Patience for a Park

Pershing Square redevelopment will begin by end of year, now that funds are secured

The Agence Ter-designed proposal will level the site and provide much-needed shading. (Courtesy Agence Ter)

In its 154-year history, Downtown Los Angeles’s Pershing Square has gone through a series of transformative redesigns. The park began as a modest landscape of indigenous trees, which was later replaced by a formal Beaux-Arts layout in 1910, followed by the addition of an underground parking lot in 1951 that raised the site and, ironically, resulted in its gradual disuse, which prompted the city later to hire Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta and Philadelphia-based landscape architect Laurie Olin to give the site a dramatic facelift in 1993. Yet the austere, fortress-like design that Legorretta and Olin completed 27 years ago is no longer suitable for the bustling city that surrounds it, leaving residents and visitors alike dreaming of a fourth iteration for the 5-acre site.

This week, city officials have confirmed that the winning entry of a design competition held in 2016 will finally begin construction by the end of this year. Designed by French landscape architecture firm Agence Ter, the redesign recalls the modesty of the very first iteration of Pershing Square by leveling the site (described by the firm’s website as a “radical flatness”) and refocusing on indigenous landscaping to shade the grounds. Additional shading will be provided by a canopy of solar panels along Hill Street that will generate enough energy to power its own lights on a nightly basis. The firm created the following video to demonstrate how their entry was designed to reflect the proximity to the area’s transportation hubs and cultural attractions.

The project will be completed in multiple phases to ensure that the underground parking garage remains open during the process. The city has secured $25 million for the completion of the first two phases by 2024, which will include the demolition of major standing elements and the partial development of Agence Ter’s design. The total budget, however, is expected to exceed $110 million, and funds are still being allocated to complete the design as it had been originally envisioned.

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