As the world continues to urbanize, the 133 or the Canyon as locals call it preserves itself in its majestic beauty even with its austere accountability as the main throughway between the highways and main beach in Laguna Beach. As the sun awakens the East Side of the canyon early in the morn’in, the denser, greener side still snoozes in the shadows most of the morning while the sun arcs its way over to the West Side of the road. The bend in the South West Side, although one wouldn’t spot an imported goat eating grass here, presents itself with a more dramatic beauty. Maybe that’s why homes are perched on the South East Side to enjoy the not-so-harsh sun in the late afternoon and leave the other side to the wildlife. Although you wouldn’t encounter an aged artist with a wrinkled face and a bent back coming out of his home on the South East Side, he may visit the Festival of the Arts building or LCAD both affectionately incorporating the landscape of the canyon on the other side. In addition to the student sculptures encompassing Laguna College Arts + Design, the aspirational natural wonder that can even be seen driving along the canyon takes your breath away. Approaching it by foot, I was drawn to its purity, its intensity…it was the portal of something so exceedingly remote to the untamed Wild West side of the canyon.
Was the intention to leave the enormous trunk on the ground instead of tidying up the landscape by removing the detached limb? It would take some forethought (not a popular route in the modern world) to see the vision of such contrast between past and present. The decomposed part of the tree against the morning light turns this campus landscape into a canvass which any visitor would be moved at its magnificence. So simple yet so trans-formative. Is it about design though? Sure that’s what the school is about arts and design. I’m not sure if it’s simply about the design. Nearly 700 college and university presidents have signed the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, pledging their schools as leaders “in their communities and throughout society by modeling ways to minimize global warming emissions and providing knowledge and educated graduates to achieve climate neutrality.” So is sustainability now a fixture in all decisions and discussions for architecture, engineering and landscape architecture, where transportation demands, landscape management, storm water management and an emphasis on native ecosystem design all come together in a rich and complex system?
The Canyon is my weekday commute and sometimes weekend ones. Even while zipping by at high speeds, I’m amazed at its untouched vastness and the beauty that lies beyond the road. These are the expansive lands inspired by Plein Air artists, however, I wonder what happens in the nook and crannies or how busy people of the canyon can be. From the cottage homeowners, business owners, Sawdust Festival courtyard or to the ever so creative students and faculty of LCAD, the Canyon is home to more than wildlife. Is the neighborhood surrounding your nest unexpectedly cherished by passerby’s? Is there an outdoor space that everyone knows by name but feels in-congruent with the environment? How can we make amends with Mother Nature and cherish the plot of land we call home? Ruben, Laguna Beach’s one and only community garden enthusiast, suggests even on the canyon there is room for improvement. I have to agree with his creative idea of the removal of the lofty trees on the median of the South Side, they really do not do the space any justice. If the landscape of the medium were lined with some low growing botanicals then the heights of the canyon would seem to soar.
These ubiquitous Southern California canyons and trails certainly are not new frontier of sorts, we should hope that projects such as LCAD will proliferate and welcome rugged individuals to come for the vistas and stay for the charm.