Parks and other urban commons are vital expressions of the city and its inhabitants. A park is a collective space for community gatherings – a space that connects us to each other, gives the community their identity, and knits together a diversity of backgrounds, ages, and interests. During the Land8x8 Lightning Talks in Seattle, Nate Cormier, Principal at Rios Clementi Hale Studios, advocated that parks should celebrate the diversity of the community. Cormier believes that landscape architects play a critical role in telling the “shared stories” of the city. By intermixing culture with place, we can create spaces that all people feel connected to.
Based in Los Angeles, Rios Clementi Hale Studios is a multi-disciplinary design firm that celebrates the connection between people and place. They believe that good design connects people, celebrates their stories as individuals, and brings people together, allowing for new stories to be created.
“Design is never without story. It connects people to each other and the world around us. Together we work beyond boundaries to reveal, explore, and invent designs that amplify experiences.” – Nate Cormier
Believing that a park should be a reflection of its people, Cormier has worked on several projects that explore how culture can be interwoven into design. One such example is Grand Park. Designed with the goal of expressing the multicultural diversity of the city through landscape design and architecture, the park had to reflect a broad range of users. Aiming to create “The Park for Everyone”, Rios Clementi Hale Studios transformed an under-utilized 12-acre space in the center of downtown Los Angeles into a central gathering spot.
Stretching between the Los Angeles City Hall and the Los Angeles Music Center, Grand Park creates an important link between these cultural icons. Working with a 92-foot change in elevation between those landmarks, Rios Clementi Hale Studios used elegant staircases and ramps to gradually transition between grades, creating a unifying space. The park features a restored historic fountain and new interactive water feature, multi-use lawns and gardens, a dog run, a playground, and a 2/3-mile pedestrian loop. Diverse cultural programming celebrates the community and encourages new experiences.
To represent the many cultures that have settled in Los Angeles, Rios Clementi Hale Studios took a unique approach to planting design. Grand Park features plant species from each of the world’s six floristic kingdoms – Cape, Boreal, Neotropical, Paleotropical, Australian, and Antarctic. This broad plant palette responds to the diverse backgrounds of Los Angelesians, giving visitors an instant feeling of familiarity and a connection to their homeland.
Grand Park uses planting design to weave together the social fabric of the city. By considering culture in design, parks provide a place for all walks of life to come together – to celebrate, reflect, and shape the future – in one central gathering place. As Cormier states, a park should be an expression of its people, its diversity, and its passions.