LA Cornfield Competition


>>You can have all the idyllic open space you want, but it won't matter if on the whole it goes unused by the majority of the public. Open space is not an attractor in LA.<<

trying to unpack that statement, I'm not sure I'm suceeding. most of the open space I encounter around here is in active danger of being used to death, that is if it contains anything vaguely resembling meaningful programming for its community. the north east trees pocket parks along Riverside Drive on the other hand...not so much. quoth one of my instructors: "Would it have killed them to put a play structure in there?"

I am going to assume you do NOT mean "unused" in the sense of "unused by anybody who matters."

griffith park, underutilized? boy I've spent a lot of time there and it doesn't look that way to me. but you don't mean "underutilized" you mean "it's not central park." Don't know why it would or could be. or why anywhere, apart from central park, is going to function in just the way that central park does.

the cornfield rfp called for a lot of specific program elements from the get-go, those were in the general plan approved in june of last year. it's supposed to be a state historic park, not just a patch of lawn. I think some of the discussion here is forgetting that the park is intended, in fact, to be an attraction in its own right and function as an outdoor museum for the city's history. if it were some kind of headline grabbing design, perhaps the wine and cheese crowd might beat as much of a path to it as they have to the Getty Center?

believe me, I'm not arguing that the state of open space in LA is happyland at the moment, it's not, it has massive problems. but it's a little facile to say people here don't use or care about open space. I'd say, instead, that we have a deeply dysfunctional relationship with it.

Oct 16, 06 11:49 am

agreed, nit:

I think Rem started a possibly destructive, possibly beneficial, trend by winning the LACMA competition by completely foregoing the competition brief (that he subsequently was fired is another worm can for another discussion.) It's particularly beneficial when other possibilities for land use and function recieve attention, as in FO proposal, and destructive in that it ignores the amount of resolution that brought the brief into being. Referring to the proposals as "a patch of lawn" may have been a little shortsighted and derisive on my part in the interest of brevity. Apologies.

Public space has massive problems in Los Angeles. However, defaulting to class distinctions, "people who matter", is pedantic: there's no distinction between anglo cheese eaters and hispanic soccer players. Both know better than to eat cake with beer.

There are odd and perhaps unfortunate realities to this city that i think are rarely found in other cities: LA doesn't care about history or public space. We're still a young city, we do strange things. Again, nit, I liked the competition proposals. I particularly liked that FO ditched the competition brief, albeit unfair, as was the case with LACMA.

San Diego's Balboa park functions slightly similar to Central Park, in that the idea of spending a lazy afternoon there is part of the total public consciousness. LA is just wierd.

tree: petco park was supposed to help revitalize downtown San Diego, but what they are discovering is that not as many people stick around after the ball game to dine and shop as they had expected.

Oct 16, 06 1:00 pm

FO / Mayne project is the most realistic and developer back-able. it utilizes the idea of north downtown expand north as always visioned. ie; decades old declarations of people like eli broad who foresee the development northward, starting from convention center via staples via mid downtown, via bunker hill / disney music center via new mixed use 'bride' of bunker hill, gehry's big revenge on isozaki's moca, continue; via two prong to dodger stadium, prong / hopscotch to cornfields and la creek pardon me, river.
mixed use ho, northward. project is do-able once the financial bonanza is calculated and takeovers are financed. private development is the king.

the other two projects are nice and sensetive park designs that allow bbq's and other cultural events, but look afraid of what they really want to say or accept.

as for the familiarity w/ the area, i lived on morton pl., bordering elysian pk. and knew joey luna, whose parents home was demoed for dodger stadium. eminent domain supreme.

related slightly;
best used public parks in los angeles remain to be the beaches.

Oct 16, 06 2:56 pm

Oh- a stadium with mass transit access like Anaheim???? would the dodger's fans give up driving to a game?

the beaches are the most democratic place in LA with the greatest demographic range - even 'exclusive' wet sand below the high tide line in Malibu.

Oct 16, 06 3:00 pm

I've been trying to find a copy of the original RFQ still posted online so people can see the scope, program, objectives, etc. that the competition actually called for. if I can't turn one up I'll go to my own copy when I switch computers.

the LA state parks webpage has been updated with info about the finalists,

but there is not much information there about the three designs other than the same renderings we've all already seen. I was wondering if they were going to make the text/design narratives available anywhere because I think they would help clarify a lot of the questions people have about the designs.

anyway, buried within the link I posted above is a link to provide feedback via an online form, and then they list the selection criteria as follows:


20% Innovation and originality of the design concept and its relationship to the cultural history of Los Angeles, the cultural resources of the site, and park general plan goals.

