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2016 MCHAP

Tongva Park

James Corner Field Operations

Santa Monica, CA, USA

November 1999



Perry & Associates (Horticulture)


City of Santa Monica


James Corner Field Operations Jonathan Alcorn Tim Street-Porter Joakim Lloyd Raboff Angie Smith Steve Proehl


Inspired by the Southern California arroyo landscape of washes and ravines that once defined the site, a series of pathways organically emerge from City Hall, extend west to Ocean Avenue, and weave the park into the fabric of the City. Architectural features, water features, a texturally rich material palette, and lushly planted meadows and gardens reinforce the site’s “arroyo” history, while at the same time, creating an exciting new identity that is unique to Santa Monica. Dramatic topography reinforces the fluid pathway system and organizes the site into four thematic hilltop areas, each calibrated to a different primary use and experience: 1. Garden Hill is defined by a series of seating alcoves and intimate display gardens that showcase seasonally dynamic, native, and appropriately adapted Southern California plants; 2. Discovery Hill is a play space for children, offering a range of experiences and settings with hill slides, a music wall, water play, and custom play structures embedded into a lush and shaded landscape; 3. Observation Hill offers the best views of the ocean and neighboring vicinity culminating in two distinctive shell-like overlooks that frame iconic views and vistas of Santa Monica and the ocean; 4. Gathering Hill provides a large open space for the community to come together, recreate and gather on a large multi-purpose lawn with seating terraces, and an informal picnic area


Santa Monica is a city that intensely utilizes its parks and open spaces, and whose identity and character is strongly associated with the openness of the bay and the rugged landscape of the mountains to the north. Its open spaces are an essential feature of the community and make it one of the most desirable places to live in the region. For this reason, the city has taken a pro-active approach to expanding its park and open space resources, focusing on lands already in public ownership and in locations where their value to the community can best be leveraged. Through this effort, the Civic Center area emerged as the city’s focus to recycle underutilized land and create an open space to foster stronger connections to surrounding neighborhoods. The design brief for this project was ‘to construct a park and “garden walk” that reflected the identity of the city and created a destination and gathering place of great social, ecological, and symbolic value.’ Shaped by extensive community participation, the design of this project creates a contemporary, sustainable, and transformative urban landscape that redefines the center of Santa Monica, establishes a system of linked central parks, re-knits the city fabric through strong linkages to Downtown, the adjacent neighborhoods, the Santa Monica State Beach, Palisades Park, and the Main Street commercial area, and mitigates the barrier created by the Santa Monica Freeway.


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