New Visions for Los Angeles’ Pershing Square Park

Globetrotters by Agence TER and SALT Landscape Architects
Globetrotters by Agence TER and SALT Landscape Architects

Four design teams have been announced as finalists in the competition to remake Pershing Square Park in downtown Los Angeles. Pershing Square Renew, the public-private partnership behind the revamp, has whittled the finalists down from 54 entries and 10 semi-finalist teams. According to Dezeen, Eduardo Santana, executive director of Pershing Square Renew, said: “the world-class firms selected by our jury represent a huge range. They include global stars and local unknowns.”

The 5-acre park has seen many iterations over its nearly 150 year history; the latest was created in 1994 by Mexican architect and landscape architect Ricardo Legorreta and American landscape architect Laurie Olin, FASLA. Development on a new park is expected to begin later this year.

Here’s a brief overview of the four finalists, who largely present concepts rather than actual designs at this stage:

Globetrotters: This proposal, developed by European firm Agence TER and local Los Angeles firm SALT Landscape Architects, calls for “folding down the walls and edges of the existing park to reconnect Pershing Square with its immediate surrounding context, creating a seamless flow between, through, and across the city” (see image above). The design concept features a “smart canopy,” a “wind garden” for children, a “scent garden,” and a day and nighttime farmer’s market.

Landscape starchitect: James Corner Field Operations and Frederick
Landscape starchitect: James Corner Field Operations and Frederick Fisher & Partners

Landscape Starchitect: From James Corner Field Operations, the creators of the High Line Park in New York City and Los Angeles-based Frederick Fisher & Partners, this proposal seeks to create an “urban oasis and outdoor destination for the city — a place of both respite and event; both garden and theater.” The team sees the park as a node in a greater “cultural loop” that links historic landmarks and a key point in an “art and culture walk.” The proposal also calls for bringing the park all the way to its edges, minimizing any barriers to access.

Local Force by SWA Group and Morphosis Architects
Local Force by SWA Group and Morphosis Architects

Local Force: This proposal created by international landscape architecture firm SWA and Thom Mayne’s Los Angles-based practice Morphosis imagines an “eco-topia,” a “net-positive” park that provides the “water resources necessary for irrigation, sanitation, and recreation through stormwater collection and a demonstration facility for sewer mining.” The team also focuses on improving access, particularly for pedestrians and bicyclists, and the need to create a sustainable business model for the park’s long-term upkeep.

Wild Card by wHY and Civitas
Wild Card by wHY and Civitas

Wild Card: New York-based wHY architects and landscape architecture firm Civitas offer a vision of a new Pershing Squark Park that is a “social laboratory, a socio-cultural hub in an urban natural oasis.” Mark Johnson, FASLA, founder of Civitas, writes: “our goal is to generate experiences that you feel inside, that mean something to you; with social interactions that you remember and share with others.” They want to incorporate “food culture and food security” considerations into their design as well.

The four finalists are now further fleshing out their design proposals in the lead up to a public presentation in March, 2016. Public participation is seen as central to the process, and comments will be invited for the next stage as well. The 9-person jury includes landscape architect Janet Rosenberg, FASLA, and Michael Shull, general manager, Los Angeles department of recreation and parks.

Los Angeles city councillor Jose Huizar, who initiated the revamp of the park and is also on the jury, said: “Pershing Square is one step closer to once again becoming the focal point of life, commerce, and civic engagement in downtown Los Angeles.”

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