For immediate release
October 5, 2015
Campaign to Restore Pershing Square Announces Updated 1910 John Parkinson Design Proposal
LOS ANGELES -  Historic Pershing Square, in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, might be the worst public park in America. But after decades of neglect, Angelenos are finally taking notice. 
The failure of Pershing Square as usable public space has become a hot topic of conversation on blogs and in real life, while in The Los Angeles Times, Gale Holland observed "Neither the people who run the park, nor the homeless, are to blame for Pershing Square's squalor. The scrambled landscape is a massive failure of civic vision. The park was redesigned in the 1950s, the 1980s and the 1990s. With each makeover, it became less appealing, more confused and finally, just weird."
The time is long past ripe to properly fix Pershing Square. So residents were intrigued by Councilman Jose Huizar's launch of Pershing Square Renew, a non-profit dedicated to improving the park, and its recent announcement of an international design competition meant to provide a road map for the park's future. Architecture firms from around the world have expressed interest in entering the competition with new visions for Pershing Square.
But in light of the many failed Pershing Square redesigns, the grassroots Pershing Square Restoration Society (PSRS), a loosely knit consortium of architectural historians representing more than 1900 "Restore Pershing Square" petition signers, says NO to yet another trendy redesign, and YES to the careful restoration of a formerly great Los Angeles park.
That's why PSRS has partnered with Brian A. Kite, Managing Principal of SRK Architects, to support his firm's entry into the Pershing Square Renew design competition with a proposal adapting elements of John Parkinson's classic 1910 design to the needs of twenty first century Los Angeles. The park was among Parkinson's early commissions; the iconic L.A. architect would go on to design City Hall, Union Station and Bullock's Wilshire. 
Architect Kite's proposal begins at the source, John Parkinson's original "Central Park" blueprints with their diagonal paths, central fountain, bench seating and traditional sculptures and plantings, while taking into account the presence of the 1950s-era underground parking garage and driveways, in addition to modern transit, special event and lifestyle needs. 
When asked to describe his approach to re-imaging Pershing Square, the native Angeleno architect Kite said, "The opportunity to re-create the heartbeat of Los Angeles in the form of a new, majestic, historically relevant central open space must speak immediately to the aspirations of all Angelenos. Thru this global interactive design process, our collective notions of place will be tested to discern elements or whole expressions worthy as true purpose for this land known as Pershing Square. SRK's approach to design derives from personal and historical perspectives universal in nature and timeless in the human psyche. Ours will attempt to bring forward this historical perspective into a blended twenty first century new expression of place creating a beautiful respite from the City while addressing our evolving urban context. In the end, we advocate a highly integrative approach yet for the purpose of creating contemplative, inspirational opportunity--an antidote to stress in modern life."
In celebration of the decision to enter John Parkinson's updated design in the competition, PSRS has created a 47-second-long promotional video ( featuring recently rediscovered 1916 footage of the original park (, shot on location for feminist film pioneer Lois Weber's feature production "Shoes" and newly restored by EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam. With original music by Skip Heller's Hollywood Blues Destroyers and animation commissioned by director Kasten/Creative, the hopeful clip celebrates the beauty of Parkinson's lost park while encouraging viewers to get involved with the restoration efforts by signing the petition.
The clip's composer, Skip Heller, says, "The city is our home, not just our apartments. It's time to restore this beautiful place to our collective public life."
And PSRS founder Kim Cooper adds, "Ever since John Parkinson's park was dug up in the early 1950s for the parking lot and bomb shelter, Angelenos have been unhappy with Pershing Square. This design competition offers a wonderful opportunity to undo the mistakes of the past and return to the successful design that worked beautifully for four decades: a true urban oasis as imagined by a beloved Los Angeles architect. And we are so appreciative that the film historians at EYE Filmmuseum are gracioualy permitting us to use their beautifully restored 1916 footage from a previously 'lost' film in the campaign to bring the currently 'lost' park back to life."
About "Shoes" (Lois Weber, 1916; restored 2010 by EYE Filmmusem): A "sociological" film that the pioneering female film director directed for the Bluebird Photoplays, "Shoes" was based on the novel "A New Conscience and an Ancient Evil" (1912) by social reformer Jane Addams and depicts the struggles of working class women for consumer goods and upward mobility. The film stars Mary Maclaren as a poverty-stricken Los Angeles shopgirl who is so desperate to replace her only pair of shoes that she sells her virginity. Although the film was the most booked Bluebird production of the year, the only known surviving copy of "Shoes" was a heavily deteriorated nitrate print residing in the collection of EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam. In 2008, the institute undertook a three-year project to restore the feature and return it to the screen. The print was digitally scanned, completed with fragments from another source, and then digitally corrected to the greatest extent possible. English titles were recreated based on translation from the Dutch titles and the original color tinting was recreated by matching the source material. The final result is the best possible version, allowing the previously lost film "Shoes" to be screened around the world.
The "Restore Pershing Square" Petition is filmed with passionate comments, as citizens weigh in with their heartfelt hopes for the future of Pershing Square. A sample:
As an architect I have watched re-envisioning without consideration of original design intent fail. LA has some classics, preserve this one! (Kathleen Scott)... Don't over do it! Please hear the public. (Daniel Amado)... Concrete does not belong in parks! We experience enough brick and mortar from living and working in DTLA -- they got the park right the first time with greenery, comfortable seating, fountains and statues. (Kathryn D'Anna)... People need trees to sit under, lawns to picnic on and ponds to gaze at. And flowers. We already have enough concrete and asphalt, thank you very much. (Glenn Primm)... I live and work downtown, and as much as I love our built environment, a restored and green oasis would bring some appropriate balance for all downtown stakeholders. What we have now is just plain ugly! (Escott Norton)... LA deserves a world-class square akin to other great cities and the former design of Pershing Square would create that engaging public space that will activate Pershing Square once again. (Brigham Yen)... Please restore the park to its original beauty. Listen to LA natives: the natives never wanted a car oriented city but a pedestrian one. (David del Real)... I grew up in LA and I love the way the old Pershing Square created a central and focal point for not just downtown but all of Los Angeles. We need to return her to her old natural glory. (Alexandro Huerta)... I work in downtown LA and am keenly aware of the area's lack of green space. The original park with shade trees, paths and seating are greatly needed. Pershing Square is currently one of the worst public spaces I have ever encountered. (David McDonald)
Angelenos have strong, harmonious opinions about the next steps for Pershing Square—the want to see John Parkinson's classic park restored. Now, as The Pershing Square Restoration Society and Brian A. Kite of SRK Architects prepare a proposal that brings Parkinson's park into the modern age, will the design competition's judges and advisory board listen? 
See the petition at
Visit the Pershing Square Restoration Society website at
View the 47-second Restore Pershing Square clip
View the complete Pershing Square  scene from "Shoes" (Lois Weber, 1916; restored 2010 by EYE Filmmuseum)
Short film by Kasten/Creative
Short film music by Skip Heller's Hollywood Blues Destroyers
"Shoes" footage (Lois Weber, 1916) courtesy of EYE Filmmuseum (restored in 2010)
Restoration Proposal by SRK Architects, Los Angeles
The Pershing Square Restoration Society preservation campaigners Kim Cooper and Richard Schave (Esotouric / LAVA – The Los Angeles Visionary Association) and Stephen Gee (John Parkinson's biographer) are available for interviews, as is Architect Brian A. Kite AIA. Contact Kim (toursATesotouricDOTcom, 213-373-1947).