• 11.19.09

Gushing About L.A.’s Cleverly-Disguised Urban Oil Fields

Los Angeles is the world’s most urban oil field, with 41 active–but ingeniously camouflaged–sites where black gold is siphoned from the ground.

Anyone who arrives at Los Angeles International Airport is immediately introduced to our oil wells, a series of slow-moving creatures nodding throughout the hills heading down into the basin. But those highly-visible pumpjacks are only the tip of the Texas tea, as it were. L.A. has 41 lesser-known active oil fields in the city–and one famous one, the La Brea Tar Pits–pumping more than 20 million barrels out of our palm-fringed streets annually.


Over at Design Observer, there’s a slideshow of the exhibition at the Center for Land Use Interpretation (which is right here in L.A.) Urban Crude: The Oil Fields of the Los Angeles Basin that opened last month. Most fascinating are the devices employed to keep passerby in the dark: Clever landscaping, distracting architecture, and urban design elements that make things like methane vents look like innocuous squat streetlights. The floral well above is located in Beverly Hills, just a few blocks from Rodeo Drive., the video channel for Vice, visits several of L.A.’s best in-plain-view sites (most, in an interesting coincidence, are located beneath what are now shopping malls), as well as a smaller, privately-owned well. For perspective, however, check out an overlay map of the 100+ Los Angeles wells 103 years ago.

[ and Design Observer]

About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato.