Local

4 finalists selected for Pershing Square redesign

File: Monica, left, and Juan put shoes on her two-year-old daughter, Juliana, before her first time skating during Downtown on Ice at Pershing Square on Christmas Eve in 2013.
File: Monica, left, and Juan put shoes on her two-year-old daughter, Juliana, before her first time skating during Downtown on Ice at Pershing Square on Christmas Eve in 2013.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

The nonprofit group looking to renovate downtown Los Angeles's Pershing Square announced the four finalists for creating the public space's new look. They include two local firms, including one in L.A. and one in Culver City. The other firms include one in New York and one from Paris.

There were initially 54 firms looking to do the new design, before that number was cut down to 10 semifinalists and now four finalists. They chose the 10 by selecting firms "that both had great qualifications, in terms of their past work experience, and also really articulated the opportunity that they saw for Pershing Square going into the future," Eduardo Santana, executive director at Pershing Square Renew, the group behind the renovation efforts, told KPCC.

The 10 semifinalists interviewed with Pershing Square Renew's competition jury a week ago, Santana said. The jury was impressed by all 10, Santana said, including five local teams, three from New York, one from northern California and the team from Paris.

Santana said that there wasn't initially an intention to have so much local representation, but that they were pleased to see that local teams ended up scoring well with those making the final selections.

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.

Santana emphasized the importance of diversity in what they're looking for, saying that it was important that design understand and celebrate diversity.

The finalists will make a public presentation in late April 2016 ahead of a public comment period, where people can say which design is their favorite. Ahead of that, they'll also interview again with the same jury that chose the finalists.

"We put out our request for qualifications to the entire design community, and received interest from around the world. And we're very excited to see that the design community really sees a huge opportunity, as we do, in Pershing Square," Santana told KPCC.

The final decision on the new design is up to the jury that selected the finalists and will likely be made in early May, Santana said.

Whichever firm is selected will be a key design partner in drawing up their vision of Pershing Square, Santana said, as well as being the architect of record through the renovation. They'll select a contractor to do the actual physical improvements, but the firm will remain a key partner throughout the process, Santana said.

Pershing Square Renew was started by L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar and his Pershing Square Task Force, Santana said. They were established through a gift from a local developer who is building across the street from Pershing Square, MacFarlane Partners.

"Public space — especially in a downtown area, where people are sharing even their private space and people are living in apartments and condos — the public realm is really where people come together. Where they can have a respite from the hustle and bustle of the urban environment, connect to nature, connect to other people, enjoy activities and programs that are fun and relaxing," Santana said.