20% Responsiveness to stakeholder desires, consistent with the general plan.

20% The design’s economics and practicality in terms of construction, operation and maintenance as achieved through sound but innovative design decisions.

20% The design’s success at meeting the project goals as listed within the RFQ:
- Hub
- Flow of History
- Interpretive/Education
- Historic Preservation
- Linkages
- Recreation
- Renewal

10% Sensitivity of the design to the ecological and cultural character of the region, especially as it relates to the Los Angeles River and regional greenway and open space objectives.

5% The potential of the concept plan to provide multi-experiential educational spaces and facilities with opportunities for promoting civic dialogue through park programming and content that foster understanding and appreciation of Los Angeles’ diverse cultures and heritages.

5% The degree to which the proposal promotes sustainable design, universal accessibility, and use of new technology and materials.

The Selection Advisory Committee shall rank the three selected short-list teams in order of preference using the criteria above and present this recommendation to the Director of California State Parks for the Director’s determination of the most qualified submittal."

Oct 16, 06 4:17 pm

found it, the original RFQ is still at the California State Parks Foundation website.

Oct 16, 06 4:23 pm

by the way, I should make clear that anything I've posted with regard to this competition represents my personal opinions only, based on information that has been made publically available.

I *do* work for a firm that is a subconsultant on one of the teams and I have had a peripheral role in coordinating our work.

but I am also a student of landscape architecture and an interested citizen of Los Angeles (and park user!) and I am posting in that capacity only.

feeling a little nervous about this since I've already gone on at such opinionated length and we are in fact still in the public comment period. hope everybody understands this.

thanks --

Oct 16, 06 4:49 pm

worth noting (again and again...) -- Hargreaves proposed a rework of the Dodger's stadium parking lot, a reorgazniation of the programming of elysian park to create a more viable habitat corridor along the LA river, connecting to cornfields and allowing the cornfields site to be the archaeological site it will be -- as a state historic park. It anticipates development of the LA river which it has been involved in,-- but anticipates 3 possibilities --no changes LA river (probable, pre-Act of Congress), some change that allows LA River to act as floodplain, and act of congress change, fully realized idyllic LA river, which we should all hope for (and it *does* deal with the rail tracks on site). Of course they rendered #3, in flood stage, though solar pump and other stormwater infrastructure allow for greater possiblities for water on site.

frustrating to see spotlight stolen by firm which ignored history of site and hopes of surrounding community -- in order to educate them that their problem is not the one they are trying to solve. Nor is it one that CAN be solved by the organizers of the competition. thanks, jim.

smart to look at the bigger potentials of the site, and Hargreaves did. even more difficult, they observed the brief, as its not necessary to destroy cornfields to make a large park linking Elysian. In fact, HA's proposal links to santa monica mountains via griffith and elysian. bigger than jims big park. its a Mega park.

as for the similarities between the two non-FO parks -- chock it up to following the brief's requirements for cultural gardens and a timeline. Not an astounding coincidence, really.

Oct 16, 06 6:21 pm

This is fascating. I was going to make a similar comment to Orhan's--

From living in Boston and Paris I've learned a lot about public parks in towns other than LA--and it seems to me that the large swathes of plain old grass 'n trees that make up the Boston Common and most parks in Paris work well there because in good weather people go there to tan and have picnics. On a nice day, people literally say to each other "I want to go get some sun--wanna go lay out on the Common?" and they do. Not much else is provided, and not much else is needed. A few ballparks get added as the years go by and you're done.

In LA, this use is already *well* provided for in the form of the beaches. I would agree with Marlin in that parkland in LA needs a functioning attractor or frankly I would worry that it would become a desolate stretch of rape-land. The fact of the matter is that LA is (or was, before the smog moved in) already located in a belt of the best geography in the USA--who needs a Central Park if you don't have to escape a claustrophic grid of mid-rises? You can already rise above the city in the hills or via a short drive up to Griffith Park, or run to the beach and feel like you're on the edge of civilization. Chicago's Millenium Park is an ok parrallel given the cluster of smaller attractors it features as well as the previous existance of beaches in the city. In Chicago too, the primary users of parks are hispanics. Might be interesting to compare them.

Anyway, I thought everyone already knew the LA River was a joke. It makes a good kid-catcher whenever it rains, however... :(

Oct 16, 06 6:23 pm

ps, treekiller, i beg to differ with your statement about the lack of intellectual heavyweights at hargreaves. they're stealthy, hiding among the real trees of projects they've *built*.

