March 31, 2006 7:36 AM   Subscribe

FOVICKS - Friends Of Vast Industrial Concrete Kafkaesque Structures - a photo essay on the concrete geometries of the Los Angeles River flood control channels. [via inhabitat]
posted by carter (24 comments total)
Nice post. Also, I just watched Chinatown again one night last week.
posted by at 7:38 AM on March 31, 2006

Very, very cool. "That certainly looks like a cell phone tower in the background." Heh.
posted by everichon at 7:44 AM on March 31, 2006

Ah, I was gonna post this. Found it through another BLDBLOG (fantastic blog, while we're at it - check out today's post on reefs) link here on MeFi.

Stunning stuff. I've always wondered what these things were, they kept popping up in every goddamn Hollywood action flick I saw.

Vast Industrial Concrete Kafkaesuq Structures: Inadvertent Hollywood Backdrops.
posted by Haarball at 7:49 AM on March 31, 2006

posted by beerbajay at 7:50 AM on March 31, 2006

Come with me if you want to live.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:53 AM on March 31, 2006

That's a great site and reminds me of the heart of the web -- people obsessed with things and willing to share all their knowledge about it.
posted by mathowie at 8:05 AM on March 31, 2006

Excellent find.
posted by boo_radley at 8:24 AM on March 31, 2006

Wicked stuff, I presume when the river's travelling at 45mph people get their inflatable rafts out...
posted by RufusW at 8:43 AM on March 31, 2006

I fully expected to be bored by this, but it was fascinating. Nice post.
posted by brain_drain at 8:44 AM on March 31, 2006

I've been a FOVICKS myself since over 30 years ago, when I participated in a radio stunt that staged a dinner party for over 100 people IN the L.A. River (summertime, dry season, of course). We were about a mile south of that last picture at the junction in South Gate. It was all on one side of the 'notch' where water was flowing (and not smelling too bad). The slope down the bank was easy to walk, and the flat bottom could've easily accommidated several THOUSAND folks at the "dinner party". But it was radio, and pretty low-budget. The meal was 'catered' by KFC in exchange for on-the-air promotion, and a representative of the flood control district made an intentionally boring speech as part of the deal permitting us down there. I thought at the time it would've been a great place for competitive skateboarding, but today, the slopes just aren't 'radical' enough.
posted by wendell at 8:54 AM on March 31, 2006

I kept expecting to see a picture of Schwarzenegger on a motorbike.
I would have loved these with a skateboard back when.
Some of these waterways are freakin' massive.
Great post thanks carter.
posted by peacay at 8:59 AM on March 31, 2006

Damn. And here I was thinking I was the only one who did things like this.

Santa Ana River (downstream)

Santa Ana River (upstream)

posted by loquacious at 9:32 AM on March 31, 2006

posted by VulcanMike at 9:58 AM on March 31, 2006

I have a bunch more photos somewhere but I can't seem to find 'em. (And yeah, the camera I used on those shots is ancient. 640x480 Ricoh 300z!)

peacay: I've skateboarded dozens of various concrete flood channels all over SoCal, from about as large as the one in my last post and larger, to much smaller ones with various banks and kinks.

It's less entertaining then you'd think. The concrete is often very rough or even intentionally corrugated, the amount of pebble-sized instant-stop debris is profound, and often there's a thin layer of broken glass shards everywhere.

"Surfing" the banks is entirely possible, and you can coast for a very, very long ways if you're good, but it's often more work trying to stick to the wall then it would be to just go up to the asphalt trail on the top of the banks and kick along as flatlander. The walls are very rough and steep, and there's expansion joints and wheel-swallowing cracks every dozen feet or so, or sometimes every hundred yards if you're lucky.

The grades straight down the banks are deceptively steep. Many of them are hard enough just to walk down without tumbling.

I have a few friends who were dumb enough to try bombing straight down them from the top and they probably still have the scars to prove it. There's nothing quite like picking questionably biologically contaiminated glass chunks and pebbles out of someone with a pocket knife from a square foot of weeping, oozing road rash the color and texture of raw steak.

I've dropped some of those walls from just a dozen or two dozen feet up on a skateboard and the instant speed is considerable. Two or three pebble stops and hard rolls on concrete later and I wasn't amused by the experience at all.

What we would do, though, is find good banks and kinks under overpasses and bridges, making makeshift skateparks out of straight or bent plywood and using the bridge pylons as supports, we could drop in on the bank, hit our makeshift quarter pipes against the bridge pylon and go for killer wall rides. I've seen guys 30 feet up a vertical wall making transfers between a pair of single sheets of bent, unsupported plywood. They used to slap stickers up on the bottom of the bridges in some spots.

There's also these guys that do urban rock wall climbing by using pre-existing features or by epoxying and bolting rocks and finger grips to the walls. I remember that one took me ages to figure out 'cause there'd be all these chalk marks and finger prints 20-30 feet up in the air surrounding blank spots where the epoxied rocks used to be before flood control workers came and chiseled them off, leaving strange sunflower shapes in chalk. They looked like some kind of weird life form had been there nesting on the wall exuding a white substance before vanishing and having the nest fall off.

Weird, weird places. And don't get me started on the underground storm drains or I'll be here all day!
posted by loquacious at 10:04 AM on March 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

A great early-internet "share my compusion" site. Haven't seen one of those in a dog's age...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:08 AM on March 31, 2006

It's also fun to follow the course of the LAR with Google maps; in this post-Web-17.0 all-mashups-all-the-time age I was actually a little surprised to find this site was an "old school" set of static photographs interspersed with regular old text. No Flash, no AJAX - 'tis quaint ;-)
posted by kcds at 11:25 AM on March 31, 2006

What kcds said: I've been "touring" the LAR all morning this way. Flushing productivity down the storm drain.
posted by everichon at 12:39 PM on March 31, 2006

This sort of thing is what I feel like is really neat about the web. A really plain, no-frills site about something I never would have known about, written by someone who is passionate about it, and makes it interesting.
posted by raedyn at 1:20 PM on March 31, 2006

Friend of Kafkaesque.
posted by ColdChef at 1:39 PM on March 31, 2006

Funny thing is I pitched basically that photo/story idea to Sierra Magazine back in 1996. Rejected.

I had done a piece for them on the rubber tappers in the Brazilian Amazon and had just moved back here to Orange, California.

They asked me if I had any other ideas and I suggested something I had just finished, photographing the Santa Ana River from start to finish.

The river starts off as a lovely mountain spring and turns into an ugly cement channel much like the L. A. River when it reaches the Pacific.

I wound up giving he slides to an environmental group that was trying to establish a park along the river, and never saw those images again.

Oh well, I thought I was on to something.
posted by BillyElmore at 7:54 PM on March 31, 2006

Different, but see also the LA Aqueduct Atlas. Available as a PDF through a CC license! I'm totally following this tour on the hybrid view of GoogleMaps.
posted by Eideteker at 10:18 PM on March 31, 2006

posted by Gator at 10:25 PM on March 31, 2006

Same with the Google Maps. I was double-clicking for about an hour -- it was really cool to identify the photo locations from above.

But I was very annoyed at his continued use of Kafkaesque: Marked by surreal distortion and often a sense of impending danger. I think he meant Stalinist, or Brutalist (which is at least a concrete-based architecture).

I was surprised that he skipped some of the more notable landmarks along the way such as the Sepulveda Dam or some of the interesting bridges.
posted by dhartung at 12:53 AM on April 1, 2006

I cant take the Kafka-esque either...for one thing, too much color, no?
posted by JohnnyK at 6:53 AM on April 6, 2006

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