In Lawndale, California, Rudolph Park host a myriad of paths of which feature a range of interactive spaces and landscape elements interspersed on the way. Not long ago, however, the 1.5-acre lot contributed little to the city and the state’s South Bay area, which was deemed “park poor” due to its lack of pedestrian access to such park. Two non-profit organizations From Lot to Spot (FLTS) and The Trust for Public Land (TPL) worked with Laguna Beach, CA and Pasadena, CA-based landscape architecture firm EPTDESIGN to rejuvenation Rudolph Park. Upon its re-opening, Lawndale Mayor Robert Pullen-Miles described it as “the crown jewel of the city.” The Architect’s Newspaper spoke to the firm to discuss their approach and reasoning behind their design decisions.
The Architect’s Newspaper: What informed the development of the “intellectual” and unstructured play experiences created for children’s areas? Why was this focused on?
EPTDESIGN: The park’s program was developed through community workshops led by FLTS and TPL. Program elements included green space, an amphitheater, a climbing wall, natural play, a restroom, a walking loop, fitness equipment, play for all ages, a picnic area, and a gently rolling lawn. EPTDESIGN developed a concept narrative to tie the program elements together. A narrative based on the site’s natural history grew from the public’s stated desire to have a “natural” space, and as a way to distinguish the park from others in the general area…that centered on a singularly themed play structure.
Could you explain the thought process behind the various topographical elements that feature throughout?
Lawndale sits where the coastal dunes once met the inland prairie, a land characterized by [a] unique topography of dunes and vernal pools. The park seeks to reintroduce the neighborhood to the dunes and prairie that once formed their landscape and to the ecosystems of the hills that frame the region. The park is divided into three zones: The Dunes, Prairie, and Hills. As a result, this playful topographic design allows the visitor to traverse high and low spots. [It] also highlights the site’s low-impact stormwater strategy. To enter the site, one crosses over a vegetated swale and infiltration basin where all stormwater is collected.
With regards to the climbing wall, how does the form and arrangement link to the overall scheme? What material is this and how was the wall constructed?
The concept narrative espoused playful topography as a way to tie the design to the site’s natural history, but the grading was also a very useful design tool to promote safety. The climbing wall and restroom were both grant-funding-contingent program elements that posed site security challenges. Both are large vertical elements that could obstruct sightlines from the street. Through the use of creative grading, the restroom was built into a constructed hillside. The climbing wall was oriented perpendicular to the street, sharing the same earthwork as the restroom structure, thus eliminating hiding spots. Behind and above the restroom and climbing wall, the finish grade slopes away gently, allowing unobstructed sightlines to the back of the park while creating a universally accessible route from the lowest spot in the park up to the highest.
The 50-foot-long climbing wall is an innovative feature, and an expression of horizontal strata, which involved extensive collaboration between the landscape architect, civil and structural engineers, architect, artist, and contractors. The climbing face is built from precast concrete modules that are anchored to a structural retaining wall. To keep cost down, there are only four different modules. Through the use of 3D modeling, the modules were laid out to create a varied and unexpected yet climbable texture while…avoiding the tacked-on look of off-the-shelf climbing wall handholds and integrating artwork.
I would also ask the same thing about the tiles. Are they featured throughout the park or just those pictured?
The tile work was done by artist Frank Bauer. EPTDESIGN worked with Bauer on the subject matter and locations. There are multiple pieces, and they are displayed in each of the three zones. Within the Dunes zone, ceramics were placed in a water runnel, and feature three-dimensional pieces for kids to discover. In the Prairie, tile work can be found in the entry plaza. And in the Hills zone, ceramic flower mosaics were placed in the climbing wall niches. All are intended to be “touched” and not just for visual display.