Oct 16, 06 6:30 pm

thanks for the tip marlin... i can't find it for sale anywhere but it should be included in studiworks 10

Oct 16, 06 7:00 pm

Lemons- you must speak with insider information...I have several classmates working along side you. (thanks for joining our happy online community)

I find most of George's (or should I say Mary Margaret's) process/designs to be intuitive (not intellectual). Often fO and Morphosis think too much and seem to live on the some cerebral utopian cloud.

AS to the mega-park, this was originally olmsteads idea. the city stupidly ignored his advice in 1932 to create linked network of parks... but that is ancient history.

Np- it's sweet that you're making the ethical attempt at full disclosure. We won't rat you out to katie or the parks commission.

Oct 16, 06 7:13 pm

well, you know, there's a real danger that people might just mindlessly believe *everything I say*. it happens all the time you know. I'm really influential and stuff.

Oct 16, 06 7:26 pm

Myriam- the LA river is not a joke! it is a conspiracy!

Oct 16, 06 8:11 pm

I think rebuilding a more accessible stadium is a great idea, and feasible too considering the aburdly short shelf-life of such large structures. It worked really well in Detroit (even with really bad architecture).

As far as Thom saying people don't care about public spaces; that's really not true. Its just they manifest themselves differently in LA because of the geography and sprawl. The few ones that are cental, Pershing Square, MacArthur Park, and Echo Park are not used for failures other than lack of interest. Pershing Square is just a trainwreck, MacArthur Park lacks credibility (because of its seedy past and location), and Echo Park just doesn't have the density around it that it needs.

Oct 16, 06 8:14 pm

man. some characters 'round here! ... great dialogue.

I'm also (like Steven) unfamiliar with most of the specific content. The only LA river that I know is from the movies (it was dry in all the scenes that come to mind)...
...nevertheless, I've greatly enjoyed this conversation. only comment is regarding intention and an architect's responsibility[?] to question the premise before them.
nitpicker, you had this to say:
I think some of the discussion here is forgetting that the park is intended, in fact, to be an attraction in its own right...
so what? i think it's great that a group of citizens met 37 times to work out a brief, but I don't automatically give their conclusions (or intentions) more validity than those of a collaboration such as Morphosis/FieldOps.

Oct 16, 06 8:17 pm

um, what makes you think I'm an insider? I just read the boards.

but I STILL differ with your assessment of HA. Yes GH designs intuitively. And no he'll never come out defending his work as an intellect -- it's the very hard job of his staff to make sure there is rationale behind hwat for george is apparently god-insipred.

and if I DID wrok for hargreaves, I'd resent your implication I didn't do my homework. or am not capable of it.

regardless, point is -- there's a lotta meat in the HA scheme that is being ignored cause they made something equal parts visionary and feasible. not so easy to talk about. middle guy is always the most complex, no?

Oct 16, 06 8:46 pm

LL- your tone was slightly propriatary when discussing hA including reference to the 'staff' (you're still doing it), so that was what I was basing my assumption on.

didn't intend to imply you lacked anything- maybe I'm just unaware of how much awareness of the olmstead plans there ise in the the LA arch community. But HA is in SF, where they hate LA- so when would they have read the report?

Before the recent presentations, if I were going to handicape the teams, I would have picked HA as being the most politically feasible team for the park- local enought to deal with all the politics, but not MLA. Yeah, Thom is a local boy, but he's an arch, not a 'scaper.

Oct 16, 06 9:08 pm

This is a wonderful conversation and in aggregate far more informative than what one gets from the newspaper thus far. I would hope they would eventually, not too long from now, publish the schemes in their entirety.

A couple of thoughts with regard to the river. Twenty years ago it was a joke when river supporters proposed retaking the river and making it a green zone for the city. In fact many people thought it was a joke when people proposed that the Cornfields be turned into a park. There have been hundreds, if not thousands of meetings that have led to the current moment and I would be hard pressed to imagine that the public will, as reflected in the many public actions to date, allow the gross terms of the brief to be overturned regardless of how visionary some of the individual schemes may be.

As for public space in LA, on the whole it is heavily used. Even those spaces like Pershing Square and Macarthur Park (especially Macarthur) that have reputations that for the most part keep bloggers away are heavily used by populations that typically do not show up at design competition briefings or charrettes - though interstingly alot of groups and individuals that represent these populations have been part of the planning of the river and were instrumental in pushing for the Cornfields Park. I just do not see the LA public or the decision makers conceding either the open space to a parking platform park with 20% or more of its area given over to professional baseball. Besides this deal is beyond complex and would halt p;rogress for many years while it's structure was negotiated. I also think there is another question that would ulitimately be asked as part of the consideration of the ballpark in the Cornfields; are there other viable locations in the Downtown area? Probably so. Another location - Union Station itself has opportunity sites in closer proximity that are even more accessible to transit. Another point on open space and its value to different populations - one's perspective on the use of open space in LA changes when you ahve children and actually use the space for daily outings, soccer, etc. It is really crowded and every inch is appreciated and used (and sometimes fought over).

