A New York State Of Mind

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Reading the coverage of Saturday’s meeting in today’s L.A. Times, I’m sorry that I didn’t make it to the unveiling in Lincoln Park yesterday of the three finalists’ conceptual designs for the new Los Angeles State Historic Park (aka The Cornfield) — if for no other reason than to roundly hiss and piss upon the submission of the eastcoast-based firm of Field Operations, which hypes its idea as “a radical proposal, a practical solution.”

I have an in-built skeptometer that pegs whenever practicality is proferred as a point of sale, but I’ll certainly agree with the “radical” part, in which their plan expands faaaaaaar beyond the park’s intended and allocated acreage to include nothing less than the demolition and relocation of Dodger Stadium, which they abruptly refer to as “obsolete.” What I particularly love is that the New York company trotted out an L.A.-based architect named Thom Mayne to deliver that edict… as if having a local say it somehow lends it more credibility while also buffering any blowback at the outsiders for saying the destruction of the treasured landmark is long overdue.

Side note: I’ll bet former real estate developers and current Dodger
owners Frank and Jamie McCourt are salivating all over this plan.

Putting emotions aside as best I can at the thought of one of my favorite places disappearing from the landscape, I still can’t get past the incredulity I feel toward Field Operations for redrawing the park’s footprint at an increase of some 640%, from its existing 32 acres to 205 — 60 of which would of course be allocated for residential and commercial development. How does that happen? Did they just look a little to the side of the Cornfield and say “Hey, what’s say we get rid of Dodger Stadium!?” Not that I’d ever be against more urban parkland, I just find it highly suspect when out-of-towners color so far outside the lines. It may just be me, but if I’m designing a 32-acre parcel into public parkland, you can count on me to pretty much stay within those boundaries. You can also count on me to shake my fists at any New Yorkers who come here with little regard for anything other than their grand plans of remaking the place in their own image and for their own gain.

Bird’s-eye rendering of Field Operations design concept for the
park taken from an image by L.A. Times photographer Ken Hively.

14 Replies to “A New York State Of Mind”

  1. The Field Operations site is a navigational headache, as is the site for Mayne’s firm Morphosis. Do archiectural firms have something against web users?

    I figure they trotted out Mayne more because of his Pritzker Prize status. From the development oriented conversations I’ve had, when fancy pants Los Angeles based architects get name dropped, Mayne’s doesn’t really seem to come up that often, at least not in a “local architect” context.

  2. In another LA Times article, it implies that it was Thom Mayne that came up with the main idea, not the other way around.

    “Working on a recent edition of L.A. Now, a series of publications he produces with students at UCLA, Mayne had already analyzed the Dodger Stadium site and decided that it ranks as the last, best hope for a dense collection of new residential buildings near downtown. (On Saturday, he called it the Eastside’s Playa Vista.) He then convinced Corner to use their joint Cornfield entry to flesh out those themes.

    Since winning the Pritzker last year, Mayne has fully embraced his role as a provocative, larger-than-life figure in debates about L.A.’s future, and he is playing it to the hilt in this case. It is exactly what the city needs him to do: to keep us from falling back into the kind of default planning mode that focuses on the short term, precludes meaningful political cooperation and has done so much damage over the years.”

  3. Thanks for pointing to that article Jason. It’s interesting to see Mayne’s and F.O.’s mechanizations and the added dimension of their backstory. I may have gone off half-loaded against Field Operations as a “foreign invader,” but I’m not relieved that it was Mayne’s idea insteead. Nor am I at all surprised that he and F.O. were too tightly focused to seemingly consider that there might be objection to their readiness to doom the Dodgers home.

  4. Pretty amusing, considering all the folks chased out of Chavez Ravine in the sixties so they could tear down their houses to build Dodger Stadium!

    Well, it only took ’em forty years to start building condos after razing Bunker Hill…

  5. Coop has his facts a bit twisted. I wont get into what decade or who was responsible for Chavez Ravine except to say the blame can be evenly apportioned across the political spectrum.

    There has been a lot of talk lately about Dodger Stadium reaching its planned age of retirement and how it isn’t up to current standards. Not for the fans but for the owners to maximize earnings, which is what they are in it for. Dodger Stadium will be replaced within ten years. It is the oldest baseball stadium in the country.

