Grand Intervention: Endless Orchard

Grand Avenue Intervention:
Submission Gallery

Endless Orchard 

Submitted by Dave Burns, Matias Viegener & Austin Young

Endless Orchard is an enclosed square within the park that contains a grid of fruit trees around three perfectly mirrored walls, open to the south. The visitor to the orchard will experience the endless vista of fruit trees that once characterized so much of California, whose agrarian bounty was the first engine of the state’s rapid growth. The endless geometric grids of agricultural plantings that visitors once associated with California are rapidly disappearing, displaced by unbounded urban sprawl. Endless Orchard attempts to recapture the sensation of these limitless plantings by surrounding a small urban grid of fruit trees with three reflective walls, so the visitor sees nothing but trees in every direction except for the backdrop of City Hall to the south.

The space will be a square from the outside, echoing the city block, but will be infinite on the inside. Everyone will be invited to pick the fruit of the orchard. In order to provide the greatest variety of fruits, all the trees in the Endless Orchard will be 5-in-1 grafted fruit trees, with plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines and pluots, for example, all ripening at different times of the season.

The orchard will include ground-level educational signage and texts on the history of agriculture in California as well as the ethics of a public fruit park: Everyone is invited to pick fruit, but all are asked to share. We ask visitors to take no more than they can hold in their hands: Sample, don’t hoard.

We propose the Endless Orchard as a way of contrasting California’s agricultural legacy with its current role in entertainment and the promotion of illusions. Endless Orchard puts California’s agrarian roots into dialogue with its urban future. Most of what we see around us as urban sprawl was once farmland, and the promise of California was fueled by two colors: orange and gold. First was the Gold Rush, and then citrus. The oranges became agribusiness and the gold was displaced by show business, the defense industry and high-tech.

The fruit trees will be in rows of 10-by-10, spaced 10 feet apart, so the total shape of the Endless Orchard would be the size of two adjacent city lots. Because it is on a slope, half will be below grade and half at grade, so that seen from one side there will be no boundaries. The ground below the trees will be decomposed granite and contain occasional embedded brass plaques with information on fruit and the history of agriculture in Los Angeles. On the exterior wall will be a water fountain and sink for washing the harvested fruit. The orchard will be bare in the winter and leafy in the summer.

Food has always provided the most ancient forms of communion among people. Hunters and gatherers banded together more for survival than mere protection, and gatherers became farmers; farming laid the ground for human’s connections to the earth and farms became the first communities. Among all the foods, fruit holds a special place as a symbol of bounty. Signifying fertility, beauty and hospitality, fruit is grown everywhere that people live. The social exchange of food forms the basis of the culture, which is why we like to give fruit as a gift.