Los Angeles is stereotyped as an urban metropolis congested with traffic and clouded in smog, and unfortunately few areas successfully fight that generalization.
Even with all its urban hot spots, Los Angeles possesses some residents who appreciate nature and find it important to keep the city close to its roots. Before the city became the urban sprawl it is today, much of it consisted of nature growing wild and free.
Among those people concerned in retaining a focus on nature in the city is architect and artist Lauren Bon, who decided to tend to 32 acres of land near Chinatown in July 2005. Bon planted millions of corn seeds, and the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks soon began developing a park.
Bon’s creation became known as “Not a Cornfield” and though only a temporary project, it received attention from radio stations, blogs, newspapers and other media outlets. The project also went hand in hand with the organization’s Farmlab and Metabolic Studio, both of which were dedicated to fostering artistic expression and preserving nature. The programs were located in a warehouse that held public events including workshops.
Though you can no longer find a giant cornfield today, the project evidently left a lasting impression on the surrounding area. Today, visitors can experience a location very different from Chinatown, despite being so close to the bustling cluster of restaurants, stores and galleries. The large stretch of land on North Spring Street now serves as the L.A. State Historic Park.
Before you enter the impressively large area of land, you can see a couple of run-down cars filled with dirt and plants nearby. The cars are completely open, allowing the plants inside to receive sunlight and grow. One of the cars is decorated with painted figures and has two small trees growing where the hood has been removed. The two cars harken back to Bon’s idea of introducing a dose of nature to the city; the plants inside could represent the city’s move to use concrete rather than preserve the natural green areas of the landscape.
Above one of those cars, on the wall of a nearby building, a neon sign reads “concrete is fluid.” The sign is not the only of its kind; in 2007, the neon sign read “another city is possible,” a fitting phrase to put over the building. Before that, the phrase “artists need to create on the same scale that society has the capacity to destroy” also shone in neon.
The rest of the suites in the building house small rooms for businesses factories. Walking across from this structure, visitors encounter the large space of land now known as the historical park. The acres offer a few different trails that provide a rare opportunity to simply wander among nature.
Admission is free and there is little need to travel too far from Downtown Los Angeles, as evidenced by the fact that visitors can spot the Downtown buildings from the park.
The park itself now contains various types of plants, some labeled by rocks with writing on them. From afar, the landscape looks endlessly green, but the area is populated with people and a few interesting spots.
Walking along what could be the middle of the plot, visitors will encounter a zen garden-like area with white sand. A small path leads into the circular plot of sand with a circle of stones in the middle. The sand is calming and reveals many footprints, making the walk into the small area a communal experience.
The park also includes a few wooden benches for relaxation. The area feels more like a get-away than a typical park. And though visitors can spot the Gold Line Metro station train occasionally whizzing by, this park generally strays from the city atmosphere and lets visitors get lost for as little or as long as they wish.
From the environmental efforts of one artist to the attention of a city, the spot proves rewarding and enjoyable when compared to Los Angeles’ other underrated spots. When any Angeleno feels overwhelmed by the familiar sights and sounds of the city, the park’s open gates can offer quite the getaway.
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Eva Recinos is a junior majoring in English. Her column “Nook & Cranny” runs Mondays.