James Corner and Field Operations won the design competition to design Santa Monica’s new Town Square and Palisades Garden Walk (see earlier post on the competition). According to The Architect’s Newspaper, the seven-acre park will connect the city’s Civic Center with the rest of Santa Monica. Barbara Stinchfield, Santa Monica’s Director of Community and Cultural Services said Field Operations won because of its “commitment to making places for people. It’s [about] their dedication to sustainability and public art and engaging the community.”
The one-acre Town Square part of the park will be reserved for cultural and civic events, while the six-acre Palisades Garden Walk will display the city’s “unique cultural and horticultural offerings, including a botanical element and water features.” Streetscape improvements will include more pedestrian and bike lanes designed to connect the park with downtown.
Lisa Switkin, an associate principal at Field Operations told The Architect’s Newspaper that the firm is now examining the “site’s historic significance, its local plant life, its bluffs and dunes, its significant grade changes, and even its nearby freeway interchange.”
Christopher Hawthorne, architecture critic for the L.A. Times adds that the park development work is just a piece of broader development plans for Santa Monica. The goal is to effectively apply smart growth strategies to the area. “Bringing together transit, contemporary architecture and design, open space, housing and pedestrian amenities, the Santa Monica effort is a rare example of integrated, comprehensive planning in a region struggling to wean itself from dependence on the car and create spaces for genuine public engagement. It is also a sign of how smart cities are leveraging the construction of new transit lines to pursue a broad range of improvements.”
Hawthorne is also confident Field Operations’s ability to innovate won’t be hamstrung by infrastructural challenges. “In Santa Monica, Corner and his competitors were able to anticipate the arrival of the light-rail station and consider the potential capping of the freeway without, crucially, having to worry about actually designing — or reserving money — for those infrastructural elements. Now that Corner’s firm has won the commission, he will be able to pursue an ambitious, even freewheeling design that also happens to slot satisfyingly into a larger civic plan.”
Some $25 million in redevelopment agency funds will be used for the project. Construction is expected to begin in 2012.
Image credit: The Architect’s Newspaper / Field Operations