Butterscotch Line: Eastside High School Students Re-design Gold Line Stations

(If you’re not familiar with James Rojas’ interactive modeling workshops, click here.)

Over one hundred tenth graders from Esteban Torres High School’s Renaissance Academy had a chance to redesign the Gold Line Eastside Extension Station areas as part of a series of interactive modeling sessions designed to introduce them to urban planning.  Rather than introducing them to our modeling process through a presentation, we took the students to visit and take notes at three Gold Line Stations: Mission/Meridian, Lake and Del Mar Stations.

Next, we had them examine the stations from a different perspective.  They participated in  a series of interactive workshops to help the students articulate their needs. We had them read maps of the station areas and create models from them using found objects.

The students presented their ideas through models of the Gold-Line Metro station areas and and explained how their proposed developments around the stations may increase ridership and attract people into East Los Angeles. They created three trains in their models; one, the newly christened Butterscotch Line, is made completely from candy (just in time for Valentine’s Day.)

The students designed these light rail station areas as neighborhood destinations to draw the community to the station and draw riders off the trains. They located services, and amenities lacking in today’s Eastside community such as parks, stores, housing, and offices within site of the stations.  The students were proud of their community and designed stations that welcomed people to the Eastside with “welcome” signs and decorative gateways.

Best of all, their stations and their Gold Line fit the community.  Before the workshops they investigated the physical form of the actual community.  The examined architecture and design that creates identity of place. They used that map of their community to create beautiful streetscapes designs that capture the artistic power of the community.

The candy Gold Line Train model is incredible. It’s a wedding cake of rich colors, shapes, textures that draws you in.  The candy model captures the vibrancy and sensual quality of East Los Angeles. The Gold line is created by a butterscotch candies while an Aztec Temple made of sugar cubes creates a canopy over the station.  There’s never been a  model quite like this one.

But most impressively were the students themselves.  They took ownership of the planning process. They were articulate and had conviction and passion for the transformation of East Los Angeles.   Just as the students of the Renaissance Academy learned a lot about planning from this process, there is a lot the professional planning community can learn from these students.