Zanja Madre

Background Information

1992, Andrew Leicester. 801 S. Figueroa Street
This $2 million plaza, named after the main water channel or "Mother Ditch" in early Los Angeles, is organized around the role water has played in the development of Southern California. Leicester created a symbolic journey through time and space that begins at the far end of the plaza in the "Garden of Paradise." The name of this alcove refers to the original meaning of "paradise" as an enclosed space. Moving closer to the street, water pours into a cross-shaped pool from the shattered earth, uplifted into a broken pyramid pierced by an arrowhead that refers to Lake Arrowhead, a source of Los Angles water. Water flows from the pool into a "reservoir" and then into the "Zanja Madre." Extending through most of the length of the plaza, the channel, bordered on one side by a cactus garden, planters and benches, directs the water into a second reservoir, which sits at the edge of a patio that is symbolic of the Los Angeles basis. Embedded into the side of the benches and planters along the Zanja Madre are terra-cotta panels representing indigenous life forms. Three pairs of columns, symbolizing a "City of Columns," stand by the Figueroa Street entrance. The pair farthest from the street resemble a giant core sample and a drill head for water wells. The second pair mimics the thrust of nearby skyscrapers and the tallest pair repeats and transforms details of the 801 Tower. A symbolic figure, the "Guardian of the Gate," stands between the columns next to the street. Three columns along Eighth Street represent "The Valley of the Smokes," the name given to the area by the pre-European Native-Americans. In 1993, the American Society of Landscape Architects gave the design an honor award. Two years later, Warner Bros. used the columns and gate along Figueroa Street in their movie, Batman Forever. The studio did not compensate Leicester for this use and Leicester sued. After a three day trial in 1996, the court ruled that the portion of the design used in the movie was an architectural work , and therefore, not protected by his copyright. In addition, Leicester's failure to register his copyright with the Copyright Office, prevents him from pursuing a lawsuit for copyright infringement.


Text provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, November 1998.

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