Office of Outdoor Research, 
Landscape Morphologies Lab

Rapid Landscape Prototyping Machine (RLPM)

For the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's Owens Lake Dust Control Project in Inyo County

This project undertakes designing, building, and deploying a custom rapid landscape prototyping machine to improve the design of dust mitigation landscapes at the Owens Lake near Lone Pine, California.

Gradually desiccated by the diversion of water into 1914 Los Angeles Aqueduct the ~108 sq. mile Owens Lake became the single greatest source of deleterious PM10 air particulate pollution.  After years of litigation, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) was mandated to manage this hazard and has built dust control landscapes costing over 1 billion dollars with annual potable water expenditures equal to the needs of the city of San Francisco. Because the project must abide by the State’s Public Trust Doctrine the utility has found it difficult to find water efficient ways to control dust, while still providing public values.

The rapid landscape prototyping machine addresses this complex and timely design challenge. Hybridizing engineering physical modeling techniques, robotic technology, digital projection, and 3D scanning the machine creates a new multi-sensory design platform to rigorously address the design issues present on the alkali lake. The machine creates a common ground where designers, engineers, and the public can fluidly engage in the multiple concerns inherent to the infrastructure. The designs developed with this machine are presented within an interactive multi-media landscape “player” that employs 21st century interactive pictorial representations to immerse users in the on-going search for resource efficient public values for the lake.

Example “Capability” transect.

Jillian Waliss & Heike Insa Rahmann, Landscape Architecture and Digital Technologies: Re-conceptualizing Design and Making, Routledge, 2016

Bradley Cantrell & Justine Holzman, Responsive Landscapes: Strategies for Responsive Technologies for Landscape Architecture, Routledge, 2015

Nadia Amoroso, Representing Landscape: Digital, Routledge, 2015

Jennifer Reut, “Greetings from Owens Lake,” Landscape Architecture Magazine, July 2018

Josh Stephens, “Making by Seeing,” Architect’s Newspaper, November, 4, 2015

See The Spoils of Dust for a comprehensive description.

Project generously funded by the Lauren Bon and the Metabolic Studio, USC Provost’s Office AHSS Grant, and the GPUAPCD (initial studies). 

Copyright oOR / LMLab, 2022 — Los Angeles, CA