AIA award revitalising LA streetscape
The AIA's California Council presented an Honor Award for Urban Design to Culver-City, California-based ah'bé landscape architects for its streetscape for "South," the first new high-rise residential development in downtown Los Angeles in 23 years and a key part of its revitalization. The award, which was presented at the AIA California Practice Conference in San Diego, California, on November 14, recognizes outstanding urban design.
The five-acre South development, bordered by Hope Street to the west, 11th Street to the north, Grand Avenue to the east and 12th Street to the south, has become a 24-hour urban neighborhood with the infusion of new residents and businesses. In addition to nearby dining and entertainment options that create a vibrant urban lifestyle, South offers Angelenos pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and green spaces where residents and visitors can relax and mingle.
Designed by ah'be landscape architects, South's new streetscape was planned to encourage interaction at the street level and to complement the architecturally striking surroundings, as well as to incorporate environmentally friendly storm-water management practices. Specific elements include extra-wide sidewalks (24 feet instead of the typical 12 feet), sustainable plantings, shade trees, pedestrian lighting, bike racks and street furniture. Curb bump-outs (curb extensions) slow traffic and provide extra visibility to pedestrians crossing the street.
"In order to encourage visitors and residents to interact with their surroundings and one another, we have developed a mix of public and private outdoor green spaces that function as oases of green in the city," says Calvin Abe, FASLA, president of ah'bé landscape architects.
The streetscape's accessible outdoor spaces include a 6,267-square-foot landscaped garden that is open to the public during the day and gated for security at night. This is the first time that the public has had access to a development's private open space in Los Angeles, according to Tom Cody, principal at Gerding Edlen, a partner in The South Group.
"In keeping with our overall 'green' mission, creating a welcoming environment for pedestrians was a key component of South's Master Plan," says Cody. "To that end, we worked with the City of Los Angeles to stop a planned street widening, so that we could introduce wider sidewalks for strolling and café seating."
The South Group's "South" development in Downtown Los Angeles consists of a trio of buildings: Elleven, Luma and the 24-story Evo, which opened to the public on October 5, 2008. All three buildings include landscaped areas by ah'bé landscape architects. Evo is expected to become only the third residential building downtown to earn a coveted LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. (The other two are Elleven and Luma.)
Residents build community on upper terraces, with opportunities for interaction around the pool, spa, outdoor fireplace and barbeque area at Luma.
"The South Park neighborhood streetscape in downtown Los Angeles is a leadership project in terms of storm-water infiltration and we are really pleased with the work of ah'bé landscape architects in their design of it. We hope to see more of these around the City. This streetscape, one of two that ah'bé landscape architects is doing in the City, is setting the standard for the kind of forward-thinking green infrastructure planning that we want to create throughout Los Angeles," says Commissioner Paula Daniels of the Los Angeles Department of Public Works. Daniels heads the City's Green Streets initiative, which is tasked with updating design guidelines for street planning throughout all of Los Angeles.