Launch Slideshow

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Regional Renaissance

Regional Renaissance

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    This rendition visualizes the Great Park in its completed form. Because biking's a major component of the park's transportation system, visitors get free use of a bike while in the park. Photos: Great Park Design Studio

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    California's Great Park ties into existing land reserves and connects critical ecological systems to water reserves in central and south Orange County.

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    Reserved solely for wildlife, one native habitat restoration is off limits to park visitors.

Construction on 500 acres within the park's western sphere is estimated to cost $61.16 million and should begin this year: eight tournament- level soccer fields in a sports park; a 125-acre working farm; event lawns and picnic meadows; a performance bowl; a 20-acre lake; and 7.3 miles of walking and bicycle paths.

A portion of the park is already open to the public. The Great Park Balloon, which takes visitors 400 feet aloft for a bird's-eye view of the park, opened July 2007 and the balloon's surrounding Preview Park opened July 2008. An extension to the preview park was completed July 2009.

Designers met with residents, community leaders, veterans, environmental organizations, and artists while creating the master plan. “Their ideas about such features as the sports park, amphitheater, Great Lawn, trails, and botanical gardens will bring people together and fulfill the park's function as a great social and recreational gathering place,” says lead landscape architect Ken Smith.

PLANNING FOR A CARBON-NEUTRAL FUTURE

After an eight-month international design competition, in 2006 Great Park Corp. selected Smith and his collaborating partners: Mia Lehrer of Mia Lehrer + Associates, Enrique Norton of Ten Arquitectos, Steven Handel of Green Shield Ecology, Buro Happold consulting engineers, Fuscoe Engineering, and construction and design management firm Gafcon. Together they comprise the Great Park Design Studio.

To reach sustainability goals (see Web extra on page 53), the designers established a set of performance standards that will be tracked by indicators in five categories:

  • Energy — conservation and onsite generation
  • Water — conservation, recycling in natural treatment wetlands, and capturing runoff
  • Materials — salvaged, recycled, ecologically engineered, and waste neutral
  • Nature — restored native habitats, enhanced biodiversity, and ecological connections
  • People — activities and experiences that foster physical and social well-being.

A multifaceted strategy for minimizing the use of fossil fuels by using renewable energy complements the designers' desire to show visitors sustainable structures, systems, and technologies that will encourage them to change behaviors to preserve the area's natural beauty.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. When the design doesn't permit existing structures to remain onsite, timber, concrete and asphalt from 120 buildings and 600 acres of pavement will be reused or recycled at a center next to the park.

Gravel and cobbles will be become infiltration media and roadbed support. Large slabs of concrete will be stacked for retaining walls and waterfalls and laid for trail steps.

Once the park's built, debris and landscape waste will be recycled onsite.

Water conservation. Southern California is experiencing its third consecutive year of drought, so potable water isn't an option for watering landscapes.