With regard to money, there has been a lot of enthusiasm for the parks bond measures that have funded recent open spae endevours. In the big scheme of things I think it is more than likely the money can be found to fund both the 32 acre park and other gradual improvements to the LA River without resorting to public private partnerships, lifestyle centers, theme parks, etc.

Finally it is useful to remember that while we do not make big plans in quite the way Daniel Burnham did (thank goodness) his big plan including the proximate area of Millenium Park has taken a 100 years to be partially realized. At its present pace the LA River greening is moving much faster than that.

By the way Nitpicker, I saw Katie today and commented on what an excellent commentator you were on this blog on this subject. I meant it.

Oct 17, 06 12:05 am

oh hi! I have read some stuff by you in LA Architect! but I don't think we've met...appreciate your comments.

it's interesting, to hear in this forum, from people outside of LA who haven't yet been exposed to all the discussions that it seems have been going on forever here. for an allegedly "dry" river it feels like we've all been up to our eyeballs in it for a long time.

I really really really REALLY wish they would publish all the information from the boards online somewhere. maybe one of our posters with free time could happen by the branch libraries where the boards are being displayed and take some close-ups that would actually be legible when posted? here's what it said on the flyer I picked up:

October 16-21
Chinatown Library
639 N. Hill St.
LA, CA 90012

October 23-28
Cypress Park Library
1150 Cypress Avenue
LA, CA 90065

Oct 17, 06 12:51 am
R.A. Rudolph

We live by the river in Atwater Village - apparently one of the few places where it approximates what we normally think of as river because the bottom has been removed and there are quite a bit of greenery/bushes/trees/islands and wildlife in the area. We walk along the river with our dog and baby at least once every few weeks, and would probably do so far more often if there was easier access (right now you have to stumble down a steep concrete incline littered with glass to get to the bottom) and a few more trees for shade... we often see flocks of birds, ducks, hawks, herons and the like in the trees around our house and I'm convinced it's because of proximity to the river.
We also live near Griffith Park, and beg to differ about the public spaces not being used - the flat parts, and particularly the playgrounds, picnic areas and train ride/pony rides are swarmed on the week-ends and quite busy during the week as well. The steep and mostly dry hiking paths aren't as used, but I doubt they would be in any city given the exact same topography. Not knowing statistics and specifics, I'm pretty confident that any sort of decent park in the cornfield area will be well used, because it will be flat and easily accessible by many different populations (downtown LA gentrifiers and homeless wanderers, Chinatown residents and tourists, families from Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park, etc.)
Another thing that I don't know much about but related to the stadium question - we have a friend who lives in Solano Canyon (I think? formerly known as Chavez ravine), and she told us that there is a lot of activism in the community and concern relating to development of the stadium because of what happened before when they bulldozed for the current stadium as well as traffic and noise problems. Many relatives of the families that had houses torn down still live there - apparently the stadium was purchased by a new owner in the last year or so, and he has begun working on a plan for residential and commercial development in the canyon which has them all up in arms. As I said, I don't know the details, but I think any plan a la the Mayne/Field Operations scheme would be extremely contentious...

Oct 17, 06 2:39 am

damn! This has turned out to be a wonderful thread!

RA: to reiterate one of my earlier comments, "...the FO also renders public space in Los Angeles accuratey, where the only cultures that actively engage public space in SoCal are hipster dog owners and Hispanics."

Oct 17, 06 3:42 am

"hello, my name is marlin, and i'm a hipster dog owner."

**hi, marlin**

Oct 17, 06 3:44 am

re: jkaliski's comment: "I would be hard pressed to imagine that the public will...allow the gross terms of the brief to be overturned regardless of how visionary some of the individual schemes may be.

i read somewhere above that this competition was as much about picking what team to work with as it was about picking a specific design. do you guys think that mayne/fo have built themselves an advantage in that they've shown they're willing to rethink the terms of the discussion or does that weigh against them (as in: don't play well with others)? a simple and naive - and totally subjective/speculative - question.

Oct 17, 06 7:41 am

Politics in LA are like politics everywhere else, very local and very convoluted.

There are times that the state can be very progressive, and other times when it looks out for parochial interests.

So will the state park commission choose 50% out of state team- especially with the Orange County Great Park getting designed by Ken Smith (recently of NYC)?

