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L.A. 'Cornfield' Plans Unveiled

The cornfield site is a narrow, 32-acre parcel that sits between the Los Angeles river and the city's Chinatown. The park plan has become one of the most eagerly-awaited public projects in the city in recent years.

Three competing plans for a park at Los Angeles' downtown Cornfield site cover the entire spectrum of approaches to contemporary landscape architecture, L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne reports. That’s no small achievement: landscape architecture has become the most innovative and richly varied of (design) disciplines in the last decade, as big cities around the world work to salvage degraded industrial sites and forgotten stretches of waterfront.

Proposals by Mia Lehrer+Associates, a Los Angeles firm, and San Francisco’s Hargreaves Associates focus on sustainability, concentrated blasts of architectural innovation and links to surrounding neighborhoods and the banks of a restored river. By contrast, the design by the New York landscape firm Field Operations, working with architect Thom Mayne, calls for almost impossibly grand, macro-level thinking; it proposes a land swap that would build a new Dodger Stadium on the end of the park site nearest Chinatown, among other oversized features.

But perhaps even more important than the proposals -- especially given that funding for constructing one of these visions has yet to be secured -- the Oct. 14 unveiling offered a reminder of how dramatically a single design competition, if well organized, can elevate the level of discussion about planning and urbanism in Los Angeles.

Lehrer’s design calls for a similar transition and benefits from the knowledge of the area the firm has gained working on a new master plan for the L.A. River. It is the most conceptually elegant of the three finalists, calling for a series of overlapping strands that would weave the park into the city fabric and take full symbolic advantage of the fact that the site happens to be shaped like a leaf.

The selection committee, which is led by state parks Director Ruth Coleman and includes Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-L.A.) as well as Robert Hertzberg, the former Assembly speaker, will pick a winning design team by the first week in November.

Source: L.A. Times

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December 14, 2019, 7:51 am PDT

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