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Vote on the 4 finalists for the Pershing Square redesign

The four design finalists hoping to transform Pershing Square Park into a vibrant, functional space unveiled their plans Thursday at the Downtown Palace Theatre.

Under the guidance of Los Angeles Councilmember Jose Huizar, Pershing Square — the nearly 5-acre plaza adjacent to the civic center — will get a makeover in the next five years, and L.A. is co-sponsoring a design competition to find the best team to do it.

Winnowed down from 10 finalists in December, a jury of city officials and local stakeholders selected the four design firms, which all bring an original concept to the project.

The finalists include two L.A.-based teams: SWA|Morphosis and wHY with Civitas, as well as Paris-based Agency TER and New York-based James Corner, who is responsible for Manhattan's High Line park and Santa Monica's Tongva Park. 

While each design incorporates some traditional elements like tall trees, open lawns and playgrounds, the firms envisioned vastly different modern features to bring park spaces into the 21st century.

“The opportunity is to integrate all of the amazing technologies and the new behaviors that people have and to have those actually augment our experience at the square,” said Eduardo Santana, executive director of Pershing Square Renew, a public-private partnership that is overseeing the park rehabilitation.

Some of those experiences include spending time with pets, or in yoga classes and coffee houses. Agency TER, for example, proposes building a “Smart Canopy” with a high-tech lighted ceiling. Underneath, locals can dine at restaurants and connect with city services.

James Corner's plan calls for lifting the corners of the park off the ground, creating grassy knolls on the slopes above and trendy cafes down below.

“Downtown Los Angeles is the midst of a renaissance. And there’s a very inspiring direction that we can actually purse," said Santana. "[These designers] are helping us envision what Pershing Square’s role can be in that future downtown.” 

Officials say the park re-amp cost estimates start at $50 million. The Pershing Square Renew jury will choose the winning design in May after getting feedback from the public.

The finalists:

#1: SWA with Morphosis, nicknamed the "Local Force"

SWA with Morphosis

They have offices a couple blocks from Pershing Square, Santana said. They designed the Caltrans building, as well as other noteworthy buildings around the country. Both SWA and Morphosis are based in downtown L.A. See their full proposal here.

#2: James Corner Field Operations with Frederick Fisher & Partners, nicknamed the "Landscape Starchitect"

James Corner Field Operations with Frederick Fisher & Partners
James Corner Field Operations with Frederick Fisher & Partners
James Corner Field Operations with Frederick Fisher & Partners

James Corner Field Operations designed Manhattan's High Line, which Santa told KPCC is considered by many one of the most important public spaces of the new millennium. They also designed the newly opened Tongva Park in Santa Monica. See their full proposal here.

#3: Agence TER with SALT Landscape Architects, nicknamed the "Globetrotters"

Agence Ter and Team
Agence Ter and Team
Agence Ter and Team

Agence TER is based in Paris, but they're working with a local landscape team, SALT Landscape Architects. They've traveled the world and designed some of the most amazing public spaces in Europe, Santana said. He added that, with the international flavor of L.A., it was great to have an international team. See their full proposal here.

#4: wHY with Civitas, nicknamed the "Wild Card"

wHY with Civitas

wHY is based in Culver City, and Santa said that they're the wild card because they don't have as deep a resume as some of the others. He said that the way they made it this far is that they had what he called a creative, diverse image for Pershing Square. The team at Pershing Square Renew saw enough from them to make them want to see more, Santana said, saying that they have an exciting, creative approach that's mindful of the diversity of L.A. See their full proposal here.

KPCC's online polls are not scientific surveys of local or national opinion. Rather, they are designed as a way for our audience members to engage with each other and share their views. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page, or in the comments below.