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Square Dance
Los Angeles begins process of revamping Pershing Square.
Ground view of one of Gensler's hypothetical designs for Pershing Square.
Courtesy Gensler

In early September, Los Angeles councilman Jose Huizar announced the formation of a 21-member task force to help re-imagine Pershing Square, the beleaguered central park in the middle of downtown. The group includes local residents, design and architecture experts, business people, and government officials. Huizar said he hoped they could bring “a wide-range of ideas and perspectives to the discussion.” They also have to develop an agenda and a timeline, and figure out how to fund the project.

The park has undergone several iterations during its more than 150-year history. Its last redesign, in 1994 by Ricardo Legoretta and Laurie Olin, has not weathered well. Its off-putting hard spaces, its disconnection from the rest of the city, and its dated postmodern design have led many to the opinion that it needs to be replaced.

Gensler's research images for Pershing Square during the day (above) and at night (below).

According to Huizar’s planning director, Tanner Blackman, one possible funding source for the park could be seed money from downtown developments’ community improvement funds. Other such funds were anticipated from the company AEG, related to its Downtown Stadium plans, but since those are very uncertain so is the money.

Huizar said he thought the task force’s discussions and ideas would be vital in “recapturing the magic [Pershing Square] once held as a significant and important gathering place for all Angelenos.” Designers on the task force include Gensler’s Brian Glodney, NBBJ’s Rick Poulos, and former city planning director Gail Goldberg, who now leads the Urban Land Institute’s Los Angeles chapter.


To help kick off the discussion (and shed light on the square’s possibilities) Gensler shared its ideas for the square, which it developed over the last year as part of its company-wide “Town Square” research and design project. The goal of that effort is to “reconsider the role of public open space in cities.”

Their studies weighed a dizzying amount of data informing a possible redesign, including program, orientation, shading, circulation, and visual accessibility. But Gensler pointed out that their plan was just an in-house dry run. The firm did not survey the many potential users, a study that would be reserved for the final version of the park. Of course, there’s no telling who will be undertaking the design at that point.

“It’s a starting point,” said Gensler principal Li Wen. “We’d love to test this model with the park’s stakeholders,” added Glodney.

Sam Lubell