French architecture firm wins Pershing Square redesign competition

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French landscape architecture firm Agence TER won a global competition to redesign the five-acre Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles.

In the center of the city, the heart of downtown, Pershing Square offers a brief break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

"They managed to put in a little bit of play equipment, so it became more friendly for kids so we've been coming down there," said Dax Hock, who lives in downtown L.A.

But Hock and many other downtown residents say there's still room for improvement.

"I'd like to see more activities that you would find in good central parks and good cities that attract families," Hock said.

City planners have unveiled a way to make it better. On Thursday morning, Councilmember Jose Huizar announced that a design from a team led by French landscape architecture firm Agence TER won a global competition to breathe new life into the five-acre public space.

"Our team's approach to the square is to reconcile nature and city, creating an attractive hybrid between plaza and park," Agence TER's Henri Bava said.

The design eliminates the walls and elevations and replaces them with what the designer calls a radical flatness, opening the park to sidewalk views on every side.

The hard part is now paying for the redesign, which will cost about $50 million.

"Obviously all the bells and whistles and everything else we could put, that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but we thought what was realistic and what would get us a real change and new park would be about $50 million," Huizar said.

The new plans are impressive, and everyone agrees Pershing Square could use a facelift, but now the real work of raising the money to make it happen begins. Huizar is planning to provide more funding details in the next couple of weeks.

If all goes as planned, Pershing Square will be redesigned as early as 2019.
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