wHY + Civitas Named ‘Wild Card’ Team on Shortlist of Four for L.A. Pershing Square Competition to Revitalize Historic Downtown Park

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A design team led by wHY and Civitas is one of four international teams awarded a position on the shortlist for the Los Angeles Pershing Square competition. Teams will present ideas for revitalizing the 150-year-old park at heart of downtown L.A. in the next round of competition in April 2016.

A presentation board by wHY + Civitas that presents L.A.’s Pershing Square as a “test kitchen” blending culture and nature helped win the team a spot on the international competition’s shortlist.

“We are asking ourselves, what inspires wonder in Los Angeles?” says wHY’s Kulapat Yantrasast.

wHY and Civitas, two national design firms specializing in urban design, architecture and landscape architecture, were recently named to a prestigious international shortlist of four teams – narrowed from 10 initial semifinalists – vying for the opportunity to reimagine Pershing Square as the heart of Los Angeles.

wHY, the ‘eco-disciplinary’ practice of Thai architect Kulapat Yantrasast whose designs include forward-thinking projects for culture, society and the environment, such as public spaces, museums, galleries, educational buildings and even houses, and Civitas, whose experience working in Los Angeles includes a central role in leading the task force that developed the master plan for the 32-mile L.A. River revitalization, have been working diligently through ideas for a renewed downtown Los Angeles, experiencing firsthand the complexity of issues that comprise a revitalization of the city’s 150-year-old five-acre Pershing Square.

“When we learned about the project, we knew that we had to put our name in the hat,” says Yantrasast. “The approach and ideas that Pershing Square Renew was seeking were right up our alley, complemented by our newly established Grounds Workshop, led by landscape architect Mark Thomann, and an advisory group made up of individuals from L.A.’s most unique corners.”

In its news release announcing the shortlist, Pershing Square Renew dubbed wHY + Civitas the “Wild Card” team – a name that delighted for its suggestion of fresh energy and ideas – and described the duo’s presentation as offering “a creative approach that intrigued the jury at every level of the competition.”

“Pershing Square has been many things over many years and is still searching for a lasting role and identity,” says Mark Johnson, Civitas founding principal. “Many cities have a central place that has attracted people and endured over the centuries – Amsterdam, Moscow, New York – but Los Angeles doesn’t have that place.”

While L.A.’s inherent messiness and lack of central focus makes the Pershing Square competition particularly demanding, it also makes it all the more interesting: the wHY + Civitas team presents an authentic and organic synergy working together to approach a challenge this complex.

The city is “too unruly,” constantly “doing and undoing” its expressions of culture, to easily find that sort of legacy, explains Johnson. “Giving Pershing Square a longer and more meaningful life is a first-order challenge for any designers. The answer must somehow include the most advanced understanding of cultural spaces paired with the most significant lessons of spaces that have stood the test of time.”

Or as Yantrasast points out, “We are asking ourselves, what inspires wonder in Los Angeles? How can we capture the beauty of a lost landscape and the energy of its people?”

More information on the Pershing Square Renew competition and a full list of semifinalists and finalists is available at http://pershingsquarenew.com/. Finalists are currently developing their solutions for Pershing Square as defined by the project scope, with sufficient detail to demonstrate a feasible and desirable outcome.

Another round of jury interviews and public presentations are slated for April 2016. The final selection process will invite public comment, with public opinion weighing into the final decision.

About wHY
wHY is an eco-disciplinary design practice dedicated to serving communities through the arts, culture and the environment. Based in Los Angeles and New York City, wHY was founded by Kulapat Yantrasast in 2004 and is led by four directors. The practice's four workshops — ideas, buildings, grounds and objects — demonstrate a commitment to collaboration and approaching projects from many different angles, in order to deliver holistic, sustainable designs. For more information, visit http://www.why-site.com.

About Civitas
With a core purpose of creating healthier cities, Civitas is an idea-based practice of urban designers, architects and landscape architects engaged in strategic planning for urban change and project design for built works. Having celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2014, the consultancy and design studio advises on a wide range of strategies for re-imagining urban life and places. For more information, visit http://www.civitasinc.com.

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Darla Worden
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