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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An effort to connect Detroit’s cluster of some of its most significant institutions, including its iconic Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), announced today that an international team of urban designers, landscape architects, and technology experts had been selected to create a cultural center in the booming Midtown district. In a year-long process, the Midtown Cultural Connections competition selected a team led by Paris-based Agence Ter, Detroit-based architecture and design studio akoaki, Ann Arbor–based hybrid design firm rootoftwo, and University of Michigan assistant professor and urban planner Harley Etienne, along with other partners. The initial design phase, which will bring all parties together to create a formal plan, will take about 18 months, officials said. The Agence Ter team suggested creating a sort of frame around the ten blocks containing a group of cultural institutions, including the DIA, Wayne State University, the Detroit Historical Society, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the College For Creative Studies, the Michigan Science Center, and the Scarab Club. Within that “Detroit Square,” the project will bring the inside out through “common ground” or communal backyards running between the buildings and their landscapes, to be activated with outdoor cafes, performance spaces, a mobile DJ booth, green spaces, public art, as well as live performance spaces for events. Woodward Avenue, which runs through this district, also may see its massive size reduced. The selection not only inspires pride among the winning team, said akoaki’s Anya Sirota, but it shows how Detroit’s participating institutions and judges are willing to give “an open-ended framework” a chance to succeed. For Sirota, that means the design will continue to evolve as the team works with local stakeholders, residents, and other parties to make the cultural center truly the heart of Midtown Detroit, one of the city’s most revitalized and vibrant neighborhoods. “We took a risk to create a memorable design that was also suggestable,” Sirota said. “We felt strongly that we would need additional feedback on these ideas [and] we’re excited that the jury went with something that allowed for more conversation with stakeholders.” The size and scope of the project are grand, Sirota added, and previous projects involving this area and around Detroit have gone forward without deep feedback, conversation, and consideration of the long-term effect on the city or its residents. This project seeks to “tread lightly” and be sensitive to placemaking within a city that is more than 300 years old and has concerns about issues like gentrification. Sirota also said she is pleased that the plan the winning team is working on will take issues of mobility, environmental sustainability, and stormwater stewardship into consideration. Having a team made up of experts in physical technology, landscaping, urban planning, and design with a Detroit-centic base should provide many new ideas for the cultural center, she noted. Midtown Detroit Inc. and DIA launched the design competition in 2017 to find a team that could unite twelve cultural and educational institutions with a kind of “town square” feel. The goal was to develop a “unified, dynamic, and inclusive space that facilitates connections throughout the Cultural Center,” DIA director Salvador Salort-Pons has said. The Midtown Cultural Connections project had 44 initial submissions from more than 10 countries and 22 cities. Those were winnowed down to eight firms and then three finalists. The other finalists included TEN x TEN of Minneapolis and Mikyoung Kim Design of Boston.
The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and Midtown Detroit Inc. (MDI) have selected eight finalists for the “DIA Plaza and Midtown Cultural Connections” design competition. The competition seeks to improve the exterior campus of the DIA and refine the spatial relationship between other museums in Midtown, as well as educational institutions like Wayne State University and cultural stalwarts like the Scarab Club. “The overall quality and depth of the submissions far exceeded our expectations,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, DIA director and Chair of the competition jury in a press release. “This is testimony to the exciting challenge of transforming Detroit’s arts and cultural district, which represents more than 12 important cultural institutions in the city and benefits all the residents in the region.” The competition strives for a plan that provides the DIA and Midtown’s stakeholder institutions with a cohesive campus that has the flexibility to support events and public art, attracting both the local visitor and world traveler. The competition also aims to make the campus more accessible and user-friendly, considering ways in which people enter and exit each building while addressing parking and driveway issues. The eight firms will each make public presentations in the DIA’s Danto Lecture Hall on June 13 and 14. The eight finalists are local and global. They include Agence Ter (Paris), Hood Design Studio (Oakland, CA), Mikoung Kim Design (Boston), Spackman Mossop Michaels (Detroit), Stoss Landscape Urbanism (Boston), UNStudio (Amsterdam), Ten x Ten (Minneapolis) and WXY architecture + urban design (New York). Midtown, anchored by Woodward Avenue, has seen significant population and business growth in the last five years, attracted by institutions like the DIA. Yet the area struggles to resolve how to make surrounding streets and public spaces walkable while being bound geographically by freeways.