I've ranted before about the dismal quality of landscape architecture in Los Angeles (sorry ya'll - this is not personal). LA has some of the best architects in the world, but when it comes to landscapes, LA's best practitioners can make of gardens (and really great gardens at that) not landscapes. I'll blame the lack of visionary leadership at any of the 2 1/2 (opps, now its 1 1/2) schools of landscape architecture. Maybe this will change if UCLA becomes an accredited program. (the Gorman Wildflower Reserve project was the best student project I've ever seen coming out of SoCal).

The cornfields park finalists represent a conservative hedging of project teams- there is the token local team (MLA) who does great proposals but never follows through, there is the token CA team (HA) - though Walter Hood would have been a better choice for the site and constituants, and then there is the intelectual bad-boys of M/fO who seem to be choosen just to shake things up...

The Great Park had a much more interesting group of finalists (note that most of them were not from SoCal).

But at least we have set the park in motion and not 32 acres of werehousing.

(Sigh) it would be nice to be back in LA to be part of this shindig, not just slinging comments from afar...

Oct 17, 06 10:32 am

re: "this competition was as much about picking what team to work with as it was about picking a specific design" --

maybe if FO had been so kind as to do some basic research into the very important details -- ie, what communities it hopes to serve and what the possible costs of its proposal would be (alas, more requirerments of the brief....) . In the Q&A, Jim responded to these issues with general and annoyed answers like, "we're going to have 6 paths.... the botonical path, the water path.... but can't you SEE? we moved DODGERS STADIUM!!? lets talk about taht" When it came to costs, Jim answered like a rich schoolgirl who has to admit she has no IDEA how much her car cost (her parents).

who knows, but I don't think state parks folk who make up the jury are giong to want to work with someone whose visionary-ness is his own professional agenda. the meeting was held in a goodwill store, for god's sake. these are not FO working quarters.

Oct 17, 06 1:03 pm

jim has always been a brat, but a visionary brat at that.

Oct 17, 06 1:06 pm

While fO may have the greatest proposal in terms of design and vision, it seems unlikely that they would win. Despite the fact that I and many other casual observers may like their plan, they are probably too ambitious to win. It seems highly unlikely that State Parks would ever consider trying to expand the scope of their project to include other land owners, even if that would mean a better project and the potential for more money. State Parks would be giving up a lot of control, something they are unlikely to consider.

Furthermore, it seems likely that the competition jury doesn't have the authority to pick a winner who so clearly goes beyond the limited scope (and physical boundary) of the project. It's unfortunate, but that's often typical.

Oct 17, 06 2:24 pm

In response to some of the are some additional images from the MLA team. The images we posted on our website are mostly of architecture though.

Oct 17, 06 3:21 pm

^that looks like a lot of fun. thanks for the link, nerin.

Oct 17, 06 3:35 pm

Thanks for the link nerin. Your office^ looks like an amazing place to work. Are you hiring in the near future?

Oct 17, 06 4:50 pm

rob- are you a resident of LA?

Oct 17, 06 5:18 pm

Steven, in answer to your question, unless you are a masochist why would you want to work with a design team that....ehh, why answer this, I'll just stick my foot in my mouth - but it does remind me of our late infrastructure discussion. I think the ethical answer to your question lies within that discourse. Re: "...the FO also renders public space in Los Angeles accuratey, where the only cultures that actively engage public space in SoCal are hipster dog owners and Hispanics.", as my daughter would say, "no offense" but this is facile, hopefully the statement more so than the design - and ....this is just not the case and anyone that thinks it is should go out on any afternoon or weekend day and explore the parks and open spaces of Los Angeles.

Oct 17, 06 11:15 pm

hopefully, they competition jury is actually true to their statement about 'picking a design team to work with'.
honestly, none of the three schemes really 'work', but the FO/Mayne scheme shows a vision of something other than the run of the mill, which unfortunately, the other two schemes are. they don't have anything to do with understanding the urban condition at the sites doorstep, and frankly are very un-inspiring places. i can see these two designs killing the project by sucking the life out of the original intent. The FO/mayne proposal isn't set in stone as a scheme, but it does solidify their APPROACH as something exciting, and i can see much interest/ donations/national press being generated by their work, whatever it happened to produce. which undoubtedly would be great.

Oct 18, 06 12:25 am

>>when it comes to landscapes, LA's best practitioners can make of gardens (and really great gardens at that) not landscapes. I'll blame the lack of visionary leadership at any of the 2 1/2 (opps, now its 1 1/2) schools of landscape architecture.<<

I'm probably not qualified to comment since I'm doomed to be only 1/2 educated by your measures, tk, but how many great project opportunities for landscape architecture do you think come up around here, on the scale of a fresh kills or a crissy field or a great park or a cornfield park? it might be a little hard to be very much greater than the project opportunities you get.

