Ballona Arboretum

Year: Winter 2022
Course: Building Design Studio
Instructor: Max Kuo
Team: NA

This project proposes an arboretum and research center that supports urban greening initiatives through scientific, cultural, and aesthetic modes. A forest of structural columns is manipulated off of a regular grid based on adjacencies and orientations to the program, site, and internal flora and are used to create a convolution between these component actors.

The project, located at the edge of Playa Del Rey, is situated on a protected wetland that is bisected by Ballona Creek. This waterway is part of Los Angeles’ water management strategy and regularly fills, and the wetland is further at risk of flooding based on projections of sea level rise and high rain events. The arboretum responds to this risk as well as loose soil and sand deposits as a ground condition by collecting columns into clusters that operate as structural piles. A double slab supports soil necessary for the plantings in the elevated pavilion, and columns are oriented in relationship with each other and aggregate to compensate for the stiffness and buckling risks of the narrow edge of these structural supports. Research rooms and a small working auditorium are located among the volumes and various paths throughout allow access to the plant matter by the visiting public. This wild, exuberant internal urbanism questions the relationship between nature and artifice.