News
03.16.2011
Santa Monica Parks and Rec
Field Operations shows off latest park plans.
Palisades Garden Walk and Town Square
Field Operations

Despite recently losing out to Downtown LA for Eli Broad’s new museum, Santa Monica still has a very high profile design project moving forward: the Palisades Garden Walk and Town Square. Located on seven acres of land between Santa Monica City Hall and the Santa Monica Pier, the $25 million project, which is being designed by James Corner Field Operations, was shared at its sixth and final workshop with the Santa Monica community on February 26.

Field Operations in Santa Monica.

A site plan showing the art-deco City Hall at top left.
 

As AN reported, Field Operations—the architects of New York’s High Line, among other high profile parks across the country—won the commission over a year ago, beating out teams like Gehry Partners and Peter Walker and Partners. Their highly ambitious, layered proposal will be broken up into a number of “systems,” a collection of colorful and topographically diverse zones, each meant for a different use and experience. That will include view-centric hills, sheltered bays, and meandering pathways surrounded by plants, fountains, and small creeks. The Grand Bluff will afford the best views of the ocean and neighboring vicinity; the Garden Hill will include the widest variety of plant life on the site; the Gathering Hill is meant for congregation and relaxation; and the Discovery Bay will be a play area for both children and adults and will feature an area shaded by large trees that will contain extra large steel slides, forts, and other activities. A community focal point will be the Town Square, a flat area with a large reflecting pool meant to defer to the art deco architecture (and landmark status) of Santa Monica’s City Hall.

Field Operations in Santa Monica.

Field Operations in Santa Monica.   Field Operations in Santa Monica.
The Grand Bluff will afford the best views of the ocean and neighboring vicinity (top), the Gathering Hill is meant for congregation and relaxation (above, left), and the Discovery Bay will be a play area for both children and adults (above, right).
[Click to enlarge.]
 

“We want people to have several ways of experiencing the park,” said Associate Partner Lisa Switkin, who added that “the topography gives it a very clear structure.”

The sinuous, braided, and often hilly project was inspired largely by the Arroyo Wash, a dried riverbed that once ran through the site. According to Switkin, plants will be plentiful and varied, an effort to diversify the city’s limited vegetation and to emphasize Southern California’s subtle seasons. Trees will include Western Sycamores, Torre Pines, Ficus, Oaks, and Strawberries; and other plants will include four- to five-foot tall wild grasses, native wildflowers, and several types of succulents.

Field Operations in Santa Monica.

Field Operations in Santa Monica.   Field Operations in Santa Monica.
The park is broken up into systems including a waterfall (top), the Town Square, a flat area with a large reflecting pool in front of City Hall (above, left), and meandering pathways surrounded by plants (above, right).
[Click to enlarge.]
 

In order to draw people in from a congested area near several major streets and even a freeway, the firm has created notable architectural elements. Most will be made of stainless steel slats and complemented with curved precast concrete benches. The most dramatic will be the large clamshell-shaped steel viewing platforms located on the Grand Bluff.

“You have so many other attractions in Santa Monica. The Palisades Park, the Santa Monica Pier, and the Third Street Promenade. This begged for a new and unique identity,” pointed out Switkin. The project will go to the city council for a vote this June. Construction is expected to start next spring, with completion by spring 2013.

Sam Lubell