I suppose, if you feel you can afford it, you could seize a rare opportunity to use a public competition as a platform to put forward an alternate agenda. free speech at work. i have no problem with that, even if I disagree with many of the premises of the alternate plan in question.

we don't just need design firms willing to think outside the box; we need clients willing to think outside the box too.

neither party in this transaction gets to point a finger at the other as 100% responsible for a lack of visionary projects being realized. clients have to be willing to see wider possibilities, and designers have to be able to help them see those possiblities.

& where the client is a public entity, you have got to be ready to dialogue with *everybody,* not just the agency that signs the check.

it is easy to have a laugh at the expense of some of the people who make comments during open mike time at public meetings. yeah, i could make those jokes too. too easy. i have a nice quote written down around here somewhere (buzz yudell? i think?): "the first act of architecture is listening."

Oct 18, 06 12:52 am

They should cover the cornfield with one of those proposals for the schindler house... the one with the tarantula and the gothic vine.

Oct 18, 06 2:31 am

thanks, jkaliski and locallemons. just looking for some insight into how l.a. people are receiving these three groups.

hadn't realized the hipster/hispanic comment was from fo's presentation. lapse in judgement there? just that might have swayed me away from them, no matter what their scheme. sarcasm and a too-cool-for-school attitude are dangerous in public presentations.

i guess i can make my own connections, now that you've brought it up, but curious to hear what you think are the salient connections to the infrastructure conversation, jk?

Oct 18, 06 7:43 am

Speaking of the vision thing...wasn't the vision that 32 acres of railyard could become an open space? I think the vision thing already happened and has been happening at the Cornfields site for several years. Re: Great Park in Irvine and Fresh Kills on Staaten Island, the vision thing with regard to the land was happening for a long time before the competition. The objective of all three design competitions for these sites was to reify a vision. Perhaps that has not happened yet at the Cornfields. Now it is always possible that an individual designer or team will come up with a better and bigger vision but I would argue that in general cities do not work that way (though architects often do, landscape architects, in my opinion, less so). There are also moments when one should say no for ethical reasons to a project, the intent of the program is evil. For sure, I would not put the Cornfields in this latter category. That in a nutshell is my sense of the connection to the late infrastructure discourse. Accepting a vision previously vetted falls on the side of incrementalism with all its limitations....and possibilities.

Oct 18, 06 9:16 am

so Mo-Fo scheme is an XL approach.

Oct 18, 06 9:31 am

mo-fo!!!! hahaha!


I'll start ranting abot the california clients who expect in-the-box landscapes/urban spaces from now on. good point. very good point - these clients seek innovative architecture plopped down on ??? The few opportunities have mostly been given to out-of-towners, perpetuating the myth of LAs in LA. The gardens though are spectacular!

There have been several/many opportunities over the past decade - the LA river being the latest, and mr. irwin's 'garden' at the getty being the first. So the new M-S work for the getty villa is exciting, but they are hardly local. Olin butted heads with Irwin over most of the Getty's plantings (& then some). Local opportunites squandered include, MLA's Baldwin Hills park (bridging la cienaga is a start, but then the project falls flat), the griffith park masterplan, barnsdale, the grove, the port of LA/san pedro's water front, long beaches waterfront, playa vista, the possible park at city hall, that awful development at the 405/slauson, trumps golf course... all of these projects could have been world class, should have been world class - yet tend towards the mediocre and banal. Don't get me started on CityWalk or anything else by Jerde.

Maybe the best recent local landscapes are the LAX gateway project (when it works), chess park is ok (but a little clunky), and hollywood blvd. I'll ski the norton simon for the moment.

Why don't we have any significant ecological restoration parks? post-industrial landscapes (like Duisburg Nord, the Bordeaux Gardens, gasworks park, gantry park, or a freshkills) - we have plenty of potential sites? What happened to converting the parking lot at the MOCA's TC into a cultural plaza? Why don't we have a Socrates sculpture garden? Why is the Alameda corridor only a trench and not a series of parks like the Big Dig? Why did the city spend $100m on digging a giant storm drain down la cienaga instead of investing the same money on creating a sepulveda basin in hollywood? Where is the Ballona Creek revitalization?

Maybe it's political lack of vision. finally Antonio is visiting the Cheonggyecheon River to see how great a urban river can be. and the DWP is starting to use the power line easments for infiltration beds - maybe these will become parks someday. At least OC is starting to appreciate it's remaining openspaces.

My dream before leaving LA, was to launch a firm to exploit this underdeveloped niche - you seem to have the moxie to take on this challenge (if you linger around long enough).

