Grand Intervention: Civic Plaza of Los Angeles

Grand Avenue Intervention:
Submission Gallery

Civic Plaza of Los Angeles 

Submitted by Andrew Rivlin & Ben Warsinske, Cal Poly Pomona

This vision of Los Angeles is a conceptual plan that addresses constraints and provides new opportunities. Bringing mass transit into one area, creating a transit hub, will help to identify the space. Providing information for arrivals and departures of trains, buses and flights will bring awareness to the public and allow easier access to mass transit. Along with the transit hub, retail is proposed. Fine dining, family-style restaurants, coffee shops and technology software stores would take over the former Los Angeles Courthouse. On upper floors of the multi-use building, residential towers are proposed. This would start to enlarge the resident population in downtown, as will the residential towers being proposed across from the courthouse. On a broader scale, greenways are proposed to make people aware of the unity of the city. The greenways would stretch out to Chinatown, along Grand Avenue, and along 1st Street out to the L.A. River. In later phases of design, it is proposed that the river be restored with "soft edges" where it is feasible.

The 16-acre site located in downtown Los Angeles is in need of an identity. The site lacks continuity, retail and entertainment as well as information and technology. This conceptual plan addresses these issues. The plan combines the existing Metro Red Line station located in the park along with bus routes and a proposed Gold Line extension from Chinatown. From this station, people ride the escalators up into the plaza, being placed into the center of the site. A large scale, multi-screen media center hangs overhead as people meander through. The screens display news reports, Web cams, stock tickers and entertainment based on time. Integrated into the design are personal media centers which allow users to check arrival and departure times for trains, buses and even flights from LAX. Cameras are positioned in the plaza and on subways, trains, and buses. A touchscreen monitor lets people choose which camera and camera angle to view.

The former Los Angeles County Courthouse has been converted into a multi-use building including fine restaurants, coffee shops, and computer store retail. On the upper floors are residential towers, which provide views into the plaza as well as out to the financial district and to the river. Across the street from the multi-use building, residential towers reside. Across from City Hall, a proposed Los Angeles Visitor Center is to go in, the facade matching the surrounding architecture. Facing the plaza, the facade is made up of glass and structure, giving it a distinct look as a landmark.

The design provides a definition for this 16-acre site by creating an identity and well-known landmarks. The combined technology and entertainment adds a layer of education, functionality and creativity to the plaza. The programming of the proposed Civic Plaza inspires creativity, functionality and a new wave of technology in the city of Los Angeles. Placed throughout the park as well as throughout the different districts, LED Monitors will display stock tickers, news reports, Web cams showing what is going on in other districts and mass transit schedules. Inside the park, there will be devoted monitors, which will allow users to choose which camera angle they would like to see through a touch-screen interface. The views would show Amtrak trains, the Metro Red Line and proposed lines as well. The large scale, four-sided wide-screen jumbotron hangs over the center of the plaza, a landmark in itself. This screen will provide entertainment as well as the schedules, news reports, stock tickers, and the Web cams. The jumbotron will focus on one or two programs, with a stock ticker running along the bottom of all four screens. When a big event takes place, the jumbotron will be a landmark to find the latest information.

The Web cams utilize the technology to allow users to be aware of what is going on throughout the city. There are interactive Web cams where people can purposely be filmed and broadcast for the public to watch. They also show the activity of the trains, making people aware that they are, in fact, standing on a built structure. Taking it one step further, Web cams from across the United States could be displayed from well-known landmarks. Throughout the day or when an event takes place in a major city, Web cams can capture the event. For example, the Space Needle, located in Seattle, Washington, has a Web cam that shows the skyline and the ever-changing weather of the Pacific Northwest. Adding a few more Web cams to the Seattle Center and even the monorail line could enhance the experience within the city of Seattle as well as provide an experience 1,200 miles away.

Continuing with technology, providing people with access to the Internet is becoming more and more standard in urban settings. The Civic Plaza will provide free Wi-Fi high-speed Internet access to those possessing wireless cards in their laptop computers. Internet bays will also be provided in the retail shops with Ethernet cords for a flat fee. Allowing people to conduct their business within the site is an important feature.

Retail that is proposed includes two anchor family restaurants, which bring familiarity to the plaza as well as dining-out choices. The Olive Garden and Chili’s have been proposed as they offer exciting menus and a sense of togetherness. Starbucks, Zatz Bagels and The Coffee Bean are also proposed.

