This week LA unveiled its newest park, a 50-acre greenspace that sits 500 feet above the city just southwest of Downtown, on a plot of land that was historically part of the Baldwin Hills oil fields and more recently narrowly avoided becoming a housing development.
The Baldwin Hills have been the site of oil drilling since the 1920s and even today a 2-square-mile area remains an active oil drilling site, a topic of much conflict within the Baldwin Hills Community. The remaining oil field is large enough to constitute the largest urban oil field in the United States and sits adjacent to the newly opened Overlook.
The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, a part of the Kenneth Hahn Recreation Area that covers much of the modern day Baldwin Hills, has been overhauled during the past year to include a new three-building Visitor's Center and a rebuilt landscape that restores the area to its original terrain after being cleared for the planned housing development. The city of Los Angeles bought the land from the developers in order to keep it as a park open to the community.
Known for its mix of urban areas and nature, LA has a plethora of parks and green spaces, from Griffith Park to the Santa Monica Mountains, but the area southwest of downtown has remained either heavily built up or wild but inaccessible, and the addition of the Overlook offers the nearby communities some sorely needed open space.
The visitor's center, designed by San Diego-based Safdie Rabines Architects, a husband and wife run team known for their ability to weave together indoor and outdoor spaces, is a series of modest concrete, steel and glass structures with angled roofs that sit within the landscape rather than on top of it. Taal Safdie, daughter of Moshe Safdie, the lead designer behind the groundbreaking Habitat 67, was no doubt influenced by her father's vision of a city that married structure with environment.
Scrub Sage, a nearly extinct sage indigenous to the area, dots the hillside around the visitor center and is a part of a larger effort to restore the natural elements of the area's microclimate. The new plants help frame the 360 panorama views of Los Angeles: from the buildings downtown, to the beach, to Hollywood, to the oil rigs just south and up to the Angeles Crest Mountains.
Images via Architect's Newspaper Blog.