Nearly six months after our look at four competing visions for Downtown's First and Broadway Park, the City of Los Angeles officially declared the design team of Mia Lehrer + Associates, the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) and IDEO as the winner.
The two-acre FAB Park, budgeted at $28 million, will rise from a vacant lot in the heart of the Civic Center. The property was previously home to a state office building, which was demolished due to earthquake damage in 1976.
To find out more about the winning design, we reached out to Mia Lehrer and OMA partner Jason Long.
Can you describe the various elements of your proposal?
The proposed concept for FAB Park puts forward two means of creating shade - one of the most important considerations for open space in L.A. - by way of 1) a broad planted frame of mature, native oak and sycamore trees 2) a sculpted series of architectural shade canopies that also provide lighting and capture energy as a Photovoltaic (PV) system above. The park is organized as a central flexible gathering space surrounded with a series of "outdoor rooms" spatially defined with a ribbon-like seat wall providing informal seating throughout the extent of the park. A two-level restaurant space, designed by OMA, provides both a formal dining opportunity above and a smaller informal space on the plaza to maximize the park's ability to extend activity day and night.
What was the inspiration for the design?
The concept for FAB Park draws inspiration from the great diversity of Los Angeles as a "World City" Through the themes of art, food and land we intend to maximize the park's ability to draw people together to this uniquely positioned civic site and celebrate the cultural diversity of the city through the enjoyment of food and art. The park's landscape draws inspiration from the local oak woodland and sycamore-lined streams that surround Los Angeles.
How does your proposal compliment Grand Park? What special considerations - if any - were given to the existing park?
FAB Park will offer both a distinctly unique space as well as a space to expand many of the events that occur in Grand Park and along its city streets. In response to the competition's TOS prepared by the Bureau of Engineering describing an interest to promote the park's ability to curate art installations and larger civic and community-oriented events, the proposal incorporates means of hosting these events with consideration to access, security and views.
Did you factor a rapidly growing and changing Downtown into your design?
We are excited by the continually growing number of residents and tourists in the Downtown area and also recognize the important of providing a welcoming space for the surrounding work force found within the Civic Center and surrounding districts.
From Pershing Square's garage entrances to Grand Park's neighboring government buildings, it seems that parks in DTLA often suffer from a lack of connectivity with the surrounding streets. Have you taken any particular measures to enhance connectivity between the park and the street to help draw people in?
It was paramount for the park to have a high degree of accessibility - both visual and physical. The proposal provides access on all edges of the park and highlights the civic quality of the site, creating a pedestrian paseo stretching diagonally across the site, connecting the front steps of City Hall with the new Federal Courthouse. In addition, with the food offerings and art curation, the park will become activated as a place for people wtching as the variety of users come to and pass through the site, creating a dynamic setting.
How does the collaboration between the different firms work?
We worked togther on an overall site planning approach and concluded the restaurant placement and eating areas were best on the northeast side and the edges were a good framework/buffer. Shade, in different forms, was an objective for eating and sitting areas. MLA, OMA and IDEO worked with Marc Pally and David Bergman on the art and food strategies. Ultimately, MLA designed the park layout and features while OMA designed the restaurant and shade structures.
The design features a great deal of hardscape and shade. Was there any reason in particular for this?
One of the goals for the project was to be able to accommodate large scale art installations. The flexible plaza space and other spaces of varying scales will be able to accommodate these installations. The use of hardscape in these areas is practical to accommodate the art programs and events. This is something that will continue to be discussed and evaluated as the project progresses. Located across from City Hall, the new Federal Courthouse and the Police Headquarters, the character of the space lends itself to be more of a civic space, rather than a more traditional park consisting of expanses of turf and trees such as the immediately adjacent Grand Park, which provides approximately 12 acres of flexible lawn space.
The native shade trees in the park will help FAB Park to be a shaded oasis in the middle of the city. The shade provided by the native oaks and sycamores will help counter the heat island effect and provide a window to nature allowing one the ability to celebrate the seasons within the city. In addition, the shade canopies provide for solar collection and a location for lighting and sound systems.
As noted by Christopher Hawthorne in the Los Angeles Times, the design competition was more about selecting a team than finding a fixed proposal. What should we expect to change moving forward?
We look forward to working with the community on the design refinement. The city identified specific program elements for this site, including the restaurant, art features and shade. Public input received during the design competition was generally very positive. The community reacted positively toward the layout, clear entry points, ample seating, the amount of shade provided, the flexibility of the space, the civic feel of the space, the bioswale/wash feature as a great educational opportunity, the variety of food choices offered including the cafe/beer garden, diverse areas for many different users, trees and vegetation creating a nice separation from the City, and yet open enough to provide visiblity.
- Four Competing Visions for 1st & Broadway Civic Park (Urbanize LA)