Key Waterway to L.A., Verdugo Wash, Eyed for Opportunities (Buro Happold and !melk)

By kaylamorgan
Aug 9, '21 5:16 PM EST
Courtesy of Buro Happold
Courtesy of Buro Happold

The innovative global consultancy Buro Happold has been commissioned by the City of Glendale, Calif., on a team led by urban design and landscape architecture firm !melk to reimagine a nine-mile tributary joining with the Los Angeles River, called the Verdugo Wash.

Now flowing through channels almost entirely lined with concrete, the Verdugo Wash tributary offers opportunities for both ecological restoration as well as recreation and bicycle and pedestrian trails. The team headlined by !melk and Buro Happold will develop a greenway plan with new connections between Glendale’s diverse communities and creating an attractive public space amenity with ample areas for events and activities. 

 “We’re excited about the potential of this project, which finally brings wider community benefits to the nearly century-old concrete flood control infrastructure that led to unintended negative consequences,” says Chris Rhie, urban planner and associate principal with Buro Happold. “Our work will help bring back natural habitat, make the stream accessible and visible, and turn the river into a community asset that’s walkable, bikeable, shady and magnetic.”


With this project, Buro Happold is continuing its focus on stranded assets — large public infrastructure systems that have become underutilized, disinvested, or defunct due to shifts in the ways urban areas function. These assets offer prime opportunities for improved quality of life and delivery of services to varied communities in cities globally, says Rhie. From the High Line in New York City to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, Buro Happold’s public realm infrastructure projects prioritize the values of the 21st century city: sustainability, resilience, equity, and access to public space for all. 

About Verdugo Wash

Reintroducing flora and fauna lost over the decades, the Verdugo Wash project will attract new wildlife as well as visitors from Glendale and beyond, with new public trails and open spaces. Conceived by Glendale’s city leaders and spearheaded by its assistant director of community development, Bradley Calvert, AICP, the competitive proposal process attracted teams from leading landscape architecture firms around the globe. Buro Happold’s team, headed by Rhie, will collaborate with !melk landscape architecture & urban design’s team, led by founder and principal Jerry van Eyck.

Buro Happold’s Rhie adds that an activist group called Arroyo Verdugo Trail Committee drew attention to the opportunity to restore and build upon this natural resource. Their vision, he says, is to “transform the Arroyo Verdugo into a public space that connects a series of parks with the existing Glendale Narrows Riverwalk.” This effort brings a host of benefits: reintroduce native plant species, recapturing needed water, adding pedestrian and bicycle trails, and improving transit connectivity, recreation opportunities, economic activity and public health. “The Arroyo runs through or is adjacent to five public parks, and is within one mile of nine public schools and at least seven private schools,” according to Arroyo Verdugo Trail Committee.

The design and consulting team comprises !melk and Buro Happold alone, adds Rhie. Buro Happold is tasked with four key consulting areas: mobility, hydrology, biology and sustainability. These four areas include resiliency and flood planning, increasing cycling and walking access, habitat restoration and ways to make the Verdugo Wash project greener and more equitable.

To speak with Rhie and for imagery and details on the Verdugo Wash project, our team at C.C. Sullivan would be glad to assist.