The Los Angeles Women in Landscape Architecture Walk

image: Emily O’Mahoney, FASLA

Four Los Angeles landscape architecture projects were highlighted during the 2017 ASLA Annual Meeting’s Women in Landscape Architecture Walk, organized by Stephanie Psomas, ASLA, of Pamela Burton & Company, and the local host chapter, ASLA SoCal. Nearly 80 participants braved the early start time on the final day of the meeting and were rewarded with the rare treat of watching light break over the historic and modern cityscape of downtown Los Angeles.

1: Biddy Mason Park

The crowd of began gathering at the centrally located Biddy Mason Park. This L-shaped pocket park is distinctly urban and makes up the interior space of nearly an entire city block. Despite being immediately adjacent to the popular local and tourist stop of Grand Central Market, the park entrance is subtly marked and the space is quiet.

Many attendees were up bright and early (and well before the sun!) to get to Biddy Mason Park, the first stop on the WILA Walk. / image: Alexandra Hay
Biddy Mason Park / image: Alexandra Hay

The North-South axis of the park includes a timeline wall containing historical text and artifact imprints. The content leads a reader through the story of the notable Los Angeles historical figure and park namesake Biddy Mason. A serpentine pattern of trees winds through the center of the narrow space, providing shade and encouraging visitors to slow down and interact with the content on the wall.

Biddy Mason Park / image: Alison Kelly
image: Event Photography of North America Corporation (EPNAC)
image: EPNAC

The East-West oriented portion of the park is dominated by a monumental sculpture with industrial character reminiscent of stone quarry drills or skyscrapers. Commissioned by the City of Los Angeles in 1989, the Eino sculpture, titled “Water Columns,” mimics the pattern of the urban skyline.

image: Alison Kelly
En route to Grand Park / image: EPNAC

2: Grand Park

Walking North along Broadway from Biddy Mason Park to Grand Park provides a linear tour of several other notable Los Angeles landmarks. Exemplary historic architecture such as the Million Dollar Theater and the Bradbury Building (of Blade Runner fame) mix with recently completed projects, including the award-winning SOM and Studio-MLA designed Los Angeles Federal Courthouse.

image: Emily O’Mahoney, FASLA

Arriving at Grand Park, the technical challenge of rapid topographic change stands out as a notable feature, along with the exemplary textural display created by the lively plant palette. The park is a tribute to the international character of Los Angeles and features moveable site furniture powder coated a vibrant pink.

image: Alexandra Hay

The landscape architecture team at Rios Clementi Hale Studios successfully negotiated the grade change with a series of impressive yet unobtrusive ramps and stairs in a light natural concrete finish. The plant materials are drawn from an international palette and educational signage notes the diverse “Floristic Kingdoms” present throughout the park.

“Paper Airplanes” sculpture by Elenita Torres and Dean Sherriff in Grand Park / image: EPNAC
WILA Walk attendees enjoying Grand Park’s restored Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain / image: EPNAC

Walking West with the rising grade, visitors encounter the massive, tiered Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain and a broad gathering space with a cafe and restrooms. Early in the day, the space was cool and dominated by sounds of water from the fountain, and a few members of the walking tour walked out into the shallow water-play portion of the fountain pool.

image: EPNAC

3: Walt Disney Concert Hall Garden

Frank Gehry’s iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall lies at a geographic high point in downtown Los Angeles. Transiting from Grand Park past the arts complex which includes the Los Angeles Music Center, the tour arrived at the Northeast corner of the Concert Hall. The structure itself dynamically reflects the cityscape around it and is sculptural in its approach to light.

The WILA Walk continues on to the Walt Disney Concert Hall and its Blue Ribbon Garden / image: EPNAC

Another unexpected feature of the building is the way it embraces the pedestrian. As the tour proceeded up and around the back of the Concert Hall, walkers were unexpectedly embraced in a lush courtyard scaled carefully to create an intimate sense of privacy. Whimsical plants and trees surround a small clearing with a large mosaic sculpture of a water lily, dedicated to Lillian Disney.

image: Alison Kelly
image: Alexandra Hay
The fountain in the Walt Disney Concert Hall’s Garden / image: Alexandra Hay
image: Alison Kelly
image: Alexandra Hay
The Broad, next door to the Walt Disney Concert Hall / image: Alison Kelly
On Grand Avenue in front of the Broad / image: Alexandra Hay
Bank of America Plaza and the “Four Arches” sculpture by Alexander Calder / image: Alison Kelly

4: Bunker Hill Steps to Maguire Gardens at Los Angeles Public Library

Walkers on this year’s tour had the pleasant experience of descending from the city’s high point to the historic Los Angeles Public Library via the Bunker Hill Steps, commonly called (perhaps only among Landscape Architects?) the Halprin Steps. Designed by the late Lawrence Halprin and completed in 1990, the steps have become an iconic urban amenity which link distinctly separate areas of downtown via creative treatment of topography. In this spirit, the steps call to mind our previous stop at Grand Park, another piece of iconic landscape architecture which negotiates the linkage of dynamic urban energies via challenging topography.

Descending the Bunker Hill Steps / image: Alexandra Hay

The Maguire Gardens at the Los Angeles Public Library is an oasis, especially for our intrepid tour group on a warm Monday morning in bustling downtown Los Angeles. Graceful Italianate fountains and columnar cypress complement the Art Deco architecture and unique ornamentation of the Library building. Following a group photo opportunity, walkers made their way back to the Los Angeles Convention Center for the final day of meeting sessions.

The Maguire Gardens at the Los Angeles Public Library / image: Alexandra Hay

On behalf of the Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (PPN) and spoken personally from an impressed tour attendee, thank you to our hosts from the ASLA SoCal chapter for leading a wonderful tour. We’ll look forward to the tour next year in Philadelphia!

by Alison Kelly, ASLA, LEED® AP ND, Women in Landscape Architecture Professional Practice Network (WILA PPN) Co-Chair

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