"Landscape Architecture as Necessity" conference at USC aims to "counter the onslaught of politically-correct eco-speak"
The University of Southern California (USC) School of Architecture will be holding a three-day long conference this week focused on issues of landscape urbanism. The conference, titled Landscape as Necessity, is built around the idea that the landscape architecture discipline is, as stated on the conference website, “uniquely able to synthesize ecological systems, scientific data, engineering methods, social practices, and cultural values, integrating them into the design of the built environment.” As such, the three-day symposium will feature a vast array of practitioners, researchers, artists, and luminaries who will discuss their work. One of the conference headliners is Gerdo Aquino, CEO of Los Angeles–based SWA, designers of the revamped San Jacinto Plaza in El Paso, Texas that has been reimagined to appeal to Millennials. Another top billing is Hadley Arnold of the Arid Lands Institute, one of the many firms currently studying the Los Angeles River and planning for its redevelopment. Arnold will lead a paper presentation covering the topic of “water urbanism” with practitioner, professor, and author Anuradha Mathur of the University of Pennsylvania. Explanatory text on the conference website describes the mission of the conference as charting new territories: “The overuse and debasement of the words ‘sustainable’, ‘resilient,’ and ‘adaptable’ mean that now more than ever, real flesh and blood projects must rise to the fore and counter the onslaught of politically-correct eco-speak.” Because the conference aims to ground itself with real world projects, many practicing landscape architects will participate in discussion panels, lecture on their work, and review writings. These practitioners include Los Angeles–based Mia Lehrer of Mia Lehrer Associates, who was recently selected to design the new First and Broadway Park in Downtown Los Angeles with OMA; Elizabeth Mossop of Spackman Mossop + Michaels landscape architects, based in Sydney and New Orleans; Bradley Cantrell, a Harvard-based researcher and 2014 Rome Prize Fellow in landscape architecture; and Mark Rios of Rios Clementi Hale Studios, landscape architects for the Martin Expo Town Center in West Los Angeles. Among the many others joining will be Henri Bava Founder of Paris-based landscape architecture firm Agence Ter, recently selected as the winners of an international design competition aimed at redesigning Los Angeles’s Pershing Square. Landscape as Necessity is being organized by Assistant Professor Alison Hirsch and Professor and Director Kelly Shannon of the USC landscape architecture program. Shannon spearheaded the Mekong Delta Regional Plan 2030 and Vision 2050 plan, a multi-disciplinary, multi-year study aimed at preserving and modernizing Vietnam’s major agricultural region. In an interview earlier this month with Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Designs, Shannon described her team’s intentions behind holding the conference, saying “Ultimately, it should become clear that landscape architecture will be a major game changer in the coming decades in Los Angeles and beyond. However, there must be strong political will and a chance for paradigmatic projects to lead transformative policy.” The conference runs from Wednesday, September 21, 2016 to Saturday, September 24, 2016. To learn more, see the Landscape as Necessity website.
Pershing Square, the five acre park at the center of Downtown Los Angeles, has been in the news quite a bit recently. The 150-year-old park has been seen as an eyesore in the area, an underused and dislocated public park isolated from the city’s growing street life, elevated atop a subterranean parking garage. Pershing Square’s reputation had fallen into such ill repute that in 2015, residents and business people came together to draft a plan for replacing the park with something new. That process culminated this Spring, when French landscape architects Agence Ter were selected as the winners of a public competition held to replace Pershing Square with a new park. The firm’s proposal for the city’s most historic open space aims to “get rid of trendy design approaches” that have plagued the park’s prior redesigns and provide, as Agence Ter partner Henri Bava declared at the announcement ceremony, a “timeless design able to change with the neighborhood.” Which is why you might be a bit surprised to learn that this week, Pershing Square is playing host to Liquid Shard, the latest collaborative public art project by L.A.-based artist Patrick Shearn of Poetic Kinetics. His work, a collaboration with students attending the Architectural Association Visiting School Los Angeles (AAVSLA) summer program, under the direction of Eulalia Moran and tutor Devin Gharakhanian of SuperArchitects, the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, and the arts organization NOW Art L.A., takes the shape of a mesmerizing, iridescent wind-activated sculpture. The 15,000 square foot installation is made of two layers of holographic mylar connected with monofilament that flitter in the wind, creating a dazzling and otherworldly atmosphere in the park. The installation’s layers, hovering between 15 and 115 feet above the square, give the impression of a million tiny things moving in unison. Shearn told AN over telephone that the inspiration for the piece came from murmuring, the swarm behavior schools of fish and flocks of birds engage in as they move in unison. Shearn, who is well-known on the music festival circuit as the artist behind the giant, fully animatronic astronaut sculpture showcased at the 2015 Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Coachella Valley, California, developed the installation with AAVS students as part of a summer seminar. During the course, students produced their own versions of the installation, with the class coming together in the final weeks to work on a full-scale version developed by Shearn for Pershing Square. The project will be on view until at least August 11th, but potentially for longer.
