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Editor's note

Besides offering the epic view, this pocket social space is in fact also a community garden, plaza, skatepark and a monument. The latter comes from the fact that there was a development that slid down the bluff in 1930′ and some remains are still visible today. It’s interesting that the remains inspired the forms of this project and not the previous state of the architecture before the accident. So there is a great deal of abstraction rather than some naive memorabilia, which is sadly often the case. A Google Maps visit will show that the initial planting scheme did not survive. Maybe it was changed by the members of the community, in any case it’s a pity since it was giving unique character to the place. As if the violet and yellow-ish plants would want to play with the sunset light and blue – pink hues of evening sky. It would be hard to believe that Sedum would not survive the climatic conditions of this site.

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CMG Landscape Architecture: Previously a parking lot on a bluff created by the dramatic collapse of the coastline, the forms of Pacific Overlook emerge from the ground like remnants of the past. At the southernmost tip of Los Angeles, Pacific Overlook was transformed from a parking lot into a public open space which opened in 2010. Serving as an inspiration for the design and adjacent to the project site is Sunken City, a suburban development that slid down the unstable costal bluff in the 1930s. Its remnants are visible in the scattered ruins of suburban infrastructure. Cracked pieces of concrete roads undulate over the edges of the bluff; street trees that have clung to life index the ruined sidewalks. Sunken City is a radical public space still explored and frequented by locals today.

The delicate geotechnical conditions of the bluff required Pacific Overlook’s design to prevent infiltration of water and not add significant weight. This meant no tree planting, irrigation, or footings for structures of great height or load. In response to the constraints, we chose low-water sedum species with shallow soil systems, typical of green roof planting, to fill steel planters in a graphic pattern. A concrete cap creates the ground plane, while seat walls and viewing platforms reference the adjacent ruins in their various forms and arrangements.

Pacific Overlook provides an empty landscape – available to anyone to use as appropriate – but with sufficient detail and sculptural form to assert a quiet presence in its own right. Balancing openness and intricacy, the materials and design vocabulary reflect the industrial history of San Pedro. Design details direct a visitors’ attention with materiality, texture and shadow: the way the seat feels, the high contrast of one surface in full sun and the other in shade. The pattern of the brilliantly colored sedum species is composed of modules, laid out as a graphic while taller succulents screen the street and are a threshold to the overlook.


Landscape Architecture: CMG Landscape Architecture:
Location: San Pedro, CA
Year of Construction: 2010
Area: 0.5 acres
Clients: Los Angeles Harbor, Watts Economic Development Corporation
Collaborators: Huitt-Zollars, W.E. O’Neil Construction, Englekirk Structural Engineering, Etera Green Roof, The Reclaimer, City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.
Image Credits: listed on image files.

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