Friday, April 29, 2016

The Two Second Best Pershing Square Designs

When I woke up this morning, I knew my subconscious had been working all night when I instantly visualized all four plans without even trying.   And then, when I got to my desk in my office - and relooked at everything - it quickly became ever clearer that the Corner/Fisher design (see photo above) is far and away the best plan for the local community.  And that it would also work the best for casual visitors and, with a few changes and additions, it might also be the best design for tourists coming to DTLA.
It is also the only plan which – with some tweaks - might approach becoming that long thought mythical type of uncommon - common space - which everyone has long been seeking as the Holy Grail of urbanism.  And when I walked the area early this morning, I was able to confirm what I had only suspected last night.  Their plan also addresses the adjoining streets, sidewalks and buildings in ways none of the other designs attempt – and in provocative ways I had never before – even remotely – ever thought of.  
 And – amazing, it also appears to have the best financial plan of the projects.
In fact this plan is so good – I am – almost – tempted to not bring two baskets of really over-ripe tomatoes to hurl at the face of James Corner every time he deliberately mispronounces the name of our city. 
And, yes – I did say – almost; because I’m not even remotely near there yet.
And before I move on from here, unless you were at the event last night – and had seen the additional slides and renderings beyond what has been up on-line, I know it will be difficult for anyone to understand some of the better qualities of their project – as well as harder to understand some of the issues in the other projects.  So I will see what I can do about putting up some updated photos regarding that plan - which I will go over in detail in my third and final post today on Pershing Square.

But first, in this initial post I will address the two second best plans and why, while they were very good in many ways, they were less successful and a touch less daring than the Corner/Fisher plan.  First up is  ‘Agence Ter and Team’ and I first need to admit  – with one big exception, there is very little that doesn’t work in this plan – except for maybe the open edible garden….
And the plan’s sole major problem was the removal of the diagonal paths across the park and the placement of the huge lawn area – at grade – right in the middle of square.  And that is the exact plan USC tried to implement on the huge grass area between its two main libraries; a grass area which instantly became a muddy grassless wasteland because - absolutely everyone – had walked across the lawn where the diagonal paths should have been until USC - finally - realized that bad planning could not defeat human nature or common sense - and reinstalled the diagonals..  
But even though that can be easily fixed in the plan – my real problem was that there wasn’t enough there – there.  Nothing that grabbed my attention as something new, something that might make a real difference. But there were a number of details I would like to know more – such as the liquid sky and certain aspects of the pavilions.  There might be a pace for them somewhere in DTLA – such as the Grand Park.  Particularly if they can be easily uprooted and moved.
Considerably better in the interesting ideas category was the plan by wHY + CIVITAS.  Again, there is not much wrong with it except that too many of the green spaces were  small islands surrounded by pavement –  or they were consumed by the conceit that they were standing in for the lost urban foothills of Los Angeles; a concept that didn’t do anything for me. 
Those ‘foothills’ also wasted too much unusable land that’s too up in the air as opposed to the Corner/Fisher project with its one very impressive hillside and its very different second raised area.  And the wHY + CIVITAS design also has areas covered with decomposed granite; a product Satan himself (unless women want to claim him now)had to have designed since it always leaves dust, dirt or mud on your shoes.   And if there is one restriction the City of LA should insist upon – it’s that no decomposed granite shall be used in any part of Pershing Square or any urban park in DTLA.  
And as for wHY + CIVITAS’s proposal’s many good qualities – they are quite similar to what I like about Corner/Fisher project.  But I prefer how Corner/Fisher executed those ideas.  But, in the other hand,  it’s also a plan which has details I can’t quite see or yet know enough about to have an opinion on; so I am looking forward to seeing if their more detailed plans might shed some more light on them.
Next up, in a few hours, I will be posting why a modified SWA/MORPHOSIS project - which I really, really I hated when saw it last night   - actually might work quite well as an urban experiment in sustainability.   But not – in any way shape or form – will it work in Pershing Square. Because it is what it is – and trying to make it into a concept for a major urban public space that needs to appeal to everyone – is simply not what it is.  
And just as I was typing that last line…. – it suddenly all came to me.  The way to build and test thisconcept – in a real world situation – in the type of place it fits.  And then it further came to me – exactly where it needs to be built. 
Because, if it did work there –  and its chances of success would be far greater there than in Pershing Square - then another one could be built -  right next door – giving it more of an economy of scale.  And if that too worked, then it could then be replicated – again and again – dozens or even hundreds of times more.  
OK – it now may take me just a bit longer to write and type that…

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