Studio-MLA: Just three years ago, Ishihara Park was a parking lot. The long and narrow 2.35 acre (.95 hectare) site located in the City of Santa Monica was reimagined as a linear park to mitigate a planned Metro light rail maintenance facility built adjacent to a quiet residential neighbourhood. The park provides an important visual and environmental buffer between nearby residents and the industrial facility and offers new opportunities for recreation and respite. A robust community engagement process with residents and stakeholders unearthed the site’s potential and informed the park’s design. Residents wanted the park to serve the community, care for ecology, offer a place for all to play, support physical activity, and celebrate the culture and history of the neighbourhood.
Studio-MLA approached the design as a string of distinct spaces organized along a central promenade. The Park showcases a series of eight rooms: The Grove, The Watershed Garden, The Bird Garden, The Meadow, The Community Pavilion, The Rock Garden, The Learning Garden and The Forest. A balanced approach between passive and active rooms helps serve the diverse community of the neighbourhood. A select number of rooms were identified to function as green infrastructure to manage stormwater, create habitat, and increase the urban forest while also providing quiet places. Complementing these passive rooms, the active rooms provide a variety of programs such as a shaded picnic area, universal play area, community garden and orchard, exercise zone and flexible play and event lawn. The fence-free environment allows each room to be accessed individually from the sidewalk or through the central promenade.
The “Park in Rooms” scheme creates a dynamic experience that takes advantage of the park’s linear continuity. Each room is distinct in character, plant color palette and program and has been designed to surprise new visitors with unexpected details along the way. For example, an elevated jetty over the sunken retention meadow allows park users to sit along its rocky edge or play and explore its lower meadow. A sculpted and sliced oversized boulder in the play area invites children and adults alike to sit, jump, or inhabit it as they please. In the Bird Garden, giant, abstracted nests support flowering vines add a whimsical experience and provides native bird habitat. These elements were conceived as a move away from the predictability and prescriptive nature of pre-manufactured play equipment and park features to create a park with a true genius loci.
The park was open to the public in 2017 and residents and office worker alike are now occupying the site at all hours, enjoying lunch picnic, after school play, early jogging and event of the lawn. Ishihara linear park is a small urban park that replaces 2.35 acres of asphaltic parking to create a place where people and wildlife can wonder. The multi-disciplinary team worked together to accommodate a very limited budget and comply with all building requirements to create a place of delight to connect with nature and each other’s – a true public, civic and democratic park.
Short office name: Studio-MLA
Role of the office in the project: Prime – Lead Design
Other designers involved in the design of landscape:
Owner/Client: City of Santa Monica
Civil Engineering: Fuscoe Engineering
Structural Engineer: IDG Structural Engineering
Lighting Design: Sean O’Connor Lighting
Project location: 2909 Exposition Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404. USA
Design year: 2015
Year Built: 2016/2017
Main Project photo: Hunter Kerhart
Ishihara 1,2,3,5,7,10,11,12,13: Hunter Kerhart
Ishihara 4,6: Aaron Ackerman
Ishihara 8,9: Studio-MLA