We moved to Long Beach from the lovely city of Encino (San Fernando Valley) in March 2010. We bought our not-so-charming-at-first-look, fixer-upper ranch style, built-in-1950’s-tract house to be closer to our families. Sitting for two hours on the 405 traffic to pop over from Encino to Long Beach for dinner with family and friends was getting to be exhausting. We still miss Encino – the awesome Sepulveda Dam Basin Recreation Center (with its Lake Balboa and recently restored Bull Creek), weekly sojourns at our favorite Taiwanese food (Mandarin deli), our favorite Salsa and Beer… Long Beach – where are your good restaurants, ye of corporate chain food joints?
But, Long Beach has a wonderful upside of being gritty and lovely at the same time. We love driving around for errands and coming upon old Arts and Crafts homes and bungalows. I was pleased to find out that this is another area where India has had a direct influence on architecture. Bungalows are from the Bengali word bangla, a dwelling for the bourgeois Indians, the style of which was copied extensively for the Arts and Crafts style bungalows here in the United States.
Me and my husband covet the Arts and Crafts style for our unassuming ranch style house, which was placed like most homes in California en masse and very cheaply post WWII. Coming from India, where the houses are made of solid brick and have 20′ ceilings, we were initially perplexed by the tiny rooms, lack of electrical outlets, ceilings which we could reach up and touch and slip-shod aluminium frame windows, which leaked in outside elements. In fact, I had come to America ten years ago to study architecture, but soon changed my mind. What can the Americans possibly teach me about architecture, I thought? I chose to study finance instead – a game that Americans excel at (but perhaps not so much even that – looking at the past few years Wall Street debacle).
I slaved 60-plus hours a week at a Beverly Hills Hedge Fund for four years, but hated it so much that I decided to change my career path entirely (thanks to my ex-boss who unintentionally made me quit a field entirely usuitable to me). American universities are amazing and wonderful – they have so much knowledge to offer and the libraries and the professors are brilliant. After poring through catalogues, talking to friends and family – I decided to apply to the renowned Cal Poly Pomona’s Master in Landscape Architecture program. That was one of the best decisions of my life.
The MLA program is rated in the top 10 in the US, teaches about design, environmental ethics, sustainability, cultural awareness, california natives, water sustainability, watershed awareness, wetlands and creek restorations etc. – I got so much out of it, plus it changed the way I perceive the external world. It taught me to perceive the world in multiple layers, rather than think in a uni-dimensional way.
One of my favorites class was the California natives class. 70% of the native plants in California are endemic to it – that is, they are not found anywhere else in the world. Coastal California is mediterranean in nature, its plants are uniquely adapted to the soil and climate.