If Woodbury University architectural students had their way, they would build a youth hostel at Sunset and Glendale boulevards, start a farmers' market on Sunset and post large canvases around Echo Park Lake to encourage people to paint on them.
These are some of the ideas proposed by a class of fourth-year architectural students taught by Echo Park resident Dennis Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth posed the question of "What is community?" to his class of 10 and directed them to come up with beautification and building ideas to help the community come together.
The students' designs have received mixed reviews from residents. But that's fine with Hollingsworth, whose main objective was to provoke discussion.
"Our community is sort of in transition," said Hollingsworth, a member of Echo Park 2000, a 9-month-old community group. The deterioration of the Sunset Boulevard business district has been debated recently and illuminates the need for community members to discuss ways to improve the area, Hollingsworth said.
He told his students to come up with ideas to beautify and unite the community. After breaking into three teams and researching the area, students proposed such ideas as banners and fountains along Sunset, small docks on Echo Park Lake for picnics and other gatherings, and canvasses around the lake so that strollers can sketch or paint.
New street lights on Sunset and food vendors around the lake could also bring people to the business district and promote interaction, the students suggested.
Hollingsworth then had each student design a building that could be located on Sunset. Hollingsworth required that most of the buildings feature combinations of residences and a business or service agency.
Students designed a health club, a child-care center, a medical clinic, an art gallery, a police station, a restaurant and a farmers' market, all with apartments and office space somewhere in the building. Other students designed a town hall with community theater facilities, a youth hostel with office space and a new Echo Park library.
During student presentations before Echo Park 2000 members, the beautification ideas drew praise, but most of the building designs were criticized for their largeness and urban look.
The students explained that they designed the buildings with the intent of uniting business and residential interests and putting as many uses as possible on one site. But many longtime Echo Park homeowners expressed concern that the community, as envisioned by the students, would become a concrete jungle.
Residents said they would prefer to see lower building heights and more gardens and open space. "We have to think of Echo Park as a place where people come to live," said Sue Nelson.
"Most of us are preservationists," said Juanita Dellomes.