    Given all that, Mayne’s plan makes a lot of sense. He obviously has been considering these issues for a long time and saw this as an opportunity to promote a larger vision of LA’s future. His plan is specific to the location like none of the others and sensitive to the needs of the community in ways the others can only dream about.

    It would take a miracle for it to happen, but the idea of our stadium being downtown and directly adjacent to a train station is breathtakingly exciting and exactly what LA needs at this juncture to continue on its path to be the model of a new urban city.

    Hooray for forward thinking fearless visionaries. We need more of that in this city, not less.

  6. I agree with you Tim that Mayne’s proposal is indeed a fearless vision and I appreciate the dialogue that it’s brought about. In principle I don’t disagree with Mayne’s argument and I can even understand his seizing of this opportunity to promote it.

    At the same time if Mayne was commissioned to design a 7-11 next to the Brewery Arts Complex where might he want to teardown and rebuild that to better maximize earnings?

    My life-long love of Dodger Stadium will never permit me to accept so-very-LA a viewpoint of its age being such a bad thing. Color me goofy but for this city to have the oldest anything in the country? That’s a rare thing that should be respected, not rejected.

  7. Posted by: Tim Quinn “Coop has his facts a bit twisted…. Dodger Stadium will be replaced within ten years. It is the oldest baseball stadium in the country.”

    Oldest, by what measure? Let’s see, Fenway, Wrigley and Yankee all built prior to 1962.

  8. “for this city to have the oldest anything in the country? That’s a rare thing that should be respected, not rejected.”

    hee hee, you are so right about that.

    Dodger Stadium is built on the waste from the removal of some of Downtown’s once scenic hills (not Bunker, but Fort Moore Hill, just to the North)

  9. oh, my American hyperbolic brain turned “one of the oldest” into “the oldest” Sorry.

    Doesn’t alter the point by much, though. It is close to obsolescence, that is how things are built now, not to last forever, just until the plumbing starts to fail.

  10. “…that is how things are built now, not to last forever, just until the plumbing starts to fail.”

    Tim it seems like you’ve pretty much bullseyed the plan from which this entire despicably disposable city arose.

  11. Whichever plan is chosen, I hope that the final version of that plan includes an accomodation to finish the eternally-proposed but never-finished bike path extension from Fletcher down to the park. It should be seamless, safe, well-lit, well-paved, and never at any point require riders to use regular streets.

    Even more ideally, it should connect with a bike path that would encircle the entire park, allowing for a decent little loop for those who just want to cruise along gently and enjoy the open space. It should also have access to Broadway at some point.

    To not integrate the host of aborted LA River plans and Arroyo River bike path plans–with a bridge–into this greater plan would be a terrible, terrible shame.

    Hooray for this park though! This could be monumental–one of the best things to happen in LA. For once, commerce didn’t win, and we get to keep that glorious patch of wide open space!

  12. Hmm – this reminds me of my proposal for the 9/11 Memorial in NY, which was basically to raze all of Manhattan and expand Coney Island to 12,000X its current size.

  13. Thom Mayne has cojones – to even suggest tearing down Dodger Stadium will probably get him blacklisted from half the bars in LA – but it is precisely this sort of radical thinking we expect from architectural visionaries. The wonderful thing here is that the discussion has been sparked. Whether DS will be replaced in the Cornfield remains to be seen (and though I love DS and am a big Dodgers fan) the idea has serious merits. I like the proximity to Downtown – and I like the idea of NOT having a new DS next to Staples (thus creating a Disneyfied “Sportstown” type of professional sports wasteland ala Kansas City or the Meadowlands). A new DS will be a huge draw at least 82 times per year – and more often in good years. Extending downtown’s actual vitality and reach north along a restored LA River and connecting the whole thing with mass transit through Union Station to the rest of the city sounds like a winner to me. The opportunity to create a vibrant, high density urban residential area on the existing DS site is intriguing as well… though I disagree with Field Operations’ statement that it is the only remaining opportunity for such development on the fringes of downtown. The accelerating residential deveopment IN downtown is precisely the sort of thing we can use more of… it is bringing the city back to life in ways even I wouldn’t have imagined a decade ago. As for “out of town” or “New York” developers – whooooaaa a minute – what is LA if not a magnet for people from all over the world – and LA is magnificently able to assimilate them and their ideas, always remaining energetic, eclectic, bizarre LA. I think our city is in little if any danger of becoming a NYC copy. This proposal is a wonderful way to start the dialogue. Kudos to Thom Mayne and the team.

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