Stoss Proposes Innovative Design for the 2 Freeway in Los Angeles

April 11, 2017 | Los Angeles, CA — Southern California is in a state of environmental crisis, one that has been a long time coming. Prognosticators for decades have pointed out that the sprawling metropolis, fed by freeways and smog-producing vehicles, has been living on the edge of ruin, with more and more people and less and less water. Exacerbated by the effects of climate change, water is especially scarce in the region—except, of course, during infrequent but intense storms, whereby the region’s stormwater infrastructure and concrete-channeled waterways funnel that water as quickly and violently as possible out to sea, forever lost to the parched city. No longer the symbol nor physical manifestation of Los Angeles’s culture of hair-down, top-down individualism and freedom, Southern California’s freeways have evolved into a web of environment-choking, community-dividing social isolators. And yet we continue to drive…

The southwest stub of Freeway 2 is ripe for re-thinking in ways that might serve as an incremental model for similar freeway stubs in the region, and eventually for longer portions of freeway. The Stoss proposal does so without pretending it away—like many others, the team acknowledges the appeal and heroism of these infrastructural monuments—but by turning the freeway on its head, re-making it as a social connector, a smog and carbon absorber, an important piece of sustainable hydro-logic infrastructure, and a catalyst for civic, recreational, cultural, and economic activities, the Stoss team re-imagine this monofunctional infrastructure as an environmental, social, and civic machine—cultivating life for local residents and for a regional (per-haps even global) constituency.

The reimagined freeway integrates a number of elements and strategies:

• The modest volumes of traffic currently using the freeway stub can be re-routed at the I-5 interchange and redirected onto Allesandro Street, itself re-made as a formal boulevard with drought-tolerant plantings and multiple grade inter-sections that slow flow but meet capacity.

• The laneways and elevated structures of the freeway are re-surfaced to hold the rainwater that falls on it (and that is collected from adjacent slopes and roads) and to accommodate wide bicycle and recreation paths, running tracks, and walking surfaces.

• The water holding strategy decreases the amount of water flowing directly and immediately to the Los Angeles River, and it supplies the project with irrigation and misting water; in advance of oncoming storms, the remaining water can be slowly drained to the ground for infiltration or to the River at off-peak times, thereby reducing the impact of stormwater on the regional system.

• Retained water allows for the development of lush gardens of plant materials that can thrive in both wet and drought conditions, and for sporadic and dramatic waterfalls to ground gardens when the system exceeds capacity.

• Large, accessible ramps connect the elevated recreational paths and water systems to the surface in Frogtown, establishing new physical connections between three major neighborhoods and the Los Angeles River.

• A long, monumental fog fence designed to intercept water particles in fog, which then condense on the fence mesh and fall to the water channels below; it also doubles as a light shading device.

• Smog filters that cluster around the I-5 interchange and other major traffic nodes; they use ionic filters (powered by photovoltaic panels on the shade structures) to remove smog particles from the air and form dramatic vertical markers at important nodes.

• Cooling towers, active only during the hottest days, which take very modest amounts of stored water and convert it to a light mist at the top of the towers, which in turn cools ambient air and draws it down to the shaded area below.

• Dew harvesters, which collect atmospheric water and condensation and re-circulate it for irrigation and misting.

• Rain towers, which funnel rain in areas that might otherwise be lost and re-circulate it to the new water system.

• Solar shades, covered in photovoltaic fabrics, which collect energy from what is perhaps the region’s most abundant resource—sunlight—and create shaded gathering spots for cafes, community centers, art galleries, temporary events, etc.; these could be modified/hybridized as cooling towers as well.

• Carbon absorbing paving, derived from titanium dioxides and magnesium silicates, which actively absorbs carbon in the atmosphere and re-charges the earth’s supply of carbon—thereby layering in a strategy that looks to complete the carbon cycle, rather than simply ameliorating the effects of carbon release.

• The area beneath the freeway overpasses is rendered as an eco-recreation area that extends to and connects the adjacent valley slopes and offers new opportunities for “big nature” sports in the heart of the city.


Stoss is a pioneering design firm focused on creating resilient social spaces that foster vitality, equality and community within the public realm. Founded in Boston in 2001, Stoss is a Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award winner for urban planning and landscape projects that integrate urbanism, landscape, infrastructure, and sustainability. Collaborating with cities, public agencies, institutions, and private interests on multi-faceted and varied projects, the Stoss team is involved in conceiving, designing and managing construction for; parks and open spaces; urban and campus design; ecological and resiliency planning; municipal and regional strategies; multi-scale landscape infrastructures; development and remediation projects; furnishings and exhibitions.

For more information contact: or 617.464.1140 x113