Oct 18, 06 11:08 am
Robert Garcia The City Project

The Los Angeles State Historic Park, Equal Justice, and Livability for All

I am a public interest lawyer and civil rights advocate. I helped create the Los Angeles State Historic Park at the Cornfield, and stop the warehouses there proposed by the City of Los Angeles and a wealthy developer. The design of the Park should meet the needs of the people.

Los Angeles is park poor, and there are unfair park, school, health, and transit disparities based on race, ethnicity, income, and access to a car. Children of color living in poverty with no access to a car have the worst access to parks, and to schools with five acres or more of playing fields. The human health implications are profound. Childhood obesity levels range from 23% to 40% in Los Angeles. Children of color suffer first and worst, with the highest levels of obesity around the Cornfield. Sample maps of green access and equity appear at

A balanced park at the Cornfield should reflect the people and place. Places for physical activity should serve the physical and psychic health needs of communities surrounding the park, the region, and the state. The Park should reflect the fact that diverse people use parks differently. Public art and interpretive elements in the park should celebrate the struggles, hopes and triumphs of the generations who have entered Los Angeles through El Pueblo, the LASHP, and the Los Angeles River to reflect the dreams of the community, the purpose of the park, and the vision of the Cornfield Advisory Committee. These people include people of color, women, workers, and radicals. The Park should be connected to over 100 cultural, historical, environmental, and recreational links in the Heritage Parkscape in the heart of Los Angeles. The Park should not be planned in isolation, but should be planned with El Rio de Los Angeles State Park, El Pueblo Historical Monument, and other resources.

The Park should reflect the values at stake to bring people together – providing children the simple joys of playing in the park, improving health through physical activity, equal access to public resources, democratic participation in deciding the future of the community, educating the public, local jobs for local workers and economic vitality for all, spiritual values of protecting the earth and its people, and providing the clean air, water, and ground benefits of safe and healthy urban parks.

We are inspired in part by the Olmsted Vision that called for a comprehensive and coherent web of parks, schools, beaches, forests for the Los Angeles region. The Heritage Parkscape, including the Los Angeles State Historic Park and the greening of the Los Angeles River, is part of the urban park movement to restore a part of the Olmsted vision and the lost beauty of Los Angeles.

We have submitted public comments on the design of the Park with the Alianza de los Pueblos del Rio

Oct 18, 06 5:00 pm
Robert Garcia The City Project

The following are the correct urls for the Heritage Parkscape
and the Los Angeles River

My apologies for the confusion -- there is a comma at the end of each url in the original posting.

Oct 18, 06 5:08 pm

Radical reconfiguration of space seems to be the order of the day with Mayne-style urbanism, upon which FO seems to have piggy backed on. Given FOs tendency of being a bit of a provocateur in the Landscape Arch. field it doesn't come as a great surprise, but it does seem to be quite a departure from the direction of their previous work. Granted Fresh Kills and Highline are landscapes interventions suggesting a radical departure from urbanism as we know it, but they are about retrofitting; not replacing or moving. By recycling infrastructure and applying landscape processes, energy input is strategically used for maximum effect. Dodger stadium, embedded as it is in topography is a good example of this kind of thinking. It’s an interesting landscape solution to a stadium + topographic condition (where else can you walk to the nosebleeds?) -- just as the highline park is to the highline.

Where is the interesting landscape idea within the Mayne-FO project? Their proposal relies on a provocative landuse prediction backed with authoritarian tone of economics (topped with a RMoses feeling to the design). Elevating a park over a parking garage is not an interesting solution to a park. In fact it’s mostly a headache of structure and safety issues. Also, I don’t accept the argument that they are making a community for the park either. There is a lot of room for community augmenting in the area just south of the Cornfields and along Broadway.

The most interesting and challenging part of the Cornfields site is that its flat. This makes it a special place in LA. All of our large parks are in the hills (or beach). This is also one of the most difficult conditions to design in. Some might consider the most interesting/boring. Given that FO often designs in unusual conditions (e,g, Highline & Freshkills) maybe they were just bored by the site (and especially the program). Or maybe there were more interested in working on how they might get paid to design a future park rather than just design one… is NYC paying their Highline bills? Either way I was disappointed that they didn’t try to engage what a future park in LA might be and why we still need and want open space. Instead they engaged in Mayne's urban planning exercise dotted with some generic appliqués of “park”.

I wanted more FO less Mayne.

Oct 18, 06 9:45 pm

woody- great first post, glad to have you here.