Agence Ter was selected this morning as the winners of the competition aimed at redesigning Downtown Los Angeles’s central, 5-acre park, Pershing Square. The firm’s proposal for the city’s most historic open space aims to “get rid of trendy design approaches” that have plagued the park’s prior redesigns and to provide, as Agence Ter partner Henri Bava declared at the announcement ceremony, a “timeless design able to change with the neighborhood.” The French landscape firm’s approach is notable for the “town square” approach taken to the site, where a large canopy located at the western edge of the park will house cafés and other amenities that open onto a grassy knoll at the center of the park. Agence Ter’s proposal beat out entries by James Corner Field Operations with Fredrick Fischer and Partners, SWA and Morphosis, and wHY and Civitas. Bava announced that the agency would open a Los Angeles office to oversee the design and construction of the park. Downtown Los Angeles councilperson Jose Huizar, surrounded by a cohort of joyful politicos and city boosters, announced the winning entry in a heavily-attended morning ceremony in the downtrodden park. Councilperson Huizar told the crowd, “Of all the designs presented, [Agence Ter’s proposal] won us over, and more importantly, won over the public. We are very confident in the selection and final decision.” The four finalists were selected in December 2015 from an original pool of ten groups that presented work to Pershing Square Renew, a nonprofit partnership between Huizar and business leaders, residents, and activists administering the redesign. Those four teams presented final schemes to the public in late April. In the three weeks since, politicians, business people, and residents have provided input via public and online forums made available for comment. Agence Ter’s proposal was selected at the conclusion of this semi-public vetting process. The city’s oldest park, Pershing Square has lived through many iterations and names throughout its 150 plus year history. The winning proposal will be the third such iteration for the square in the last 100 years. The most recent version of the park was designed in 1994 Mexican Modernist architect Ricardo Legorreta. Laurie Olin was the landscape architect while Barbara McCarren designed the site’s hardscaping. A disciple of Luis Barragán, Legorreta’s scheme for the park takes a coy approach to the plaza mayor concept by using brightly-painted platonic stucco masses to frame and divide the area programmatically. These spaces include a purple campanile, small café area, seating integrated with expanses of lawn, and a large fountain surrounded by sculptural orbs. The park sits above a city-owned, five-story parking complex and has been generally unloved by the public because of it’s lack of porosity and the physical impediments resulting from the garage’s many access ramps. The rapid fire progress seen on the redevelopment of the park, a process that began only in 2013, has mirrored the transformation of the area from run-down business district to affluent enclave. A Ralphs supermarket opened in the area in 2007, the first in over 50 years. That market catalyzed a residential boom in the area and since then, Ace and Standard hotel locations have come on line, bringing with them a slew of high-end culinary and retail establishments, including a 42,000 square foot Whole Foods location that opened in November of 2015. The winning scheme, if built and ultimately successful, would cement Downtown L.A.’s status as one of the city’s distinct and vital neighborhoods. As of this morning’s announcement, however, no budget for the redevelopment has been released and a timeline for the construction of the project is still to be decided. Councilperson Huizar expressed hope that the park would be open by 2019, he and other City officials and residents are joined in their hope that this version of the park will be the one that finally sticks. Hopefully Agence Ter’s scheme won’t be wiped away twenty years from now like Legorreta’s.
Here’s the first look at the four final designs by Agence Ter and team, James Corner Field Operations with Fredrick Fischer and Partners, SWA and Morphosis, and wHY and Civitas for LA’s Pershing Square. Angelenos are being invited to comment on the finalists’ proposals over the next few weeks as Pershing Square Renew, a collection of designers, business leaders, and officials civic leaders, seeks to redevelop the centrally-located, five-acre square at the heart of Downtown LA. The teams of finalists hail from an original pool of ten groups that presented work to the nonprofit in October of 2015. That grouping was reduced to four teams in December, with those finalists' final submissions are now vying for the final selection, to be announced in May. The proposals are shown below and will be formally presented to the public at the Palace Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles on April 28th at a sold out event. See Pershing Square Renew’s website for updates on further public viewings.
