Pershing Square Renew — How the Drought Plays a Role

We’ve covered architectural projects taking place in Los Angeles in an older post, Designing LA, but as of recent, Pershing Square has officially unveiled the winning design team. 

One of L.A.’s oldest public spaces, Pershing Square, was announced as a public space in 1866.

Peshing Square 1885 - 1

Pershing Square, formerly called Central Park when first declared public space in 1885.

 

Pershing Square 1885

                        Pershing Square circa 1900.

In 1951, it suffered the indignity of having its trees and grass torn out so that a parking garage could be sunk beneath it.

Pershing Square 1951

Pershing Square was remade to make room for a 2,000 car parking garage underneath it in 1951.

In 1994, after an earlier design competition fizzled, Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta and landscape architect Laurie Olin were hired to redesign the square again; along with bright color, they added walls and towers to the existing parking ramps along the perimeter.

 

               Pershing Square - today  Pershing Square - today 1

Albeit, many residents are upset that LA City Council chose a French design team, and not a design agency from home. 

Agence Ter is a famous French landscape architecture firm that is quite prolific in Europe. The Agence Ter proposal, which beat out entries from three finalists, aims to solve the enclosed architectural problems by relying on what Henri Bava, one of the firm’s founders, describes as an open-field with “radical flatness.” 

However, at the center of the Agence Ter design is a Great Lawn, sure to be a controversial feature given the severity of Southern California’s ongoing drought.

Pershing Square Proposal

“If we can support rich guys who want to show off their art collections, we can certainly get this cash together to make L.A.’s original park vibrant for the people again.” –Dennis Romero of LA Weekly

 

Pershing Square’s remodeling will be paid for with a mixture of private and public funds, though it’s unclear precisely how the final total will be divided up.  The remade square is expected to open by 2019 if there are no major fundraising snags.

The Agence Ter design is noticeably calmer and less formally aggressive than the other proposals, which called for lifting sections of the park into the air, building a high-rise urban farm or creating rolling hills.

It also includes a giant pergola — what the designers call a “smart canopy” — that will run along Hill Street. Lined with photovoltaic panels, it would generate electricity while also providing shade.

Pershing Square Proposal 2

 

At the center of the proposed Agence Ter design is a Great Lawn, sure to be a controversial feature given the severity of Southern California’s ongoing drought.  Supporting it: In a city as lacking in attractive and accessible park space as Los Angeles the last place we should be banning lawns is in the civic realm.

Especially in a city with as much homelessness as DTLA. The current enclosures allows for transients to sleep there unnoticed. However, the new open space will change that.

“Radical or not, flat, green, open and shaded places for people to gather are precisely what we need more of in Los Angeles… Let me go on record, then, as supporting it: In a city as lacking in attractive and accessible park space as Los Angeles the last place we should be banning lawns is in the civic realm.” — Christopher Hawthorne of Los Angeles Times

If we can manage to dig two floor levels underground, we can manage how to consciously garden the proposed Grand Lawn.

Pershing Square Parking Lot 1952

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