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12.22.20 – Alumna Sing Zixin Chen wins an award from the Society of American Registered Architects

Sing Zixin Chen, a 2020 graduate of the Daniels Faculty's Master of Landscape Architecture program, is no stranger to accolades. She recently racked up another victory: one of her student projects received an honour award from the Society of American Registered Architects.

Sing's was one of six student designs recognized at the "honour" level (there is also a higher "excellence" level) of the the 2020 SARA National Design Awards, which are granted annually. She created her winning project for Longitudinal Landscapes: Memory, Medium, and Mobilization, a third-year option studio taught by Justine Holzman.

Sing Zixin Chen

Sing Zixin Chen.

Students in Holzman's option studio studied the Los Angeles River, a once-natural waterway that now flows through Los Angeles in a manmade concrete channel. For their final projects, students developed proposals for redesigning the river, taking into consideration a real-world revitalization effort that is being led by the Army Corps of Engineers. The studio made a (pre-COVID) class trip to Los Angeles to view the site in person.

Sing approached the problem by thinking about the site's various users, both human and animal. Her project introduces a series of interventions designed to replicate the type of underwater environment that would be found in a natural river. At the same time, she widens the water channel to create space for human enjoyment.

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Renderings of Sing's winning design.

The design creates different kinds of underwater habitats by manipulating the speed and direction of the river's flow. Tight curves and strategically placed underwater boulders and logs are intended to slow down the water, allowing the river to deposit sediment and form pools where fish can live. Shallower curves allow the water to speed up, creating areas ideal for recreational boating and other human activities. Along the river's banks, Sing envisioned a network of public amenities, including fishing platforms and parks.

"The naturalization of the Los Angeles River has been the subject of design and engineering exploration for over two decades," says Liat Margolis, director of the Daniels Faculty's Master of Landscape Architecture program. "The SARA jury recognized that Sing's proposal offers a new possibility of braiding concrete and riparian vegetation to reconcile the extreme conditions of deluge, drought, and restoring the river's life."

The SARA award has been a confidence booster for Sing, who is now working her first job in the profession, as a landscape designer at SvN Architects + Planners. "I was really happy and honoured to win this award," she says. "This was one of my favourite school projects. I enjoyed it and the design studio. And having the chance to travel to Los Angeles was a fun and memorable experience."