landscape architecture HOME
Subscribe | Magazine Index | Advertise | Subscribe | Search | Contact Us | FAQs
LAM
Land Matters
artlandscape
design
Firm_Focus
perspective
planning
publicland
 
Letters
Riprap
Product Profiles
 
American Society of Landscape Architects

 

September 2007 Issue

THE MOOD SWINGS OF A SMALL URBAN SPACE
A park goes from deserted walkway to crowded dance floor, all in a single day.

By Morris Newman

THE MOOD SWINGS OF A SMALL URBAN SPACE C/O Jill Connelly

Chess Park is a reminder that real-life urban spaces donít always follow the scripts imagined for them by their designers.

Located in the downtown area of Glendale, an older Los Angeles suburb of 300,000 people, the 4,500-square-foot park was designed to become a magnet for chess enthusiasts. The city has a large population of Armenian immigrants, many of whom are expert players who study the game with single-minded devotion. The park was intended partly as a means to provide a practice and tournament site for the Glendale AAA Chess Club.

Notable for its 28-foot-tall ďlanternsĒ modeled after chess pieces, Chess Park seemingly follows a surefire formula for a popular small park: The plaza is located off the main business boulevard of this city located a few miles north of downtown Los Angeles. Traffic is thick on the boulevard until late in the evening, and the sidewalks are alive, if not crowded, with pedestrians. For better or worse, Chess Park is a two-sided spaceódefined by buildings to the north and south and open on the east and west. The park serves as a through space for people walking between an alley and adjoining public parking on the west and Brand Boulevard on the east, with plentiful retail, office space, restaurants, and entertainment venues, including a concert stage almost directly across the street from the park. The long and narrow dimensions of the park set up a tension between the contrary roles of corridor and destination. Those same dimensions, however, are a good fit for public events, both planned and spontaneous.

Turns out the park isnít quite the chess mecca it was intended to be. But that doesnít mean the park is a flop: It has become a home for activities as varied (and exotic) as a city-sponsored Polynesian dance exhibition and an unofficial weekly dance contest for teenagers. Through the cycle of a single day, the park seems to change personalities, from that of a shortcut to one of the most crowded and exciting spots in the city. And while design by itself obviously cannot create behavior, the design and dimensions of Chess Park likely play a role in both its occasional drawbacks and its startling successes.

…To read the entire article, subscribe to LAM!


What's New | LAND | Annual Meeting
Product Profiles & Directory
ASLA Online

 

    

636 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001-3736 Telephone: 202-898-2444 • Fax: 202-898-1185
©2007 American Society of Landscape Architects. All Rights Reserved.