Grand Intervention: Grand Ideas from Experts

GrandHdr350In our attempt to invigorate the design process for the new Grand Avenue civic park in downtown Los Angeles, we asked park and urban design experts for their advice. What urban parks inspire them? And what process for selecting the park design do they find most promising? Here’s what they said:

Dan Biederman, Biederman Redevelopment Ventures
With the Grand Avenue Civic Park, the error would be to start with design and hold a big competition. MORE

Pamela Burton, Pamela Burton & Company
I recommend a limited, paid competition in which three or four firms are asked to participate. MORE

Ethan Carr, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
This site, as small as it is, may in fact have enormous potential to embody, evoke, even restore something that has been lost. MORE

James Corner, Field Operations
Look for adventure and inventiveness with park design – parks today suffer from conservative habits and assumptions about public space and greenery. MORE

Galen Cranz, University of California, Berkeley
Creating a park with a strong ecological basis would contribute to the development of an emerging park type in American landscape history – what I have called the “Sustainable Park.” MORE

Dana Cuff, University of California, Los Angeles
I think the World Trade Center competition is a pretty good model that really got the public involved. What went wrong there happened long AFTER the selection. MORE

Mark Francis, University of California, Davis
There is too much fashion now in urban park design. Create a place that is not simply a recycled version of Chicago’s Millennium Park or NYC’s Bryant Park. MORE

Alexander Garvin, Yale University
As for the Grand Avenue Civic Park, I know of no other public space quite like it or with as many problems. MORE

Christopher Janney, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Try to start with an open competition with anonymous entries (that’s how Maya Lin won the Vietnam Memorial design). MORE

Sam Hall Kaplan, author of L.A. Lost and Found
It is critical that a very specific program and RFP be drafted, filtered through a diverse jury of involved locals with good backbones. MORE

Mia Lehrer, Mia Lehrer + Associates
Los Angeles is known as a place that celebrates change. How would we conceptualize a park that can evolve over time? MORE

William Morrish, University of Virginia
There should be built into the Grand Avenue plan a long-term mechanism to continually receive additional funds to manage and program the park. MORE

Eric Owen Moss, Southern California Institute of Architecture
It’s good when a process includes diverse perspectives, not just those of architects and landscape designers, but ideas from the humanities, as well. MORE

Elizabeth Moule, Moule & Polyzoides
For a home run, the park needs to have a mix of places within its borders that are uniquely about Los Angeles, with a healthy stir of tried and true park attributes. MORE

Louise Mozingo, University of California, Berkeley
If there is a competition, the invitation should be based in part on a designer’s history of working with the community before and during problem-solving, not after. MORE

Ray Oldenburg, author of The Great Good Place
When Chattanooga vastly improved its park space, people took to it in large numbers, race relations improved, and the city had a much better look to it. MORE

Stefanos Polyzoides, Moule & Polyzoides
Any process that delivers this commission to a usual “starchitect” suspect will be a wasted opportunity for Los Angeles. How many franchised, iconic objects can this or any other city absorb? MORE

Mark Rios, Rios Clementi Hale Studios
It would be cool if there were a way to memorialize in the actual park the record of the public process you’re conducting. MORE

Kevin Starr, University of Southern California
Visitors should experience both the grandeur of Los Angeles and its wacky energy. MORE

David Sucher, author of City Comforts
The Grand Avenue project is obviously driven from the top. So my short answer? And no joke. Or excess pride. Get Eli Broad to read my book. MORE

Doug Suisman, Suisman Urban Design
Drawing on a rich landscape tradition in the Spanish-speaking world, L.A. should have its own Alameda, from the top of Bunker Hill all the way to the Los Angeles River. MORE

Bernard Tschumi, Bernard Tschumi Architects
I have two obvious suggestions regarding your two questions. MORE

Michael Van Valkenburgh, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.
The biggest challenge is not creating an inventive design, but creating an inventive process that allows the design of a great park to emerge. MORE

Michael K. Woo, Southern California Community Ventures
Creating usable urban open space for downtown L.A. requires an understanding of the open space and recreation needs of an unusual population mix. MORE