The Los Angeles Aqueduct turned 100 on November 5, and the city has been partying hard. In a performance-art piece designed by Lauren Bon and Metabolic Studios, 100 mules plus their handlers walked along the 240 miles of the aqueduct from the Eastern Sierras to its terminus at The Cascades. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County staged a special exhibit to honor the centennial. And Department of Water and Power (LADWP) employees reenacted the opening of the Cascades’ spill gates, accompanied by descendants of Los Angeles Aqueduct Engineer William Mulholland.
The LADWP also unveiled a more lasting tribute to the aqueduct and Mulholland. The Los Angeles Aqueduct Centennial Garden, built around the existing Mulholland Fountain in Griffith Park, was the brainchild of staff in the LADWP operations and maintenance office. According to Richard Harasick, Manager of Operations and Maintenance at LADWP, the project started with a plan to replaster and rededicate the fountain. “We were working on that, spending time [at Mulholland Fountain], and we thought: maybe we can do this one better,” he explained. Harasick and his staff came up with the idea for the garden as an interpretive monument to the aqueduct.
The Los Angeles Aqueduct Centennial Garden, Harasick said, has a two-fold purpose. First, it memorializes the aqueduct by recreating its journey from the northeast. A walking path beginning in the far corner of the garden mimics the course of the aqueduct. To one side of the path, a trapezoidal concrete curb, embedded with blue glass to evoke running, recalls the shape of the original aqueduct channels. Elements along the path, including mile markers and signs for the cities through which the aqueduct travels, are built of Corten steel, metal flanges, and other materials used by the LADWP in its water projects. The path terminates at a replica of The Cascades, which in turn leads to the Mulholland Memorial Compass, a concrete circle ten feet in diameter, with aluminum letters forming Mulholland’s famous declaration: “There it is. Take it!”
Near the compass is a section of the original aqueduct pipe, large enough for visitors to stand in or climb through. “We were strategic with where we placed the pipe,” Harasick said. “The idea is that when you stand in the pipe, behind you is the remembrance of Mulholland. Looking forward, you see what he accomplished. Looking forward is what we will continue to do in the future with bringing water to Los Angeles.”
The garden, which was planned by Pamela Burton & Company in cooperation with the LADWP, also demonstrates water-wise landscaping. The LADWP planted the garden with approximately 20 different climate-appropriate species, including Red Marin Agave, Red Yucca, Waverly Sage, and California Native Sedge. In the process, it removed 75 percent of the grass around Mullholland Fountain, thus significantly reducing the garden’s water needs. Harasick hopes that the combination of the garden’s message about the source of their water and the drought-tolerant landscaping will inspire visitors to practice conservation at home.