, the longest span over the industrial LA River basin. The Sixth Street Viaduct (Bridge) isĀ one of the city’s most recognized landmarks, seen in countless movies, commercials, and photos. There’s usually someone filming in the river basin below, and plenty of photographers in the area, despite the rather desolate setting of the immediate area. Technically, it’s a viaduct, crossing the river and several 1950s-era freeway spans before becoming Whittier Blvd. in Boyle Heights. The design is classic Art Deco, with a graceful, asymmetric double arch where it bends and crosses the river. The eastern entrance is a modified, angled obelisk, with a classic view of downtown LA in the distance.

Soaring over the industrial flats east of the LA River.

Soaring over the industrial flats east of the LA River.

It’s also crumbling, the concrete mix used in construction was faulty, and the structure was deteriorating from the start. The bridge was completed in 1932, and demolition will start in summer 2015. Fortunately, the replacement bridge is a stunning design with a clear nod to the old one.

View from near Santa Fe Avenue.

View from near Santa Fe Avenue, January 2014.

LA skyline from the bridge.

LA skyline from the bridge.

A closeup view shows lots of loose concrete, plenty of cracks, and structural damage. The structural problems led to many changes in the architecture of the bridge over the years. The fancy central pylon was removed a few years after completion, and the piers at the ends of the arches were shortened.

The Sixth Street Bridge as is appeared shortly after completion. Note Art Deco central pylon. Photo from LA Public Library collection.

The Sixth Street Bridge as is appeared shortly after completion. Note Art Deco central pylon. Photo from LA Public Library collection.

The bridge as it appeared in 1950, photo by William Reagh, from the LA Public Library collection. Central pylon has been removed.

The bridge as it appeared in 1950, with the central pylon removed. Photo by William Reagh, from the LA Public Library collection.