Pershing Square Renew just announced the four finalists of the Pershing Square design competition: SWA with Morphosis, James Corner Field Operations with Frederick Fisher & Partners, Agence TER with SALT Landscape Architects, and wHY with Civitas. These teams will now develop fully fleshed out proposals for the five-acre park in Downtown Los Angeles. The finalist concept boards offer clues as to what to expect from the final proposals: SWA and Morphosis identified four strategies for their reorganized park: ecology (native trees and a drought-friendly water feature), mobility (a road diet along Olive Street and better Metro connections), programing (a market and a day/night event venue), and sustainable business (reworked parked concession, food vendor, and retail spaces.) James Corner Field Operations with Frederick Fisher & Partners held off at hinting at a design. Their concept boards show increased porosity between the park and the both the surrounding neighborhood as well as the cultural life of all of downtown and the Arts District. Expect the design to engage both in the park and along the adjacent streets and sidewalks. Agence TER with SALT Landscape Architects’ boards depict a boldy understated proposal. They envision Pershing Square as a giant lawn with several atmospheric gardens: a foggy garden, a scent garden, a dry garden, a wind garden, and an edible garden. Services are discretely tucked under a large shade canopy. wHY with Civitas landscape architecture group’s concept boards was also slim on design details. Although the proposal echoed some ideas seen in other team proposals, such as connections to the surrounding neighborhood, an emphasis on natural ecology, and food/market vendors, it uniquely suggested that the park offer education programming as well as something that could be digital connectivity entitled “Syncing Urban Hardware and Software.” The four finalists will develop their proposals over the first quarter of 2016, leading to another round of jury interviews and a public presentation in March. It’s unclear how and when the design will be built, since at moment the only funding for the project seems to be the $2 million pledged to by the Department of Recreation and Parks and MacFarlane Partners, who each chipped in one million. The Pershing Square Renew jury is: Janet Marie Smith (Jury Chair) SVP, Planning and Development, Los Angeles Dodgers José Huizar, Councilmember, 14th District, City of Los Angeles Donna Bojarsky, Founder and President, Future of Cities: Leading in LA Simon Ha, Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council and Downtown LA Resident Mary McCue, Founder, MJM Management Group Rick Poulos, Principal, NBBJ Janet Rosenberg, Founding Principal, Janet Rosenberg & Studio Michael Shull, General Manager, Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks Michael Woo, Dean, Cal Poly Pomona, School of Environmental Design
In October, Pershing Square Renew selected 10 teams as semi-finalists for the redesign of Downtown Los Angeles’ oft-maligned urban space. The international design competition drew hundreds of entries and the two-handfuls selected represent both local and global practices. Reviewing the initial presentation boards, there’s common interest in opening up Pershing Square to the surrounding urban blocks, a porosity currently lacking in Legoretta’s scheme. The teams’ approaches are split between active and passive landscapes with some concepts showing large lawns and water features meant for calm reflection and light recreation, others packed the square with programming: dog parks, cafes, yoga zones, performance venues, etc. Pershing Square Renew posed the concept boards on their website and are now asking the Los Angeles community to weigh in with comments for the jury. Soon, the organization will select four top teams out of the field of semi-finalists and have them each develop a more comprehensive final design. Until then, have a gander at the boards below.
A shortlist was announced for the Pershing Square Renew competition. Ten teams were selected to have a chance at a crack at redoing Ricardo Legorreta's scheme. The five-acre park is seen as the centerpiece of a revitalized Downtown Los Angeles and the competition, a public-private partnership backed by councilmember José Huizar, is a critical step toward that effort. The ten semi-finalists are global, national, and local—and often in combination. They include: Paris-based Agence Ter with SALT Landscape Architects, Snohetta, James Corner Field Operations and Frederick Fisher and Partners, New York-based W Architecture, San Francisco-based PWP Landscape Architecture with Allied Works Architecture, Mia Lehrer Associates with NYC’s !Melk, Peterson Studio + BNIM, Rios Clementi Hale with OMA, SWA with Morphosis, and wHY Architecture These teams will continue to develop designs, which will be reviewed later this fall and a group of four finalists will be announced in December. Pershing Square Renew will select a winner in February 2016. On bets as to who might emerge from the pack, it seems that the organization is looking for details over gesture. “Their challenge isn’t to win awards; it’s to win over hearts,” said executive director Eduardo Santana. “More than anything else, these groups need to focus on the experiences their design will inspire and the memories the Square will create.”