Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles opened this afternoon with barefoot county supervisors, a parade of giant plant people and a gaggle of water dancers in skintight blue bodysuits. Only in Los Angeles, right? The 12-acre park (roughly the size of The Grove at Farmer’s Market) straddles an uphill parcel between City Hall and the Music Center and replaces surface parking lots and the largely forgotten 1966 Paseo de los Pobladores. The opening was highly choreographed with all eyes on the Arthur J. Will Memorial fountain, a sculpted concrete disc with a Brasilia flair, left over from the original design.
Seated in front, on a platform that seemed to float on the water, were all five County Supervisors, billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, a representative from the Related Companies (they wrote a $50 million check for the park and plan to build a residential tower nearby) and California poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. When the flag swinging dancers appeared behind them it felt like the opening ceremonies of a futuristic Olympics or some high Kryptonian council about to send us to the Phantom Zone.
Gloria Molina, who spearheaded the project for four years, got the most applause and called the plaza a “modern zócalo” and promised all events there would be free of charge. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky proclaimed that it was “One of the rare projects where the end product is better than the renderings.”
The landscape, by Rios Clementi Hale, is a botanical wonderland of 24 separate gardens featuring plants from all six of the world’s “floristic kingdoms” from Paleotropical to Antarctic. The hardscaping, and that spacey new Starbucks building, take cues from the midcentury surroundings of the Civic Center: Neutra’s Hall of Records, A.C. Martin’s Department of Water and Power and Welton Becket’s Music Center.
This weekend, thousands are expected to fill the space for a televised “National Dance Day” with a performance from Cirque du Soleil, free lessons and stars from So You Think You Can Dance. Bring your dancing shoes or just go barefoot like Eli Broad did earlier today. A vision I may never shake.