play / 2016

The Green Alley PLAYlab: Pop-Up playscapes in the industrial alleys of Downtown Los Angeles.

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Co-led by Industrial District Green and Cal Poly Pomona Department of Landscape Architecture.

The Green Alley PLAYlab uses the power of play as a strategy to enhance human, ecological and economic health in the Industrial Neighborhoods’ green alleys.


Are any other organizations collaborating on this proposal?

USC Dept. of Architecture and Spatial Sciences Institute, USC Dept. of Occupational Therapy and Affiliates, Green Octopus Consulting, Richard Lerman, Sound Artist/Professor, Sound, Media & Digital Arts, Arizona State University

Please describe your project proposal.

Through the Green Alley PLAYlab we will temporarily transform a series of industrial alleys into playful public landscapes for the community. We envision these landscapes as labs for sensory driven experiments created by our collaborators who specialize in: healthcare, art, ecology and business development. This new model for community engagement builds momentum towards our ultimate goal of a green alley trail system that prioritizes human, ecological and economic health.

Which of the play metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play
  • Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities
  • Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park
  • Perceived safety

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to play?

Our proposal makes LA the best place to play because it recognizes the power of play to deepen our connection to the environment in which we live. This connection enriches the design potential for play in green alleys while serving as a replicable model for green alleys throughout Los Angeles. The expansion of the PLAYlab would significantly increase the number and quality of informal spaces for play, number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities, number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park and improve the perceived safety of neighborhoods.

A series of four pop-up events to take place over the course of 2017 will highlight a set of alleys that IDG has identified as the future green alley trail system. These pop-up events provide a common testing ground for our transdisciplinary team of collaborators - specializing in healthcare, art, ecology and business development - who will develop inventive research tools for community engagement. Some examples include: native plant tracking stations, mobility challenges, wildlife counting corridors, biodiversity monitoring soundscapes & water donation buckets from businesses. The playful and sensory-inducing quality of these tools is the essential ingredient for optimizing intergenerational and community participation. The diverse composition of our collaborators enables us to target populations specific to the Industrial Neighborhoods inclusive of humans and wildlife. The inclusion of a business strategist as one of our collaborators is essential to our project as its sustainability depends on a business plan for long-term maintenance of the green alleys. The new insights gained through the PLAYlab will be used to inform the design and implementation of the future green alley system.

As a partnership between IDG and Cal Poly Pomona Department of Landscape Architecture, the PLAYlab concept is about stimulating the public imagination about what the future green alleys could become. Unlike many typical community based greening proposals, this project does not follow conventional place-making formulas or participatory practice techniques; instead it embraces play as an engine for exchanging local and expert knowledge in a joint effort to ensure that human, ecological and economic health remain at the forefront at all times.

Building upon the committed efforts of IDG over the past two years, this project is grounded upon a wide network of support from business owners, developers, city administrators, local residents and environmental advocates. Cal Poly Pomona and IDG co-organized a green alley activation event this past summer as part the public art biennial CURRENT: LA Water. This effort serves as a launching pad for our current proposal. A 2050 grant will enable us to develop a full-blown pilot project intended to move IDG’s efforts to the next level by using the power of play as a strategy for invoking long awaited change.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

The following metrics will be used: • Number of visitors participating in the play-based experiments. • Time spent by visitors simply playing for fun. • Number of local residents attending the events. • Number of schools participating. • Number of visitors asking questions about the research or future green alley proposal. • Number of visitors interacting with the researchers and their level of interest. • Number of visitors from different generations interacting with each other. • Usefulness of data collected by the researchers.

Success will be measured throughout the project using our four PLAYlab pop-ups as benchmarks and using insights gained from one event to inform the next. Success will be measured not only by how many visitors attend the pop-up events but their level of engagement with the participatory research.

Our ultimate measurement of success for this project will be: community and outside visitor attendance, active participation by attendees and solid responsiveness by developers and City Agencies to take these projects to the next level of permanence.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support
  • Quality improvement research