Friday, April 29, 2016

Pershing Square Restoration Society reviews the finalists in the Pershing Square Renew competition

The comments below are supplemental material for people who support the restoration of John Parkinson's 1910 Pershing Square design, or more generally the preservation of the park's historic sculptural features. More info is here.

Design #1 - wHY with Civitas: These images present a design that shows inspiration from John Parkinson's 1910 street-level axial pathway plan, with elements of the meandering 1880s Eaton plan and the unjustly unbuilt winner of the last redesign competition, James Wines' "Magic Carpet." This proposal calls for Pershing Square to be renamed Pershing Green. At the April 28 event, the designers said that the artificial hills in the park's center are meant to suggest downtown's lost topography (like Bunker Hill).  This plan calls for some decommissioned parking lot ramps to become cisterns to store and reuse gray water from the park, and black water from nearby sewers. CityLab reports that the historic sculptures (including one that's an historic landmark), which are not visible in any of the other design proposals, will be placed in the garden sections on the long Hill and Olive Street sides.

Design #2 - SWA with Morphosis: These images present a design that scrambles John Parkinson's classical 1910 street-level axial pathway plan as if the paths were pick up sticks tossed by an angry giant. A large lawn is surrounded, but only partly shaded, by trees large enough that there is some question as to if the parking structure below can support them. Instead of Parkinson's central fountain, there is a small wetland pond that has miraculously attracted a great white heron. The main focus of the design is a huge tower containing a hydroponic farm that, it is claimed, will produce 2000 pounds of organic produce daily for an on-site restaurant. Because they say all cars will soon be robotic, this plan proposes to take over a portion of the existing parking garage, which is a major source of civic revenue. At the April 28 event, Morphosis principal Thom Mayne, who was in the preservation hot seat last year when he demolished beloved L.A. author Ray Bradbury's Cheviot Hills home, quipped "It's not about history, that's Philly or Boston. This is Los Angeles, it's the city of the future." 

Design #3 - James Corner Field Operations with Fredrick Fischer and Partners: These images present a design that shows inspiration from John Parkinson's original 1910 street-level axial pathway plan (originally an X-shape, with two additional walkways added later) and central water feature (programmable and interactive here, but apparently a nod to Parkinson's Beaux Arts fountain), with meandering garden sections evoking the 1880s Eaton plan. Much of the park is unshaded terraced lawn, with numerous discrete spaces dedicated to specific uses (dog run, yoga, ping pong, cafe). Contemporary shade and climbing structures distance the park from its historic appearance, and run the risk of soon appearing dated, as has been the case with the 1994 design.

Design #4 - Agence Ter: Curiously, although Agence Ter was the only team to respond to our open letter asking the semi-finalists to acknowledge the great public interest in restoration by making John Parkinson's 1910 park plan central to their proposals, these images present a design that fails to reference any of the iconic elements of the historic park. The proposal seeks to artificially expand the boundaries of the park through an outer ring of digitally-programmed shade terraces straddling the park-facing sidewalk and mature shade trees lining the opposite sides of the busy streets. Much of the park is open lawn surrounded, but only partly shaded, by trees large enough that there is some question as to if the parking structure below can support them. Open spaces are intended for occasional programming, with a film screening and farmer's market illustrated.


  1. I am beyond annoyed that the monuments and such have been relegated as after thoughts...AGAIN. They once were entral features of the park.

  2. It's 2016, not 1900, the hope is for less cars and more people in the square, at least SWA is looking towards the future, and what LA might need in 20 years.