A park for all people

Sharon McHugh
Thursday 19 Mar 2009

LA's Civic Center Park gets a bold facelift

Los Angeles is often seen as a disconnected city, better experienced by car than by foot. People there live in “pockets” and pretty much keep to themselves. But that is about to change with the making of a new, democratic, 12-acre park in one of the city’s prime areas, next to City Hall, that is designed to bring people of diverse backgrounds together for a host of public gatherings and activities. Dubbed the “Multicultural Garden”, the park, designed by Los Angeles based Rios Clementi Hale Studios, will have four zones - an event lawn for rallies and concerts, a community terrace with a multicultural garden, a performance space with a stage, and a large public plaza.

In its current condition the site presented many challenges. “Although originally designed as a park, it never worked well” said Tony Paradowski, a senior associate with the firm. The site was bound on both edges by buildings, thus limiting its visibility. And, it had an 80-degree grade change from one end to the other, making cross circulation difficult. With a couple of sweeping moves, the architects have transformed the failed park into a bold new civic space. “The first move was to open up the site and increase its access and visibility”, Paradowski said. “Next, we increased the green space by greening over a parking lot to create an event lawn capable of accommodating up to 30,000 people.” As envisioned, the lawn is a flexible space that could be a used for such passive activities as sunning and reading, like Central Park’s Sheep’s Meadow, or play host to large concerts, films and public rallies. To accommodate such events, the architects have incorporated 'media hydrants' throughout, which are “plug-in” power sources for lighting and sound.

Three years in the making, the project awaits schematic design approval. If approved, the park will break ground in 2010 and open in the spring of 2012.

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

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