Along with restaurants, other retail is proposed in the multi-use building, formerly known as the L.A. County Courthouse. With all the technology services offered, people may want to upgrade their personal computers. An Apple store and Dell store are located in the upper floors of the new complex. Here, users of the site can have a wireless card installed, or have a laptop built to their own specifications. Providing this service lets people be more comfortable using their personal technology in the civic plaza.

In order to streamline the transportation, bus routes and subway lines were brought into one main station under Hill Street. Hill Street runs through the site and by closing a section off to the public, a hub could be formed that would bring people into one area. From this station, they take the escalators up to the civic plaza. As they come out of the ground, the giant screen hovering over the plaza appears, displaying stocks, news and live Web cams. In turn, to show what goes on beneath street level, columns systematically replace street trees to show the route of the subway lines. The Metro Red Line runs parallel to and directly under Hill Street. The columns are to be placed along the street following the specific route. As the train travels underground, the column that it passes under will light up in a red directional arrow making people responsive to the train passing and where it is headed. This creates an interactivity and awareness of the trains under the streets. It also provides a way to see where the trains go. If you were to follow the columns, you would end up at the civic plaza and again at Union Station as well as smaller stations along the path. At eye level, the columns also provide up to date electronic schedules of the train lines, Amtrak lines, bus routes and flights leaving and arriving from LAX. This will provide people with the information for their public transportation needs. Providing people with the information of when mass transit starts and stops, departs and arrives, will in turn, create more mass transit-friendly users. If the information is easy to find and the transportation is easy to get to, more people are likely to use it.

The proposed transportation hub consists of three different levels of mass transit. The first level is for the bus lines that run along Hill Street within the 16-acre site. Taking the escalator down to the second floor leads to the proposed Gold Line extension from the Chinatown metro station. The proposed extension will be on elevated tracks for a portion of the route, then dive underground to meet at the Civic Plaza second floor station. The third level is the Metro Red Line station that exists. The Civic Plaza provides universal access to all people. Elevators, escalators, ramps and stairs are all provided for a comfortable, universal experience.

Wide walks, large shade trees, benches and seating provide people with enough personal space to choose their own path. Free flowing forms allow users to meander through the site, finding their own way. Two sky bridges grace the site, separating pedestrians from vehicles while keeping access open throughout the 16-acre civic plaza. Within the plaza, connections can be made to the outside. Through the first floor of the remodeled Hall of Records is direct access to the Cathedral. From the multi-use building there is direct access to the newly designed residential towers across from the Disney Concert Hall. Circulation expands beyond the site through the use of mass transit. Bus routes and train lines will provide access to the surrounding districts. To the north, the Metro Gold Line runs through Chinatown and out to Pasadena. Bus systems run through the Financial, Art, Toy and Fashion districts. The Metro Red Line runs a short route through downtown via Union Station.

The transportation hub provided at the Civic Plaza emphasizes Union Station, creating another station to serve mass transit users. The 16-acre site is designed for easy access to all areas. Sweeping forms take you from one specified area to another with smooth transitions. While there is a large amount of hardscape, shade trees and plant materials are utilized in areas to create pockets and spaces within the plaza. Users of the site will find the non-traditional free forms to be inviting and fun, creative from the surrounding city blocks. Void spaces of the site and immediate surrounding blocks consist of building masses. The existing building types include government and entertainment. Proposed are high-end residential towers and more retail. The residential towers would begin to shape the downtown into a community of its own with actual residents. Retail would be geared towards these residents as well as the employees and users of the Civic Plaza.

Some of the existing government and federal buildings will be relocated. This will provide a direct link to the residential towers across the street and to users in the site to the proposed retail. Strong connections radiate from the proposed Civic Plaza through greenway corridors and transit awareness. The greenway corridors provide aesthetic linkages between districts. The train lines are evident through the lighted columns interspersed with large street trees. The corridor that goes out to the river creates an awareness about the existing conditions of the L.A. river. In later phases of design, it is proposed that the river be restored with "soft edges." Along the train yard it would be quite a challenge, although it could be proposed. The Metro Gold Line extension connects people from the Civic Plaza to Chinatown. Parallel to the new train line is a corridor of trees that line the street. The corridor is directly linked to the plaza. Once at the Civic Plaza, a median of trees line the middle of Spring Street to continue the greenway.