Pershing Green in Los Angeles

Our shortlisted proposal to redesign Pershing Square – a historic central park in Downtown Los Angeles – was an opportunity to celebrate the energy and diversity of LA’s culture and history. In collaboration with the landscape architecture firm, Civitas, we engaged a board of advisors working in multiple different fields – from chefs, to artists, to musicians, to local business owners – together forming a collective dedicated to creating a space where LA could play.

Key info
Design Architect
Executed by WHY Architecture Workshop Inc.
Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • 2015-2016
  • 5 acres
Project Lead, Co-Design with Civitas

The design proposal reimagines the lost landscapes of the city, transforming the static spaces of Pershing Square as a dynamic new site for civic life. During the 20th century, much of the region’s diverse topography was cleared to construct LA’s notorious highways. Our design brings back elements of this topography in the form of a series of undulations, creating varied levels and sightlines to experience the park and the surrounding cityscape.

Our overarching mission was to connect Los Angeles neighborhoods with their central park, creating the conditions for a place which would ultimately be shaped and activated by the users. The first step was to remove the perimeter walls and reclaim the edges, creating accessible landscaped thresholds which flow seamlessly from street to sidewalk to green. A crucial part of the design was the underground parking garage, accessed by “lift points” formed by the undulations – an expression of our “green over grey” strategy, which seeks to integrate urban infrastructure and immersive green space. As a city, LA is imagined as essentially hybrid – neither wholly green nor grey, a city of rich differences and intertwining histories. Pershing Green is a celebration of that hybridity, of the vibrancy and apparent contradictions which generate a thriving culture.

“LA is an ongoing project. Pershing Green is envisaged as a laboratory where LA is made and unmade daily.”

WHY + Civitas

The “test kitchen” at the center of the park is a spin on LA’s identity as a cultural melting pot – a space for performances, pop-up vendors, and culinary experiments.


“Pershing Square is a great place for people to get re-grounded. Re-grounded in the history of Los Angeles, re-grounded in our past that has been erased. And by doing that we’re getting better grounded in what’s to come, the LA of the future.”

Josh Kun, Professor
University of Southern California
Related projects