American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2006 Professional Awards
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The Chess Park with its 28 ’ tall chess towers, as seen from the adjacent parking garage located just west of Brand Boulevard.  The passageway was initially created to provide passage from the garage to Brand Boulevard and the nearby Alex Theater. (Photo by Tom Bonner)

Diagramming the story of the park. (image courtesy of Rios Clementi Hale Studios)

Diagramming the story of the park. (image courtesy of Rios Clementi Hale Studios)

The Chess Park on opening day.  The chess club and the City of Glendale hosted a grand event.  Chess club members were on hand to teach the community about chess.  In the background, the Queen presides over the gaming zone while the knight keeps watch on the alleyway beyond. (image courtesy of Rios Clementi Hale Studios)

The crowd lingered well into the night on opening day.  The five towers provide a lighted connection to the Boulevard action. (image courtesy of Rios Clementi Hale Studios)

Movie night at the Chess Park.  The open area near Brand Boulevard allows for flexible seating for a variety of events oriented toward the street. (image courtesy of LA Forum/Dan Herman)

A jazz band provides sounds from the stage constructed of Trex recycled lumber.  The Rook in the background provides storage for equipment used at Chess Park events. (image courtesy of City of Glendale/Eve Rappaport)

Young Hawaiian dancers are watched from built-in seating situated around the stage area.  This seating also provides a relaxing spot to read a book or have lunch for downtowners during the workweek. (image courtesy of City of Glendale/Eve Rappaport )

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Chess Park, Glendale, California
Rios Clementi Hale Studios, Los Angeles, California

"Fun, fabulous, and quirky. Exactly what an urban pocket park should be: playful."

— 2006 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Created as a part of the City of Glendale’s efforts to redevelop its downtown core, the 4,500-square-foot Chess Park provides residents, the Glendale Chess Club, and other community organizations with a multi-functional urban pocket park that fosters and celebrates artistry, gamesmanship, intellectual debate, and challenge.  The park is located in a previously underused passageway which runs between two retail shops in the Brand Boulevard business district, connecting a city parking structure to the bustling streetfront shops, restaurants, and theaters on Brand Boulevard, Glendale’s main thoroughfare. 

The Glendale Chess Club was instrumental in creating the Chess Park, having approached the city government as a group to request that the City designate a space where its club and others could play.  The City’s solution was to utilize the undeveloped Brand Boulevard passageway. In an unusual partnership, the City of Glendale brought the Landscape Architects together with the Chess Club to ensure the design program met the organization’s playing needs and celebrated the rich history and traditions of chess.

The Landscape Architects’ design program for the park found its roots on the history, lore, evolution, and rituals of the game of chess and its pieces.  Ideas about form, function and meaning that describe the game as an instrument of culture drove the development of the park elements.  The park's spatial patterning is reminiscent of the strategic movements made in chess.  Distributed along the length of the park are five giant light towers that are abstractions of the shapes of the King, Queen, Knight, Rook, and Pawn.  Inspired by Isamu Noguchi’s famous lanterns, the 28-foot-high lanterns - clad in gray, recycled-wood/polymer siding and topped with synthetic mesh canvas - represent an evolution of the ancient chess figures.  Fabricated by a fine art engineering and fabrication firm with roots in the Glendale community, the towers have a dual function of providing space for performances, signage, and storage, in addition to being a symbolic presence.   

The park is organized into three zones to bring clarity to the different design elements.  The gaming zone is in the center of the space.  To the east, the boulevard zone borders the street.  To the west, the buffer zone borders the alleyway.  The Bishop Tower stands at the entrance of the boulevard zone.  It acts as a messenger by carrying the park’s entrance signage.  Nearby, the King Tower sits as a giant, story-telling throne where community groups can engage in outreach activities, such as performances and book readings.  Across from the throne is a platform where musicians, actors, and artists can gather together and showcase their talents.  The Rook Tower, in the shape of an abstracted castle, is next to the stage, providing storage and technical support for events.  Low concrete “Pawn” benches with recycled wood-polymer lumber tops provide seating for local workers to enjoy their lunches or coffee breaks.  The interior perimeter of the park is lined with screen walls of gray recycled-wood polymer lumber, providing a monolithic backdrop for the towers and bringing the park a sense of scale. 

The Chess Park planting is composed of a series of hedges of Ficus m. nitida ‘Green Gem’ punctuated by bursts of white-flowering Dietes vegeta and Carissa macrocarpa ‘Boxwood Beauty.’ In addition to the hedges and massed plantings, a small grove of Cypress trees provides a buffer to the alley. The topiary quality of these trees enhances the notion of the Chess Park as a fantastic setting for a game of Chess, as in the tale, “Alice Through The Looking Glass.”


Project Resources


Structural Engineer:
Grossman & Speer Associates

Electrical Engineer:
PEI Inc.

Civil Engineer:
John M. Cruikshank Consultants


Irrigation Designer:
Sweeney & Associates, Inc.

Chess Tower Fabrication:
Carlson & Co.

General Contractors:
Frederick Towers Inc.




The natural and subdued colors of the Trex material used for both the low walls that back the stage and gaming zones provide a muted background to the various activities and associated colors that occupy the chess park. (image courtesy of City of Glendale)

The gaming area includes sixteen pre-cast concrete chess tables with inlaid tile chessboards.  Trex walls break down the scale of the surrounding buildings while overhead wires provide a location for sunshades to protect the users from the hot summer sun. (image courtesy of Rios Clementi Hale Studios)

The various zones of the park allow a multiplicity of complimentary uses at any given time.  A community chess event occurs in the gaming zone while street vendors provide refreshment in the boulevard zone. (photo by Lola Nunn)

Integrated wall lighting in the gaming area allows scheduled “Blitz Night” chess tournaments to extend late into the night. The proximity of the chess towers and the varied fixture types provide distinct lighting qualities for the different zones. (photo by Lola Nunn)

Game play during a “Blitz Night.” (photo by Lola Nunn)

View from gaming zone to Brand Boulevard. (Photo by Tom Bonner)  

The lighted chess towers provide a visual connection to the neon spire of the Alex Theater beyond. (Photo by Tom Bonner)

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