Bringing Local Arts into Public Space

In 2016, Civitas and wHY Architecture were named to a prestigious international shortlist of four teams vying for the opportunity to reimagine 150-year-old, five-acre Pershing Square as the heart of Los Angeles. “Giving Pershing Square a longer and more meaningful life is a first-order challenge for any designers. The answer must somehow include the most advanced understanding of cultural spaces paired with the most significant lessons of spaces that have stood the test of time,” explains Mark Johnson, Civitas Founder.  Or as Yantrasast of wHY points out, “We are asking ourselves, what inspires wonder in Los Angeles? How can we capture the beauty of a lost landscape and the energy of its people?”

The design proposal celebrates the natural and cultural history and diversity of LA by introducing topography, native gardens, groves of shade trees, and multiple ways to move through and around the Square. Numerous venues for groups of all scales are proposed, linked in a ribbon of green walkways that navigate the space and the tops of the proposed “eyebrow” buildings. These house services for food, restrooms, gallery, kitchen and performance spaces. The proposal further engages the garage space below, reduces the size of surrounding streets where feasible and emphasizes a wide range of sustainable infrastructure, energy and water conservation/harvesting concepts.

LA is layered from the ground up, and from the top down. From topographies of structure to the unstructured layers of culture, we intend to tap into and express these layers in how Pershing Square is programmed and used as the center of food arts and culture for all LA. The lifts, folds and layers of the new Square express and exploit these histories, bringing the past, present and future together. For generations, people have experienced civic life, public discourse, protest, performance, culture and personal reflection in this place. The new Square respects and celebrates this by bringing the past within the present.