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City park design

City park design

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    Photo: NUVIS

    Planning and construction of the Studio City Greenway project--part of the Los Angeles River Greenway Community Enhancement Plan--was coordinated by NUVIS and its design team, and involved input with several city, county, and regional bodies.

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    NUVIS

    The Studio City Greenway project encompasses recreation trails, slope stabilization, native plant refurbishment, and site amenities such as seating, fencing, and lighting.

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    NUVIS

    NUVIS plans for the Great Urban Park--created for a design competition sponsored by the city of Pleasanton, Calif.--include an amphitheater that blends in with the natural surroundings.

In addition, the county required trees to be no closer than 20 feet from the channel, reserved the right to remove any obstructing tree/shrub within a 17-foot setback from the channel wall, and had specific guidelines (in the process of being revised during the project's design) on plant species, plant pockets, fence materials, and spacing. The USACE wanted no additional surface drainage into the channel, no structural changes to their walls, and was leery of access for the public into the channel right of way. The public and various agencies were sometimes at odds, but compromises were made by all parties to achieve the overall goals of the Greenway. The county compromised on setbacks, a multiuse trail was created instead of a “true” Class Abikeway, and the USACE allowed new fencing adjacent to the channel as long as it met certain specifications.

While essential to the success of the project, public input added to the workload and project complexity. The design team worked with a volunteer neighborhood oversight committee (VNOC), which was involved in the project from its inception and present at all meetings that included representatives from all the agencies. This committee was made up of a representative from every interested group, and it included two representatives from the local business association, one from the Friends of the Los Angeles River, two residents who live within ½ mile of the project appointed by the council district, a representative from the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, and a local architect who lives in the community. The bus tour was attended by more than 30 interested parties including the VNOC members. There were two community meetings that invited all interested community members, adjacent business owners, and general public. At one meeting, more than 100 citizens brought concerns about such issues as property values, crime, design, and amenities.

The tours and meetings helped educate the public and build support for the plan. Through this collaboration, the design team learned the value of being forthcoming and responsive. They presented a draft design to the public, which was very passionate about creating a place that would not attract gang activity, add noise pollution, or disrupt screening and privacy. The meetings enabled community members to voice concerns, which the design team took into account when revising the plans.

PLANTING PARAMETERS

Landscaping posed another challenge for the design team. The planting plan had to adhere to the Los Angeles River Master Plan Landscaping Guidelines and Plant Palettes. However, Los Angeles County was still developing these guidelines at the same time NUVIS was designing the park. The county Department of Public Works specified and planted native trees, shrubs, grasses, and perennials according to the guidelines but performed that work before the guidelines were adopted officially in January 2004.

By collaborating with the authors of the landscaping guidelines, NUVIS was able to help coordinate the various landscaping efforts, contribute to the direction of the revitalization program, and obtain design information needed for the project. For instance, NUVIS had to develop special plant palettes for each region along the revitalization zone, which stretches from the mountains to the ocean.

The goal in designing this park was to create an urban oasis that reflects the character of the city and its environs. The team's mission was to make the Studio City Greenway inviting, to reflect the history of the city and the surrounding area, and to embrace the contiguous neighborhoods and business districts. By using indigenous materials in patterns that represent a natural river, visitors are made aware that the river was not always a concrete channel; it meandered and provided habitat. Access is provided at both ends, on both sides of the river, at the parking structure, at the residential area, and at the retail parking lot edge. There are opportunities for biking, walking, sitting, and gatherings.

The plan retained large existing trees to provide shade for the newly planted understory and to add to the sense of space. Long-term maintenance plans called for eventual removal of these trees, which are not native to the area, when they fall into decline and would then be replaced with native species. Boulders and rocks from local sources were used to create natural seating areas along the pathway.

Concentric rings of colored concrete at the greenway entry points evoke the ripples created in water when it is touched—a symbol of the impact each individual can have on the river community. Permeable decomposed granite pathway along the north side of the river allows water to percolate into the subsurface rather than quickly draining into the channel. Decorative metal gates, fencing, and guardrails are found at entry points, along the pathway, and at vehicle crossings. Dog waterers (low, bubbling drinking basins) are located along the north side of the river greenway.

— Rombouts is a writer based in Southern California.