Oct 19, 06 10:35 am

One problem I have with Mo-fO's (I love that name) approach (and design competitions in general) is that while it's incredibly visionary, it will take much more than vision see something like this through to reality. While Thom and Jim are both great designers, I don't think either of them are even close to understanding the political and financial hudles of their proposal. It's very easy to dismiss their proposal as being too far removed for the realities of the city.

If Thom and Jim had brought on real urban planners (not just urban designers or "landscape urbanists," as they prefer to call themselves) who could explain the necessary steps to get this to become a reality and financial analysts who could show how this could be achieved within a reasonable budget, they would be in a much better position.

Oct 19, 06 11:48 am

holy crap, i though i lived in los angeles, not new york. listening to all the nitpikers and stodgey's posts you would think we're talking about a project in manhattan.

lest you all forgot, this is a competition about selecting a design team, not a specific 'proposal'

from the rfq brief:
"..a design competition will be held to serve as a basis for selecting the most qualified design team."

all three schemes suck as they are, the big question is, who would you rather have designing the ACTUAL park. mo-fo wins hands down to me, if we're truly talking about 'most qualified', not just what the images made you feel....

Oct 19, 06 4:44 pm

why? why they all 3 suck? and what about mofo is (handsdown) most convincing ? Please don't say visionary, cause HA/maltzan was everybit as visionary. but I'm guessing most these comments are based on reputaations, not reviewing boards.

Oct 19, 06 5:58 pm

A bit of both unfortunetly.

If based on national/international reputation then: mo-fO wins, with HaM in 2nd. Looking at the politics of CA favoritism: HaM #1, MLA distant 2nd and mo-fo not even in the running (thom has yet to be accepted by some of the socal pols, though he seems to enjoy sacramento' favor). If looking purely at the local yocals- the L+L.

If by the boards and what is politically buildable then #1=HaM.

What is staircase/catwalk thing in the lehrer+lehrer files?!!!

Oct 19, 06 7:34 pm

much as i agree about the reputations of mo-fo, my non-landscape architect eye looks at their scheme and sees a great big static landscape with infinite (read:boring) view corridors. the hargreaves and mla schemes both have more convincing spatial separations and textures.

disclaimer: i can look at hargreaves scheme and see echoes of other hargreaves schemes which i have visited, so that helps. i can imagine the character of a hargreaves-designed space after having seen several implemented. (and i even got engaged in one.)

am usually amazed by what is accomplished by hargreaves, whether the knitting back together of a chaotic mess at ucincinnati or the reclamation of the riverfront at louisville's waterfront park.

and a question: i get that we don't want to recreate olmsted now, but why the derision toward mla's mention of olmsted. olmsted landscapes are still among the most successful and protected through many u.s. cities. is it just 'cause they're old?

Oct 20, 06 7:54 am

First derision of MLA is that they have no imagination, 2nd the firm has a toxic office environment, 3rd they win lots of rfps and then fall flat on their face with the execution/design.

Olmstead's vision of pastoral parks for the public health is a great 19th century idea. What about a 21st century understanding that there is no 'natural' landscapes anymore? We use parks differently (tending towards the hyper-active/hyper-programed) where large unstructured spaces create highly contested zones that either get overutilized or created lots of strife. I'm not advocating either a Tschumi-scape of folies or a Rem-scape of dots/stripes of activities (a la P. Villette competition & Downsview).

Part of the problem with MLA invoking the big O, is that Los Angeles missed it's opportunity to buy a grand Olmstead park system in the 1930s. So there is a level of snideness on Mia's part to say 'lets right the mistakes of the past', as much as joining the camp of the CNU- she's createing a middle-class pattern book with white picket fences made up in a historicist style.

Ok I'm being a little harsh, but this is the failure of having a vibrant landscape architecture community in LA is that nobody is pushing for bigger or better concepts, challenging the status quo, and saying that we can do better. There is little rivalry in Landscape Los Angeles, except when it comes to residential gardens. Up in the bay area, I can see Walter Hood getting in Mary Margaret's face over security planters with anti-skating pucks. Peter Walker getting huffy with Andrea Cochran for her plant choices, and Halprin asking for another joint.

In Los Angeles, we have a great dynamic architecture community and the rivalry between UCLA, USC, Cal Poly, (and all those adjuncts at Woodbury). But the landscape world is rather sorry.

There is more excitement in Landscaping in Boston, Philly, NY, Seattle, SF, and San Diego, then in Los Angeles. WHY? it's the schools dammit!

Ok so there are a few fledgling multi-disciplinary practioners that may change this in the next few years (Rios, M-R, & Katie), but first lets get-rid of the stodgy old-guard lead my MLA.

Oct 20, 06 10:38 am

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